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Stansfield eager to seize first team chance

Jay Stansfield to determined to make the most of another opportunity to impress when Fulham take on Leeds in the League Cup tomorrow night.

The teenage striker scored a stunning goal on his first senior start for the Whites in the second round against Birmingham City and was namechecked by head coach Marco Silva in the aftermath of the defeat by Reading as a ‘fantastic’ talent. With Rodrigo Muniz picking up an injury at the weekend, Stansfield is in line to feature up front against Premier League opposition at Craven Cottage.

He told FFCTV:

“I’m buzzing obviously. It’s a chance that I can go out and prove what I can do again. These chances don’t come along very often; so when they come, I have to take the chance and hopefully we can get a result and go into the next round and carry on.

Stansfield says the superb strike at St. Andrew’s gives him plenty of confidence as he approaches another chance to shine in the senior set up.

I obviously won’t be greedy and if there’s someone else in a better position, I’ll obviously use that, but if there’s a chance for me to shoot and get another goal, I’m going to take that chance.”

The former Exeter City forward believes the future is bright for Fulham’s young talents, with a number pushing for regular gametime in Silva’s squad.

“It’s good. There’s obviously a couple of us that are breaking into the first team, coming up from the academy and training with them all day, every day. The pathway is looking bright at the moment with the players that are around the academy and coming up to the first team. I think we just need to keep working hard. It’s been shown that the chances will come, so when the lads get the chance, you just have to take it.”

Stansfield certainly isn’t underestimating the gravity of the challenge that Fulham will face against Marcelo Bielsa’s side but believes the Whites could spring a surprise.

“It’s going to be a tough game. We’re all excited and ready for the fight. We’ve had plenty of time, we’re properly prepared and we’re ready.”

Silva sees bright future for ‘fantastic’ Stansfield

Marco Silva believes Jay Stansfield can make a serious impression on the Fulham first team squad if he continues his rate of improvement.

The teenage striker is in line to feature against Leeds in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night after scoring a stunning first senior goal at Birmingham City in the previous round. Stansfield has impressed Silva since the Portuguese head coach took over at Craven Cottage this summer and the Fulham boss told the media after yesterday’s defeat by Reading:

“I really like Jay, not just as a footballer but as young boy whose work-rate is fantastic. Every time he learns something from the training session, and he’s working with me every single day.

“One thing is very important: he can score easily; inside or around the box. The last few seasons he’s had some injury problems that stopped his development but he will get more chances.

“Jay got his chance against Birmingham and scored a fabulous goal with a good strike. I’m sure if he gets more chances, he will show his quality.”

Stansfield could get more opportunities as an understudy to Aleksandar Mitrovic at senior level depending on the severity of Rodrigo Muniz’s injury. The Brazilian gave Fulham a late lifeline with his first goal for the club against Reading but was limping after picking up an injury – and couldn’t be replaced because Silva had already made three substitutions.

Silva slams Fulham’s wastefulness

Marco Silva bemoaned Fulham’s poor finishing after his side slipped to a surprise defeat against Reading at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

The hosts dominated the contest but fell behind to a brilliantly taken double from Ovie Ejaria. Rodrigo Muniz’s first Fulham goal set up a grandstand finish but Fulham could force an equaliser in stoppage time. Silva told his post-match press conference that he was disappointed with his team’s lack of ruthlessness in the final third.

“The stats are there, it’s clear for everyone who saw the game. But the result is there as well. In football you can have a lot of possession, you can create so many chances if you’re not clinical enough, it can happen. We scored once, but we conceded two goals. The first was a counterattack, but we can’t concede the second in that way.

“The commitment, the desire, the attitude to chance the things were there. The basics we cannot negotiate was there on the pitch. The way we started the game, the way we started creating chances with being more clinical with the last decision, with a little more quality, this is a game we could’ve decided in the first 15 minutes. The chances we have with Bobby and more chances we created before they scored, we can be ahead in the score and everything will be different, that is football we were not clinical enough. A great afternoon for their goalkeeper as well.

“I said at half time, I told our players we would change the score if we don’t give them a chance to score more goals because I knew that will happen, it is important that we don’t lose the balance, the focus, don’t make mistakes. If we score, the game can change straight away for us, but unfortunately, we conceded another goal.”

The one bright spot was Muniz opening his account for the club. The Brazilian forward looked bright on his Craven Cottage debut and Silva feels this will be just be the start for the 20 year-old.

“It’s important for him, he has the capacity to score, I don’t have any doubts about it. He needs more time. I didn’t make a change at half-time because I expected a strong reaction after the way we finished the first half. We prepared a situation with Rodrigo playing with two strikers up front.

“He did what he normally does. We need the team to create a little more out wide for him because he’s really strong there. He had a strong knock in the last 10 minutes, he couldn’t run, but we had to keep him on the pitch because we didn’t have any more changes. He’s in pain now, but we have to wait and check.”

Ejaria double ends Reading’s barren run

Here was a match that rather summed up the unpredictability of the Championship. Fulham, having battered Birmingham after a surprise defeat at Blackpool to return to the top of the table, were heavy favourites to beat Reading, especially given that the Royals hadn’t won in ten away fixtures. The hosts dominated possession and created the clearer chances, but Velijko Panouvic’s side established a clear established through two terrifically taken Ovie Ejaria goals and clung on for victory even after Rodrigo Muniz had ensured a frantic finale with four minutes left.

Reading were resolute, first weathering a strong spell of early Fulham pressure, and managing the game effectively after Ejaria had curled in a fabulous opener and extended the lead when he spun superbly into the area and squeezed a shot past Paulo Gazzaniga. They played with panache at times too, with some pretty passing that featured the in-form John Swift prominently, and this result will give further weight to the received wisdom that the Royals remain in something of a false position at present – hindered by one of the country’s longest injury lists.

Academy graduate Luke Southwood kept his place in goal after impressing in the recent win over Peterborough and proved equal to almost everything Fulham threw at him. He improvised an early save at his near post when Denis Odoi’s cross deflected off Michael Morrison and drifted dangerously goalwards and then scampered off his line to put Bobby Decordova-Reid under pressure as he latched onto a lovely through ball from Nathaniel Chalobah. The Fulham forward will feel he should have done better than scoop his finish over the bar – and perhaps it might have been a different game had Marco Silva’s side gone in front.

Fulham continued to threaten with Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was largely well-marshalled by the visiting defence, lashing wide from the edge of the area but Reading were gradually finding their feet. Junior Hoilett blazed over from close range when a cross from Alen Halilovic fell at his feet and Tom Dele-Bashiru then shot straight at Gazzaniga after tricking his way past a posse of Fulham defenders. There were further warning sides for the home side when the Argentine goalkeeper pawed away Hoilett’s shot after the Canadian forward had got a touch to a devilish free-kick from Swift.

The away side took the lead with a high-class counter attacking goal in the twentieth minute. Mitrovic lost the ball midway through the Reading half and Halilovic led the break, driving deep into Fulham territory before finding Swift in a central position. The former Chelsea midfielder committed the home defence before picking the perfect moment to play in Ejaria, who drifted into from the left and curled a magnificent finish into the top corner. That setback clearly discomforted the hosts, who might have fallen further behind had Swift’s free-kick from just outside the box dropped the other side of the post.

Fulham did fashion a prolonged period of pressure before the break. Decordova-Reid sent a free header straight at Southwood after Robinson had roamed clear down the left flank and whipped in a teasing ball, before the Jamaican international was denied by a smart save from the Reading goalkeeper at his near post moments later. The Royals rode their luck just before the interval when Decordova-Reid rattled the post after racing onto Ivan Cavaleiro’s floated through ball and Mitrovic’s miscued close-range finish came back off the crossbar after Robinson found more room down the left.

Silva’s stirring words at half-time produced an immediate response from the home side with Cavaleiro cutting in from the left and bringing a good save out of Southwood, who was then nearly left stranded by an overhit Morrison backpass. But that early adventure counted for nothing when Reading scored from their first attack of the second half. Ejaria and Halilovic worked a brilliant one-two, with the Croatian’s cute pass drifting over Tosin Adarabioyo. There was still plenty for the Liverpool loanee to do but he slotted home on the turn from a tight angle to send the travelling contingent wild.

That saw Silva summon Muniz off the bench for his home debut and the Brazilian certainly perked up Fulham in attack. A flurry of chances followed a succession of yellow cards, with referee Stephen Martin losing control of what suddenly became a feisty contest. Baba Rahman was on hand to hook away after Southwood spilled a cross in front of goal, Morrison denied Muniz with a superb saving tackle and Jean-Michael Seri lashed over from 20 yards out. Muniz and Mitrovic linked up brilliantly, with the Brazilian chesting down a Robinson cross only for Fulham’s number nine to fire wastefully over.

When the Serbian did seem set to find the bottom corner, Southwood’s strong hand prevented him from giving Fulham a lifeline. Reading were dropping deeper and deeper and salvation appeared possible when Mitrovic rose majestically at the back post to head a Wilson ball back across goal, handing Muniz the simplest of headers into an unguarded net for his first Fulham goal. Silva’s side threw everything at Reading in the six minutes of stoppage time, with Southwood denying substitute Onomah an equaliser with an outstanding save after the midfielder had brought down an Adarabioyo ball, turned and fired goalwards. Referee Martin – who awarded a phantom penalty against Fulham at Burton four years ago – then ignored loud home appeals for a spot kick when Mitrovic looked to be manhandled in the area by Laurent and Reading held on for a memorable victory.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Odoi (Onomah 71), Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri (Kebano 71), Chalobah; Wilson, Cavaleiro, Decordova-Reid (Muniz 55); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Hector, Mawson, Quina.

BOOKED: Seri, Wilson, Odoi, Ream.

GOAL: Muniz (86).

READING (4-2-3-1): Southwood; Yiadom, Rahman, Holmes (Drinkwater 20), Morrison; Laurent, Swift; Halilovic (Puscas 88), Ejaria, Dele-Bashiru; Hoilett (Telek 89). Subs (not used): Boyce-Clarke, Ehibhtationham, Stickland, Clarke.

BOOKED: Hoilett, Swift, Rahman.

GOALS: Ejaria (19, 53).

REFEREE: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).

ATTENDANCE: 18,901.

Silva says competition is healthy for Fulham

Marco Silva has reiterated that the squad strength at Fulham creates competition that can only boost the club’s promotion hopes.

The Fulham head coach believes that the quality at his disposal will be vital in the latter stages of a gruelling Championship season. During his pre-match press conference ahead of Reading’s visit to Craven Cottage, Silva downplayed any suggestion that Fulham’s fringe players may be frustrated by a lack of playing time.

“I don’t know why Joe [Bryan] has to be frustrated, or [Neeskens] Kebano has to be frustrated or Marek [Rodak], Alfie [Mawson] or any of the others. As a manager, I see things in a different way. You can’t have just one player for each position if you want to get better every day.

Silva stated that he feels the battle between Bryan, who started in Wednesday’s win over Birmingham, and American international Antonee Robinson for the starting left-back berth is pretty evenly matched.

“For Joe to grow he needs someone to push him, and for Jedi to grow you need someone who is able to compete as well. I don’t see big, big differences between Joe and Jedi. And remember the away win at Millwall was one of our best performances of the season.”

Fulham considering Knockaert departure options

Reports this morning claim that Fulham are considering various exit options for Anthony Knockaert after failing to engineer the winger’s exit during the summer transfer window.

Football League World’s story suggests that, despite interest from the likes of Celtic, West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers, the 29 year-old’s high wages proved a significant stumbling block to a deal. Knockaert is considered surplus to requirements at Craven Cottage by new head coach Marco Silva and his only appearance this season came in the League Cup win at Birmingham City last month.

Forest opted not to sign Knockaert on a permanent basis following his loan spell at the City Ground last season, where he scored three goals in 35 appearances. The French winger has been a disappointment since arriving in London from Brighton and Hove Albion, initially on a season-long loan that was then converted into a £10m transfer. He has made 50 appearances, scoring four goals for the Whites, but has fallen down the pecking order following the acquisition of Welsh international Harry Wilson from Liverpool. The former Leicester wide man has a further two years to run on his current Fulham contract.

Up next: Reading (h)

Fulham might have allayed fears that their awesome August was a false dawn following the shock defeat at newly-promoted Blackpool by battering Birmingham, but that victory owed more to clinical conversion in the final third than the utter dominance that had characterised the Whites’ early season wins. Marco Silva seemed content that the St. Andrew’s success served as a satisfactory response to the dismal display at Bloomfield Road, but key Fulham figures have been quick to assert that the midweek victory means little if it is not followed up with another tomorrow.

Stringing together early wins will construct the kind of commanding position towards the top of the table that has eluded Fulham since they dropped back into second tier in 2014. Previous Fulham sides have been left scrambling for the play-off places on account of slow starts and any suggestion that the below par Blackpool performance was a precursor of a similar malaise needed to be stamped down on hard. The fact that Silva’s side showed stomach for the battle on Wednesday – with Birmingham more than matching their visitors in what, despite the scoreline, proved to be a pretty even first half – was almost as encouraging as the final result.

Silva’s tactical and personnel changes leave the head coach with a few headaches ahead of their return to Craven Cottage this weekend. Joe Bryan delivered the kind of composed and disciplined display that we have come to expect from someone with significant Championship experience – managing to keep Tahith Chong relatively quiet – and may now make it difficult to Antonee Robinson to come back into the side. Injuries necessitated both a change in shape and faces in central midfield, with Nathaniel Chalobah knitting together an impressive debut. As worrying as Harrison Reed’s leg problem sounds, the immediate return of Josh Onomah would allow Chalobah and Jean-Michael Seri to be joined by someone who has ample experience now of operating in a Silva midfield – and will stiffen up the central area in the continued absence of Fabio Carvalho.

The responsibility for creativity and verve in the final third will rest largely on Harry Wilson without the teenager as a precocious foil for Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Welsh winger showed an ample appetite for the task at Birmingham and could easily have bagged a hat-trick before coolly converting a gorgeous Chalobah pass to put the visitors out of sight. Wilson himself remarked today that his only frustration with his fine start at Fulham has not being able to put together a consistent run of starts and there is no arguing that he looks devastating in this division.

It is difficult to know quite what to make of Veljko Paunovic’s side after Reading’s rather indifferent start to the season. The Royals have been ravaged by injuries and could be missing as many as ten first-team players for the trip to south west London tomorrow. The Serbian will have a decision to make in goal as Rafael Cabral’s hand injury appears not to be as serious as initially thought, although replacing Luke Southwood would be incredibly harsh after the academy graduate deputised very capably in the 3-1 win over Peterborough at the weekend. That success sees the Royals heading for Craven Cottage in good spirits after just one win in six games, with loanee Tom Dele-Bashiru proving particularly devastating.

Fulham will know that they will need to keep a close eye on former Chelsea midfielder John Swift, whose stunning free-kick set Reading on their way to a first win in five fixtures on Saturday. The 26 year-old has been one of the Championship’s most effective creators in the last few seasons as Reading have rather laboured under the radar and he has already scored seven times in seven appearances this season, adding three assists for good measure. Swift scored when Mark Bowen’s men saw in the New Year with a stunning win at the Cottage last year – and will be crucial to Reading’s hopes of a repeat.

This could be a much stiffer test than the pundits have predicted. Reading have scored thirteen league goals already this term – only Fulham and QPR have managed more – and will be more confident that before their recent dismal run, with a desire to end a nine-game winless streak on their travels. Blackpool have proven that Fulham can’t take anyone for granted, however impressive their first month under Silva has appeared, and the Whites will need to show the same battling qualities they displayed at Birmingham from the first whistle.

MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Gazzaniga; Odoi, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Chalobah, Onomah; Wilson, Decordova-Reid, Mitrovic. Subs: Rodak, Mawson, Robinson, Quina, Kebano, Cavaleiro, Muniz.

Reed remains doubtful for Reading

Harrison Reed may miss Fulham’s meeting with Reading tomorrow after limping out of Wednesday’s win at Birmingham City.

The central midfielder made his first start of the season for the Whites at St. Andrews but was substituted midway through the second half of Fulham’s 4-1 victory having suffered a leg injury. Head coach Marco Silva told today’s pre-match press conference:

“It’s nothing serious. didn’t have much of a pre-season and he has an issue with his leg, but we’ll have to see tomorrow.”

There is better news regarding Harry Wilson, who was substituted towards the end of the Blues clash. Silva said that the Welsh winger was withdrawn due to tiredness and that he will be available to face Reading. Josh Onomah, who missed the midweek trip to the Midlands, is also fit to play.

Teenage playmaker Fabio Carvalho remains sidelined with a toe injury and Silva revealed that it is too early to say whether he will be able to return at Bristol City next weekend.

“Tuesday for Fabio looks difficult but he might be all right for the game after that.”

The Fulham boss is reading nothing in Reading’s disappointing start to the season and knows that the Royals will be determined to end their winless away run.

“Their previous results mean nothing. A team that has scored six goals in their last two performances suggest they can create chances and score goals. It will be a tough game.”

Wilson wants to maintain momentum

Fulham winger Harry Wilson wants to take the momentum from Wednesday’s thumping win at Birmingham into tomorrow’s clash against Reading at Craven Cottage.

The Welsh international returned to the starting line-up with devastating effect at St. Andrew’s in midweek – scoring one and making another as the Whites stormed back to the top of the table in style. Wilson told FFCTV that Marco Silva had left the players in no doubt that he was expecting a response after the disappointing defeat at Bloomfield Road and he felt Fulham delivered:

“The manager was stressing to us that we needed a reaction and I thought the reaction was top class. From the start, we were at it. We started well, got the goal and managed to get the second before half time. They had a couple of half chances but I felt we kept them quiet and dealt with their threat really well.

“It was a bit of a frustrating one to miss Blackpool. With the head injury that I had with Wales, I felt I could could have played. I felt fine but with the protocols in the game now, I had to follow a step-by-step guide for five days so I missed Blackpool but I was desperate to get back out there on Wednesday. Individually, I felt I had a good game and I thought collectively as a team we were solid and deserved the win.

Wilson admitted to be pleased with a strong start to his Fulham career – he has scored three goals and contributed four assists in five appearances – when he has been able to get on the pitch, with consistency proving difficult following suspension and injuries.

“I’m happy with my numbers so far. It’s a bit frustrating missing the Blackpool game with an injury and the red card that I picked up, which was completely my fault, so I haven’t played all the games that I would have liked. The games I have played I feel my performances have been good and we’re winning games.

He certainly won’t be underestimating the Royals, who pose a real threat in attack, and knows just how important picking up back-to-back wins is in such a demanding division.

“Every time I play Reading I always think they are going to be a good footballing team. I know a couple of their players and they have players who like to get on the ball, play passes, interchange positions. We know it is going to be a tough game. I think their goal record this year is one of the best in the league, especially in the last few games – I think they scored three pretty much every game they’ve played. We know what threat they are going to have, but we know we can cause them problems as well. We’ll watch the videos on them and come up with a plan that we think will win the game.

“You’re never going to go through the Championship unbeaten. The league’s too hard – you’re playing Saturday, Tuesday most weeks. It is about how you react to those defeats. We reacted well on Wednesday and we’ll be making sure that we can put another few wins together to keep on top of the league.”

How Fulham beat Birmingham City: a tactical analysis

Fulham travelled to Birmingham on Wednesday night with plenty of questions hanging over their start to the season following a surprise defeat at the hands of newly-promoted Blackpool at the weekend. Marco Silva demanded a response from his side and the Whites had the perfect incentive to get their campaign back on track immediately as a win at St. Andrew’s would take them top of the Championship. Blues, though, had made a strong start to the season under Lee Bowyer, sitting just two points behind their opponents at kick off, and their miserly defence had conceded just three league goals.

Silva – perhaps stung by the insipid Fulham display at the seaside – made four changes to the starting eleven for the trip to the Midlands, having entrusted his international players with the task of hitting the ground running at Blackpool. Nathaniel Chalobah was handed a debut in central midfield, with Harrison Reed returning to the starting line up and Jean-Michael Seri, perhaps surprisingly, sitting deepest of a midfield three. Harry Wilson and Bobby Decordova-Reid stayed very wide, hoping to exploit the spaces left by Birmingham’s back three.

When Fulham didn’t have the ball, Reed tucked in next to Seri in more of a 4-2-3-1 – which was similar to how Fulham have lined up for much of the season under Silva. Chalobah, Decordova-Reid and Wilson lead an energetic press higher up the pitch, but the visitors remained largely compact and appeared happy to hit their opponents on the counter-attack.

Birmingham played in a 3-4-3 with the aim of pressing Fulham high up the pitch. Chong appeared responsible for man marking Seri and the early pressure initially resulted in the visitors conceding possession regularly in their own half. The Blues struggled to deal with Fulham’s offensive power though, committing so many men forward to press Fulham high, exposing their back three to the pace and movement of the Whites’ forward line when Silva’s side were able to bypass that press. The hosts tried to take full advantage from long throws, committing numbers into the box. Fulham dealt with this approach effectively on the whole, but it became a different proposition when Troy Deeney was introduced in the second half and a penalty – which Deeney dispatched – came from a long throw.

BIRMINGHAM CITY 0-1 FULHAM (Odoi ’10)

Denis Odoi rose highest to head home Fulham’s first goal of the night unmarked from a move worked on the training ground. He ghosted to the front post unmarked in large part due to Chalobah’s hulking presence. The former Watford midfielder stood his ground in the box blocking the run of Bela who was trying to mark Odoi, allowing the Belgian to find a free pocket of space in the box to head home.

This could have been a planned set play move as we have already seen Fulham score a goal similarly earlier in the season. Mitrovic lost his man this time against Hull, as Tosin blocked the Hull defender allowing the Serbian a free header at the near post.

A penalty from Mitrovic, won by a beautiful bit of skill from Chalobah, gave Fulham further breathing space at half time and – in truth – Silva’s side looked threatening every time they went forward.

BIRMINGHAM 0-3 FULHAM (Wilson ’56)

Birmingham started to commit more numbers forward in the second half but as Fulham turned over possession to start a counter attack, over half the Birmingham team were beyond the ball providing Fulham with a great opportunity to attack. Because of this lack of numbers back, the Birmingham centre-back steps forward to press Reed who finds himself in acres of space. This creates the space in behind for Harry Wilson to advance into leaving himself with over half the pitch on the right to himself.

Reed does well in releasing the ball to Chalobah, creating a much better angle for a pass to get through to Wilson. Jérémie Bela has to work harder to get back and cover for his left centre back and make it harder for Wilson to get behind.

Harry Wilson then has the pace to run onto the ball and get past the last Birmingham defender putting him through with a simple one on one that he makes no mistake with arguably putting the game to bed and Fulham 3-0 to the good.

BIRMINGHAM 0-3 FULHAM (Mitrovic 83)

With just under ten minutes to go in the game, Fulham were still putting Birmingham under pressure forcing them to pass back from midfield to defence. Marc Roberts then had limited options with all passing opportunities being tightly marked by a Fulham player. With Mitrovic closing him down, this forced the error as the centre-half attempted to turn out of trouble and the Serbian stripped him of possession quite easily.

Mitrovic carries the ball to the edge of the box and does well to hold the defender while waiting for support to arrive. By coming slightly inside, space is created down the wing for Jean-Michael Seri to utilise on the overlap getting in behind Birmingham again.

The Birmingham defence is then caught ball watching and are all drawn to Seri. This allows Mitrovic to move into the box unmarked in a huge pocket of space in the box allowing a simple pass from Seri and a comfortable first time finish for Mitrovic.