For around seventy minutes, this was the pre-season warm-up Martin Jol would have wanted ahead of the start of Fulham’s Premier League campaign against Norwich City next weekend. A strong Fulham side, arguably only missing Aaron Hughes and Clint Dempsey from the first choice line-up, settled swiftly to their task and passed their way around a Charlton outfit sharpening up ahead of life in the Championship. The energetic Damien Duff gave the Whites the early lead their expansive football merited, but Jol would have been angered by the lack of urgency after the interval and two goals in seven second half minutes, superbly taken by the Addicks’ captain Johnnie Jackson and the excellent Yann Kermogant, gave Chris Powell’s side an impressive win.
Charlton’s comeback avenged their harsh 4-0 hammering in the FA Cup third round meeting between the sides back in January but Fulham only had their themselves to blame for throwing away a commanding position in a game that they bossed for the first 45 minutes. Duff, easily the game’s stand-out performer in the first period, didn’t see enough of the ball after the break and Charlton, much improved once Salim Kerkar was introduced as a second-half substitute, punished their labouring hosts.
Kermogant, who scored twelve vital goals last season, found plenty of space between the Fulham midfield and back four as time ticked on and he made the equaliser with a floated diagonal ball that caught Chris Baird pushing up as Brede Hangeland held a higher line. The pair appealed in vain for offside as Jackson, who was lively all afternoon down the Charlton left, sneaked in to steer a composed finish past a stranded Mark Schwarzer. Worse was to come seven minutes later when the French forward found the far corner with a fierce half-volley after Fulham had failed to clear a Bradley Pritchard cross.
The visitors were good value for their victory, with Schwarzer having to dash from his line to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips in injury time with his feet and the Australian goalkeeper also made excellent saves from Pritchard and the mercurial Kerkar. Had full-back Chris Solly scored only his second senior Charlton goal after galloping into space on angle of the eighteen yard box, there could have been few Fulham complaints – but the collapse given their first half superiority was staggering.
Duff was the regular outlet and the Irish winger, eager to make an impression on his only his third summer start since rejoining his club colleagues after his European Championship exploits, might have been awarded a penalty inside the first minute when he was checked by Rhoys Wiggins but referee Andre Marriner waved play on. Duff didn’t need to wait long before breaking the deadlock, though, as the opening goal arrived from a flowing Fulham move in the fifth minute. Duff started and finished the moving, picking up possession in a central area and driving towards goal, before picking out Alex Kacaniklic with a fine pass, and coolly converting the Swede’s low cross from seven yards.
Fulham looked dangerous going forward for the remainder of the first period, with Bryan Ruiz to the fore. The Costa Rican international looks much sharper with a full pre-season behind him and has struck up a promising partnership with new striker Mladen Petric. Ruiz himself was only denied a second by a fine saving tackle from Dale Stephens and, after Mahmadou Diarra glanced a corner fractionally wide, Kacanklic drilled a shot straight at Ben Hamer after a fast Fulham break and a mazy dribble from Moussa Dembele culminated with the Belgian shooting over and eluding a wild tackle from Michael Morrison, who had headed Charlton’s best opening harmlessly over when unattended at a corner.
The early stages of the second half offered little warning of the turnaround to come as Fulham went close to doubling their lead. Kacaniklic, profiting from the space created by a clever Petric run, headed over from a central position and Duff saw two shots blocked in quick succession as a clever jink created half a yard of space in the box. Solly almost inadvertently put the game beyond his team-mates when he deflected a Duff cross on to the top of the Hammersmith End crossbar. Fulham were fitful once Kacaniklic and Ruiz were withdrawn and Charlton, energised by Powell’s effective substitutions, grew in confidence and their clinical late finishing inflicted Fulham’s first pre-season defeat.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Riise, Baird, Hangeland; Diarra, Dembele (Sidwell 66); Duff, Kacaniklic (Rodallega 54), Ruiz (Frei 81); Petric (Briggs 81). Subs (not used): Stockdale, Kelly, Burn, Kasami, Trotta.
GOAL: Duff (6).
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Hamer; Solly, Wiggins, Cort (Taylor 65), Morrison; Hollonds (Kerkar 65), Stephens, Jackson, B. Pritchard (Wilson 81), Jackson; Kermogant, B. Wright-Phillips (Cook 90). Subs (not used): Sullivan, Evina, Wagstaff, Green, Smith, Hayes.
GOALS: Jackson (70), Kermogant (78).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)