A late strike from Alex Smith secured all three points for Fulham Under 21s as Kit Symons’ side battled to an impressive win at Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight.
The Whites avenged their 2-1 home defeat by Wolves back in August in a manner that pleased Symons, especially as he had to make late adjustments to his planned line-up after full-back Alex Brister fell ill. Fulham pressed young Danish midfielder Lasse Christensen into service as an emergency right back and Symons also deployed Finnish forward Laurie Dalla Valle as a lone striker.
It was Islamovic who gave Fulham the lead ten minutes before the break, when he finished clincically from six yards after a horrible mix-up in the Wolves defence saw central defenders Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Daniel Batth collide as they both went for the same ball. Fulham would already have been in front were it not for the superb reflexes of Wayne Hennessey, as the Wolves goalkeeper made a couple of superb saves on his return to action after injury. It looked as if Fulham might rue those missed chances when they paid for a lack on concentration right on half time as Bjorn Sigurdarson stole in to head a Wolves corner past Csaba Somogyi.
But Symons’ side, who have steadily improved throughout the inagural Premier U21 League campaign, continued to play composed and confident football and got their reward in the closing stages of an absorbing contest at the New Bucks Head. It was fitting that Christensen, who had played a key part in keeping Wolves at bay as they pressed for a second, played a key part in the move that produced Fulham’s winner. Showing the forward instincts that have come to the fore during his development since signing from FC Midjtylland in January, Christensen broke clear down the right and delivered the perfect pass for Smith, who made his first-team debut during the 3-0 win over West Brom last month, to ensure Fulham took all three points back to London.
Speaking afterwards, Symons was impressed with his side’s peformance and their character:
We performed very well against a very experienced side and that’s all you can ask for really. But to get the victory right at the very end is the icing on the cake. That’ll give the lads a lot of confidence to beat a team containing eight or nine players that have been involved with Wolves’ first team.
It was a victory built on hard work and it shows if you put the hard graft in, you’ll get what you deserve. It was a strong all-round performance and we showed very good character to keep competing until the end. Lasse did excellently playing out of position at right-back and every player put in a shift to earn the win.
WOLVES U21s: Hennessey; Stearman, Ebanks-Landell, Batth, Ihiekwe; Ismail, Edwards, Davis, Forde; Sigurdarson, Nouble. Subs: Price, McCarey, Whittall, McAlinden, Kostrna.
GOAL: Sigurdarson (45).
FULHAM U21s: Somogyi; Christensen, Pritchard, Grimmer, Musa; Smith, Minkwitz; Islamovic, Banya, Altman; Dalla Valle. Subs: Bettinelli, Kavanagh, Sambou, Tankovic.
GOALS: Islamovic (35), Smith (85).