Another great youth report from ElGreenio, who I’m pleased to say will be joining us on a permanent basis; this’ll be the last time I’m used as a proxy.
The Under 18’s returned to a wet Motspur Park after the international break, looking to get back on track after 2 defeats against winless Crystal Palace. The squad were buoyed by Sambou’s return and the first official outing of Cameron Burgess, a giant Scottish centre back who joins from Aussie outfit Joondalup. Burgess started alongside Arthurworrey in a partnership that totalled a towering 12 foot 8 inches. Josh Passley deputised at right back for the absent Donnelly and Tom Richards started on the left. Lyle Della Verde started out wide on the right to allow the returning Sambou to take his place in the centre alongside American Emerson Hyndman. Jordan Evans, much to my liking was given his shot from the start to play in his natural left wing position. Up front Tankovic and Woodrow continued their 5 game unbroken duo in the wake of Dembele’s continued injury. There were however, 12 Fulham players starting on the hallowed Motspur Park turf, as Derek Tieku on loan to Palace from the club started up front.
The players were eager to get going, a certain Swedish striker a little too eager, attempting an audacious shot straight from kick off to surrender possession straight to the away team. It wasn’t long before the ball was back with the home side as Fulham adapted quicker to the tricky conditions, with Palace struggling to get any kind of passing going, though credit to the home side who pressured high up from the off. Evans didn’t take long at all to start convincing Steve Wigley he should be playing forward more often, a lovely bending cross met by the head of Woodrow who had just strayed offiside. The striker had a second sighter moments later as he fired a shot just wide. Jordan Evans’ capitalised on a poor touch from the Palace skipper for next foray down the left, which ended in a delicate cross to Woodrow who just peeled off the centre back allowing him to bring the cross down and place a left footed shot into the top corner of the net for an early Fulham lead. Fulham 1 Crystal Palace 0.
Evans, displaying his crossing ability cut onto his right foot and delivered a right foot whipped cross that was glanced just past the far post by Tankovic. The Eagles’ first chance came moments later when a corner wasn’t cleared fully and the nod back into the box was met by a Palace player on the turn, his shot trickling agonisingly wide of the Fulham goal.
It was time for the Fulham right to come alive, Josh Passley’s extra pace and trickery down the right this week paying dividends as countless times he outpaced the Palace winger, and full back to get to the byline. Unfortunately on the day his final ball was cut out too many times but you cant help but admire the way he glided past the opposition continuously whilst Fulham enforced their dominance on the game. One of Passley’s encouraging runs ended in a Della Verde free kick whipped towards the far post in that corridor of uncertainty, evading everyone and forcing a reflex save from the Palace keeper. The resulting corner offered the first moment of controversy in the game, the high ball meeting an upstretched Palace arm for what (in my unbiased opinion of course) could have easily resulted in a penalty kick.
The first 35 minutes was all Fulham, Woodrow striking a volley at the keeper after more work from Passley, as well as Hyndman finding that regular space on the edge of the box after Woodrow’s work to strike just over the bar. The remainder of the half, and unfortunately for Fulham the rest of the game swung in the away sides favour, with Fulham really struggling for rhythm. Steve Wigley heard shouting countless times “we’ve lost all rhythm in the game”. It didn’t take long for Palaces’ new found spark to force a chance, with a corner not cleared by Burgess only for him to redeem himself and clear off the line seconds later. Fulham did well in keeping Palace chances to a minimum without the attacking players managing to create many more openings, Burgess in particular winning many if not all of his aerial battles. It should also be said that the Palace forwards and wingers were offside too much to take advantage of their undoubted pace advantage, though Tieku was ironically looking the most likely of the Palace team to create anything.
HALF TIME : Fulham 1 Crystal Palace 0
Fulham’s start of a half was again encouraging, Tankovic going close from a tight angle, but chances for the home side became even rarer as Palace had a succession of corners, resulting in goalmouth scrambles, a Tieku shot fired straight at Oberschmidt and also a header missed from a few yards out. The constant pressure on the Fulham defence told after a Palace free kick wasn’t cleared and the resulting cross from the left was met by Jake Gray to head home when any of 3 players at the far post could have finished. Fulham 1 Crystal Palace 1
The equaliser sparked Steve Wigley into action, Tom Richards making way for George Williams. Williams came into left midfield with Evans dropping back to his familiar left back role he’s played this season. The game became stretched at this point with Tieku having a shot at one end and Evans with another lovely cross cleared at the back post for a corner, which resulted in a Woodrow chance. The striker just had to stretch too far and couldn’t keep the ball under the bar.
Palace took the lead with good work down the left, Sullay Kai-Kai cutting inside and curling a beautiful effort into the top corner leaving Oberschmidt with no chance. Fulham 1 Crystal Palace 2.
The players frustrations were starting to surface with Hyndman cursing himself for a misplaced pass and Woodrow shown a yellow card for launching the ball away after being penalised for a foul. Solomon Sambou, who gave his usual 100% all-action performance, was then replaced by Dan O’Reilly who took up the holding midfield role. The infectious wayward passing was spreading throughout the Fulham team, with no player able to say they were faultless in the game. It could have been worse for the home side as Palace had a 3rd goal disallowed, the Palace player adjudged to have pushed for space in the box from a corner. The one half chance that fell to Fulham in the remaining moments found Passley at the far post but the right backs scuffed shot was easily cleared off the line.
FULL TIME : Fulham 1 Crystal Palace 2
Fulham : Oberschmidt; Passley, Arthurworrey, Burgess, Richards (Williams); Della Verde, Hyndman, Sambou (O’Reilly), Evans; Tankovic, Woodrow. Subs not used : Grainger (GK), Sheckleford
Crystal Palace : King; Gordon, Gabsi, Croll, Williams; Innis, Gray, Dymond, Kai-Kai; Palmer (Johnson-Cole), Tieku (Hoare). Subs not used : Berkeley-Agyepong, Gregory (GK), Toms