A lovely evening and a 30 mile round trip on a bicycle was the scene for a Fulham reserve game against the side that finished 12th in the Ryman Southern League last season. Walton Casuals welcomed what was effectively an U20 side without any of the players threatening to break into the first team (Frei, Briggs, Kasami, Etheridge and Dalla Valle were all absent although new signing Casper Somogyi started in goal).

The match started brightly for the young Fulham side, who only took 20 seconds to create a half chance; the ball was clipped over the defence and Trotta with just the keeper to beat couldn’t put away what was an awkward 20 yard volley. It wasn’t long until Fulham did make their breakthrough though. Alexis, a young striker on trial at Fulham featuring in his second game for the club, caught the Casuals defence totally square and rounded the goalkeeper to tap into an empty net, a composed finish from someone who did not look out of place with the Academy graduates and would have been pleased with his overally performance as he tries to make an impression.

The part timers were struggling with Fulham’s passing game and closing down so it was no suprise that the young Whites had all the attacking pressure and continued making chances and forcing saves and clearances, including one which created after the Casuals left back Chris Asante, who had a first half riddled with mistakes, inexplicably gave the ball away; two touches later and the Italian, who at just 16 cost £1 million, was through on goal, but dwelt too long on the ball and the defence got back in numbers to clear it. Kacaniklic was causing trouble with his runs, and Minkwitz was controlling the midfield, but the failure to make this pressure count would come back to haunt them as the Casuals slowly came more into the game. The closing down was much more intense from the hosts, and while nothing too threatening was coming from them in terms of chances they were passing the ball better (I overheard a conversation with a Walton player who suggested we got complacent and assumed it’d be a walk in the park).

There was still nothing to suggest that Somogyi’s goal was under threat but after a Casuals striker demonstrated nice balance and control to dummy two Fulham defenders they won a freekick 25 yards out. Instead of the usual strike at goal a training ground routine caught out the Fulham defence and after Somogyi made a good save from 10 yards the ball fell to an orange shirt who couldnt miss a tap in with the goal gaping. Buoyed by this goal, the Casuals started to control the game and should have gone two up when a long ball in behind the defence caught the Fulham defence out inexplicably but Somogyi saved what was a simple one-on-one chance. There should have been a second for Fulham too. Brister broke down the right and put in a cross into a decent area. Instead of catching it the goalie dropped the ball at Alexis’ feet and was denied what should have been a tap in when he was seemingly pulled to the floor by a defender, but the ref saw nothing and allowed play to go on.

It was just a brief reprieve however and once again the Fulham defence was caught out by another long ball down the centre of defence. This time they weren’t so lucky when Chris Drake dispatched a first time finish with aplomb. It could have been worse after a Casuals attacker was brought down in the box, but it was a poor penalty which was smothered by Somogyi, his last key action of the game as he was subbed at half time to be replaced by Marcus Bettinelli

The second half continued where the first left off. The passing from Fulham seemed erratic and Minkwitz was almost totally out of the game. Bettinelli had little to do though and having weathered the storm the superior athleticism and fitness of the Fulham players began to tell. Brister was replaced by Miscah  at right midfield shortly after the break, the second trialist of the evening, and against the tiring legs of Walton Casuals he really stood out. Miscah soon became the main attacking outlet, even with 10 or 15 yards on him Asante couldn’t catch him and more often than not he had an end product too.

The last 20 minutes were totally dominated by Fulham and they should have put at least one of their chances away. Kacaniklic scuffed a one on one and another went to waste after an attempt to round the keeper took it out of play. The post was struck from a fierce 20 yard free kick and it seemed as if the Whites were set for a disappointing evening, but Woodrow, a summer signing from Luton and substitute for Alexis, looked bright and Miscah’s scorching runs down the side of the pitch really stood out. Still, no breakthrough was made and it finished 2-1, a good results for the hosts but the Fulham side would have felt that they could have done better.

Reserve manager Billy McKinlay had this to say after the game:

“Overall it was disappointing, we expected to do a lot better than we did tonight,” he said. “We started the game quite well, scored the goal but then got bogged down and never got going after that. They hit us with two quick goals, which caused us a problem.

“We passed it better in the second-half, created two or three chances and should have taken a couple of them. We should be doing better, fitness wasn’t a problem, but there’s obviously a lack of match practice for a number of the players.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, both individually and as a team to make sure that we’re getting good progression and reaching higher levels of performance.”

Here are my impressions of the players:

Somogyi looks like a good shot stopper, didn’t see him come out for a cross though but maybe any crosses put in he couldn’t come out for, I wasn’t in the best position to judge. The full backs Dean and Smith both like to go forward, Smith looked the better of the two and demonstrated some nice subtle touches and runs on the ball. The centre backs were caught out really badly twice with the two long balls. Arthurworry didn’t stand out as much as Burn (another summer signing, this one from Darlington for a hefty fee if I recall correctly) but maybe that’s because Burn is huge, although I do remember that he made a few forward runs with the ball. Burn dealt with almost everything in the air other than one which he misjudged but no striker anticipated it. Pritchard started in midfield which I was suprised with, I thought he was a striker, and he looked ok but I didn’t particuarly pay attention to him. Minkwitz was the better and more attacking of the two central midfielders from what I saw, getting about the pitch demanding possession and playing accurate passes with a nice first touch. Brister made some nice attacking plays and seems at times quite arrogant on the ball (which is what you want to see from attackers), at one stage so determined to beat his man he must have tried to get round him by using feints for 10 or 20 seconds. On the other side Kacaniklic seemed to have better dribbling ability and a bit more agility than Brister.

The trialist upfront Alexis looks very bright and worth a contract if this is the standard he has to aspire too, sharp with some neat close control, nice burst of acceleration too. As for Trotta, I had really high hopes for him when he joined but every time I see him he fails to make an impression. I think he struggles a bit with the pace of football here because he dwells on the ball when he faces the opposition goal too much (compared to Zamora who holds it with his back to goal). There were a couple of subs too. Brister was replaced by Mesca, another trialist who is worth a contract. He was on the opposite side of the pitch to me so I couldn’t always see what he did with the ball at his feet but his fantastic pace is very obvious and he usually had an end product too. Cauley Woodrow was the second sub, and he played deeper than Alexis did, like a second striker or attacking midfielder and wondered about in the final half of the pitch. He has a bit of flair, attempting a backheel and a couple of tricks, and a stand out moment for me was when he evaded a challenge and played a first time crossfield ball to Mesca, so yeah he looks good.

Anyway that’s my $0.02 on the reserve game!