Scott Parker says his side’s much-improved display brought back some belief that has been lacking recently, after the Whites reached the fourth round of the FA Cup courtesy of a deserved win over Premier League side Aston Villa.
Spectacular left-footed strikes from Anthony Knockaert and Harry Arter, who returned from injury having not played since October, each found the top corner from distance either side of Anwar El Ghazi’s leveller, though Parker was particularly impressed with how the team bounced back after a frustrating Championship defeat to Reading on New Year’s Day.
“The result was pleasing,” he said, “But overall, the performance and the way the team played today was outstanding.
“In the first half, we had a lot of control and put our mark on it, but probably lacked a little bit in the final third. We spoke about that at half-time and how we can be more forceful when we get in those areas. And in the second half, we did that very well. Overall, a fine performance and one that we can build on.
“It’s vitally important for us. This team was used to losing football matches, and losing becomes a habit just like winning does, really. It’s moments like this that, as a manger, you sit and realise the processes you’re trying to put in place.
“Ultimately, big performances and big wins – against Aston Villa, a Premier League side – are the moments that bring belief. The players understand what they’re about a bit more. So it’s a key moment in that sense.”
The head coach was also keen to emphasise the effort that both goalscorers have put in – especially his brother-in-law Arter, whom he had brought on in place of Kevin McDonald moments before he rippled the net from 30 yards.
Parker said: “Both goals were pretty special. For Harry, in the sense that he’s been out for three months, he’s had long and lonely days being injured for some time. You probably start to doubt what you have [in you], so to come on and score the winner justifies everything.
“He’s worked hard. He’s a player we brought in that we wanted, and he gave us something at the start of the season. It’s a big shame that he had a setback with an injury, but he’s a character, and we understand what player we’ve got.
“It’s about moments like this for Harry, and for the team, which you need to try and build on as it can give you a bit of a lift. And that will be the case, hopefully.”
And Parker was similarly encouraged by the application shown lately by Brighton loanee Knockaert, who scored just his third Fulham goal in 19 starts this season but continues to impress with his work rate.
“He scored a great goal and could have finished off another couple,” Parker added. “Fair play to Ant, because we brought him in, and he’s got off to a slow-ish start – I think he’d be the first to admit that.
“But in the last three games, you’re seeing a Knockaert that we’re all familiar with. Today, we saw glimpses of him with the ball, but out of possession, he was exceptional.”