Collins John came off the bench to score his first goals for Fulham and end their eleven match run without an away win at Leicester this afternoon.
The Dutch teenager, signed from FC Twente in January, took just six minutes to fire Fulham in front after replacing Barry Hayles. He raced onto a forward ball from Steed Malbranque beating Ian Walker, who had rushed off his line, and then chipping delightfully into the unguarded net. The 18 year-old then made sure of the points in the last minute when he calmly buried an assured finish under Walker after Luis Boa Morte had broken clear down the left flank.
This represented Fulham’s first away win since that astonishing success at Old Trafford back in October and it might prove terminal for Leicester’s survival hopes. The Foxes scrapped manfully again today but there is a serious lack of quality in their side and, after a decent start, they struggled to stretch Edwin van der Sar in the visiting goal – sorely missing the injured Les Ferdinand.
Muzzy Izzet came closest for the home side but his goal was ruled out for a foul on the Dutch goalkeeper. Fulham were quickest into their stride with Steed Malbranque to the fore as the French midfielder strode away from a couple of challenges and sent a rising drive over the crossbar from outside the box.
The home side forced a succession of set plays midway through the first half but the closest they came was when Ben Thatcher fired a free-kick straight into the Fulham wall. Referee Peter Walton waved ahead loud penalty appeals from the Walkers’ Stadium faithful when Izzet went down after a challenge from Boa Morte and clear chances were at a premium in the remainder of the match.
Sylvain Legwinski saw a shot bravely blocked at source by Steffen Freund and Malbranque miscued horribly over the bar when a loose ball bounced up invitingly. Marcus Bent unselfishly squared for Jamie Scowcroft when he had found some space down the right just before the break but on-loan Ipswich striker lost his composure, screwing his shot high over the crossbar.
Izzet saw his predatory strike ruled out by Walton after the referee adjuged that the Leicester midfielder had impeded the Fulham keeper as he went to take a goalkick. Leicester must have gone an inkling it wasn’t going to be their day when Dickov did brilliantly to hold off his man and the Scottish striker’s powerful right-footed strike beat van der Sar but came back off the crossbar.
It only went further downhill from there as John took centre stage with his match deciding cameo. The teenager belied his tender years by keeping a goal head to turn the game in Fulham’s favour – and repay the faith of Chris Coleman’s scouts who recommended plucking him from Twente after barely eighteen months of senior football. It already looks a very good decision.
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2): Walker; Scimeca, Heath, Dabizas (Canero 80), Thatcher; Scowcroft, Izzet, Freund (Nalis 74), Guppy; Bent, Dickov. Subs (not used): Stewart, McKinlay, Benjamin.
BOOKED: Freund, Dickov.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Goma; Djetou, Legwinski, Davis; Malbranque (McBride 71), Boa Morte, Hayles (John 62). Subs (not used): Crossley, Pearce, Petta.
BOOKED: Boa Morte.
GOALS: John (66, 89).
REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).