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Hard-working Fulham moving in the right direction, insists Stuart Gray
Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl bemoaned the absence of Jannik Vestergaard through injury.
Fulham assistant manager Stuart Gray insists the club are moving in the right direction and praised the players’ “outstanding” work rate in their goalless draw with Southampton.
Saints looked to have taken the lead on two occasions, when Shane Long and Theo Walcott both had the ball in the back of the net, only for their efforts to be ruled out for offside after VAR reviews.
The result was the Cottagers’ fourth consecutive draw – and second straight shutout at Craven Cottage – but despite the club currently occupying the third relegation spot, Gray believes the team are moving forward.
He said: “We were playing against a very good side today… what they do is they press you and we knew that five or six players would come and close us down.
“It creates players who are brave on the ball and we work the ball out wide and we got the ball into some very good areas so like I say the final piece of the jigsaw is sticking the ball in the net.
“But my glass is always half full and I would say that four games unbeaten is… compared to the start of the season that we had… we’re going in the right direction.”
Gray added: “The most important thing is the attitude, the application of the players is absolutely spot on. The work rate of the players in the last few games has been outstanding.”
Fulham were also without boss Scott Parker, who remains in self-isolation after a member of his household tested positive for coronavirus, but Gray felt the absence of the manager did not affect the performance.
“We did a meeting with the players through the computer, the gaffer spoke to the players at half-time, and then he was on the phone so we were obviously making decisions and when he wanted substitutes made as well,” said Gray.
“But the players are well organised and well drilled and they knew what the game plan was and credit to them.”
Southampton had previously gone on a seven-match unbeaten run earlier in the season, during which they briefly topped the table, but this result has seen them drop out of the European places.
Having also been relatively fortunate with injuries throughout the first part of the season, Southampton have recently seen a number of players sidelined, including the key figure of Jannik Vestergaard.
Boss Ralph Hasenhuttl believes the Dane’s absence affected their overall display at Craven Cottage.
“Jannik (Vestergaard) was one of the most important players in the past, now he plays fantastic games, especially for our game with the ball he was important,” Hasenhuttl said.
“But I think Jack (Stephens) was a very good alternative today for us and Ibrahima (Diallo) also showed he was an important player for our team and this was for me maybe the most important message that I’ve got from the team, that I can definitely sub three players and be competitive with our teams.
“It’s not easy to play here, you have seen it in the past, Liverpool nearly lost here… when Liverpool is making a draw here, I think we can also make one.”