Fulham’s reserves picked up their first point of the season in a lively 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Solihull Moors this evening.
It was a good point for Billy McKinlay’s side as Birmingham began the game with ten of their eleven able to call up first-team experience. There was a worrying injury scare early on when Kevin Phillips fell to ground in obvious discomfort, but after a lengthy period of treatment the experienced striker was able to continue.
Pascal Zuberbuhler, overlooked against Everton yesterday in the absence of Mark Schwarzer, was called into action for the first time after a quarter of an hour but he got down well to save a Phillips shot. Almost immediately, Fulham should have gone in front at the other end but Alex Smith missed a glorious opportunity with his head.
The home side might have headed into the break in the lead had Phillips managed to finish off a flowing Birmingham move involving Gary McSheffrey and Christian Benitez but he drove his shot straight at Zuberbuhler. Central defender Scott Danns, playing his second reserve game in a week as he continues his comeback from a thigh injury sutstained in pre-season, headed over from a corner while Eddie Johnson beat the Blues offside trap but fired wide.
A quiet second half sprung into life with just over 20 minutes remaining when McSheffrey cut into the box and was felled by a Fulham challenge. McSheffrey calmly dusted himself down and confidently converted the penalty, sending Zuberbuhler the wrong way.
To their credit, Fulham heads didn’t drop and they grabbed an equaliser with thirteen minutes remaining. Johnson punished some shoddy defending by clinically firing a low cross past Colin Doyle in the Birmingham goal. It was a pleasing goal for the American, who has looked much more attuned to the rigours of English football since returning from his loan spell at Cardiff.
Birmingham might have snatched all three points right at the death when Benitez did brilliantly to dazzle three Fulham defenders but the Ecuadorian shot just over the bar. New signings Kagiso Dikgacoi and David Elm played the full ninety minutes for the Whites.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Doyle; Joyce, Rowe (Preston 45), Espinoza, Dann (Packwood 66); Carsley (Ntambwe 45), O’Shea, Sammons, McSheffrey; Phillips, Benitez. Subs (not used): Jervis, Butland.
GOAL: McSheffrey (pen 60).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Zuberbuhler; Stoor, Anderson, Briggs, Watts; Saunders, Smith (Marsh-Brown 55), Dikgacoi, Seol; E. Johnson, Elm. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Moscatiello, Uwezu, Hoesen.
GOAL: E. Johnson (77).