Fulham’s reserves ended their losing streak by claiming a creditable draw at Fratton Park. Dave Beasant, Andy Melville and Andrejs Stolcers provided the experience in an otherwise youthful Fulham line-up. And it proved to be the combination of youth and experience between Melville and Robert Watkins that especially pleased reserve team manager Paul Nevin.
The encounter got off to a slow start but in the 35-minute mark the home side took the lead after Fulham lost possession in the middle of the park. Portsmouth spread the ball out to the right hand side and after a scrappy piece of play on the edge of the box, a shot was fired in on David Beasant’s goal – the goalkeeper made the save but the ball dropped at the feet of Hunt who tapped in from close range.
The Whites then equalised on 50 minutes after Louis Fazakerley ran almost the entire length of the pitch before trying his luck from 35 yards. His effort somehow managed to squeeze through Wapenaar’s legs after the ‘keeper looked to have the shot covered.
“It was a good strike but their ‘keeper had a bit of problem with that one,” said Nevin after the match. “It was a good, positive run from Loui, their ‘keeper should have done better but if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.”
However it was the central defensive combination of Melville and Watkins that had Nevin singing the youngster’s praises.
“They found a balance straight away,” he said. “The coaching staff here see a lot of similarities between the two players and they looked a very accomplished pairing.
“Robert is a very good reader of the game which is an outstanding feature for such a young player. You usually find that players like him will be athletic, able to win headers and can tackle; he’s got all that – plus the ability to read the game beyond his years. That’s what stands out for the coaching staff. Steve Kean was watching tonight and couldn’t find a fault with him.”
Following a first half which saw the Whites make very few inroads into Pompey’s defence, a few half-time pointers helped bring about a far better display in the second period.
“Our whole attitude was better in the second half and we started playing some good two-touch football,” said Nevin. “Stuart Noble played as the lone striker and had an excellent game. He was facing a strong and experienced player in Foxe and gave him a very difficult time.
“To be honest we were disappointed that we couldn’t come away with the three points, we dominated the second half but without creating any clear-cut chances. We want to mirror what the first team are doing so that players will be able to make the step up. It’s just about making the adjustment from playing 4-4-2. Our wide players are starting to get to grips with it and once that’s happened, we will be a far stronger team.”
FULHAM RESERVES (4-3-3): Beasant, Rosenior, Green, Melville, Watkins; T, Davis (Lawless 70), Buari (Stratford 80), Fazakerley; Noble, Pratley, Stolcers (Willock 50).