Smith: We were written off

Matt Smith's header gave Fulham a deserved victory

Match-winner Matt Smith believes Fulham proved their critics wrong with the opening night victory over Newcastle.

Smith’s header on the stroke of half-time, backed up by a strong defensive display, gave the Whites a perfect start to their Championship campaign.

And the striker felt their performance showed they could compete with the best sides in the division, after successive finishes of 17th and 20th.

“We were written off from the start,” Smith said.

“Footballers would be lying if they didn’t read the papers or social media. It’s important you don’t read too much into it.

“What’s important is the belief in ourselves and showing a lot of good character. We believe that we can perform at the highest level.”

Smith’s jubilant celebration after scoring was perhaps an outpouring of the frustration he has felt over the last two years, having made only 36 appearances and netted seven goals.

However, he said the clean sheet was the most important improvement, with Fulham having conceded 247 goals in 130 games over the last three seasons.

Smith added: “I don’t think scoring goals has been the real issue. The creativity was always there in the side so I was confident we had the players who can finish them off.

“It was goals going in at the other end that was the Achilles heel. The organisation has been key in making sure we’re more resilient and organising the defence, particularly on set pieces.

“I think it’s difficult when a manager joins mid-season. A full pre-season has been great for us. Everyone is very aware of what’s required of them.”