The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By An­drew Cof­fey

IAN Hol­loway was still in the mood to crack jokes, de­spite his QPR side go­ing down at home to Ful­ham on Fri­day night.

The colour­ful 54-year-old poked fun at Alex Smithies, after his goal­keeper ven­tured up the pitch for an in­jury-time corner.

But rather than head the ball home for a dra­matic equaliser after ris­ing high­est, the 27-year-old’s lack of prac­tice in front of goal told and his ef­fort flew way wide – and Hol­loway reck­ons Smithie has earned him­self a new nick­name.

“The boys are call­ing him Toblerone head after that,” he joked. “I wouldn’t have sent him up if I’d known that!

“It’s quite a sur­real feel­ing when you see your team still fight­ing and the chances com­ing, and we would have got at least what we de­served.”

Hol­loway was adamant that his side were wor­thy of a draw after the end-to-end en­counter came to a close, and the chances were shared be­fore the open­ing goal.

Rui Fonte slammed the ball into the sidenet­ting on 25 min­utes after Ryan Fred­er­icks played him in, be­fore Jake Bid­well wasted an op­por­tu­nity for the hosts from just in­side the area.

But Ful­ham took the lead be­fore the break in for­tu­itous cir­cum­stances; right-back Fred­er­icks’ 25-yard drive took a mas­sive de­flec­tion off Jack Robin­son, leav­ing Smithies help­less.

Luke Free­man curled a free-kick wide just after the hour mark as the fre­netic pace con­tin­ued, but it was the vis­i­tors who had the best chance to kill off the game when sub­sti­tute Neeskens Ke­bano was felled by Joel Lynch in­side the area.

And while Fonte then blazed the penalty over the bar, just two min­utes later he made amends by find­ing Ste­fan Jo­hansen, who made it 2-0, slot­ting home low from the edge of the area.

Conor Wash­ing­ton set up a grand­stand fin­ish in the sec­ond of nine stop­page-time min­utes, vol­ley­ing right-footed after Matt Smith headed back across goal, but the un­marked Smithies glanced wide at the death.

“The sec­ond goal was dis­ap­point­ing, just after they missed a penalty – and jus­tice was done there, no one was near him,” Hol­loway added.

“But after that, they broke again and when that ball got squared, how can we al­low two touches on the edge of our area, just after they’ve missed a penalty? But such is life.”

Ful­ham man­ager Slav­isa Jokanovic be­lieves his new-look side are fi­nally start­ing to click and is pre­dict­ing big things to come from the Cot­tagers.

“We are a com­pletely new team,” he said. “Tonight was 50 per cent of the play­ers from last sea­son.

“I am al­ways happy with three points and to win a west Lon­don derby, but we had to be brave.

“The last few min­utes it was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent game. A lot of things were hap­pen­ing in the penalty box, but we de­fended well.

“We are not lucky and we have an­other player [Sheyi Ojo] in hospi­tal tonight. It is some kind of dis­lo­ca­tion of his shoul­der. But hope­fully after the in­ter­na­tional break we will get some of our im­por­tant play­ers back.

“We be­lieve when we start work­ing all to­gether and push each other that all the play­ers can be bet­ter than they ac­tu­ally are right now.

“We need to com­pete in train­ing to be ready to com­pete dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion. We are go­ing to push each other to try and be suc­cess­ful.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

HOT WORK: Ful­ham’s Ste­fan Jo­hansen cel­e­brates scor­ing their sec­ond goal with team-mates. Inset: Jo­hansen fires home

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