Fulham’s Under 18 side returned to Motspur Park for the first time since October for a match against winless Middlesbrough. The away side may have been buoyed however by the absence of Fulham top scorer Cauley Woodrow, with George Williams getting a chance up front, pairing Muamer Tankovic. Max Oberschmidt returned in goal with a defence of Donnelly (fresh from his outing for the Northern Ireland Under 21 side in the week), Arthurworrey (who skippered the side on the day), Burgess and Evans. In midfield the yin and yang pairing of Hyndman and Sambou were sandwiched by Della Verde and Roberts.
The slippery conditions paired with both teams eagerness meant the game took a while to find some flow and rhythm with Jones firing wide for Boro and Donnelly’s early foray ending with a sliced shot on his weaker left foot. It didn’t take much longer for Fulham to take the game by the scruff of the neck and they were the first to settle into some possession, resulting in a Della Verde strike that took a knock on the way through resulting in a corner. That in-swinging corner was met by the unmarked Tankovic to nod home from inside the six yard box, a rare headed goal for the Swede.
Fulham 1 Middlesbrough 0
From that point forward, Fulham completely dominated the ball and had Middlesbrough chasing shadows for the remainder, with Fulham’s tika-taka football leaving the Boro midfield 5 dazzled and resulting in huge gaps between striker Fewster and his teammates. That’s about all there is to say from a Middlesbrough point of view for a while.
Neat and patient work in the Boro third allowed chances for Williams, Donnelly and Tankovic before the latter latched onto a through ball from Hyndman drawing the keeper out. The striker chipped over the keeper but was caught on the follow through and a penalty was awarded. Tankovic himself stepped up in Woodrow’s absence and fired the spot kick into the bottom left corner, the keeper Montgomery diving the right way but in reality having no chance.
Fulham 2 Middlesbrough 0
Those two early goals forced Middlesbrough back into their shells and deeper into their own half, allowing Fulham ample time to play and create as they wished, with the away side only breaking with long high balls which caused Arthurworrey and Burgess no trouble. One break however, that wasn’t just lumped aimlessly forward resulted in a corner. Unfortunately for them when Fulham cleared via a neat diagonal ball from Burgess to Roberts, the young Englishman was allowed space to gather speed and dip inside his full back (who he had beaten 3 or 4 times already) and unleash a delightful curling effort into the far corner. A majestic finish
Fulham 3 Middlesbrough 0
There were further chances for Roberts who fired over with his right, Burgess who headed over from a corner and a bit of a scramble that Montgomery eventually managed to get within his grips. The away side were really hanging on towards the break, though had Morris controlled better from a rare break and diagonal ball, Oberschmidt could have found himself in no mans land and no longer in possession of a clean sheet. That summed up Boro’s attacks for the day, when they did get them the passes were either poor or the players were so isolated there was never any chance of a consolation.
HALF TIME : Fulham 3 Middlesbrough 0
Middlesbrough came out for the second half in an even more withdrawn 4-5-1 with Fewster cutting a lonely figure between our two giant centre backs. The deeper setting only encouraged Fulham to start playing their football higher and closer to the Boro box and it didn’t take long for the wall to crumble. Della Verde’s one-two with Tankovic, the return a lovely back-heel, successfully diverted a number of Boro players allowing Della Verde to slide through to Williams who nicked the ball in front of the oncoming keeper and was caught for Fulham’s second penalty on the day. Tankovic stepped up again and as was his confidence he chipped the ball down the middle to complete his hat-trick for the day.
Fulham 4 Middlesbrough 0
Della Verde and Williams were next to step up, the latter just pulling his left footed shot wide of the post after a neat Tankovic through ball. Sambou was then withdrawn, making way for Tom Richards who went to left mid pushing Della Verde inside and adding yet more attacking flair to that Fulham centre with Hyndman already opening up Boro and dictating our attacking dominance. Not long after Della Verde moved to the centre had he latched onto a Williams cut back to make it 5 – 0, finishing high into the far corner with his left foot.
Fulham 5 Middlesbrough 0
Fulham made the two remaining subs with a Tankovic effort after a neat turn sandwiched in-between, O’Reilly for Burgess and O’Halloran for Donnelly. O’Reilly slotted in at centre back, Richards dropped into right back with O’Halloran taking his place on the left wing.
These changes allowed Boro a chance to break up the home sides rhythm but the breaks they created continued to be broken up or wasted with the Fulham goal nearing. They then replaced O’Neill and McCarthy with Garrity and Armstrong. These changes did allow Fewster to drop into midfield and try to galvanise the team to salvage at least some pride, though his efforts were in vein and Fulham swept in a 6th. Not before Della Verde was booked for simulation, or more likely over enthusiasm in what could have been a third penalty for Fulham. From where I was standing it looked like the referee had done the away side a favour.
The sixth came again from Williams driving to the byline, this time he fired across for the onrushing Roberts to grab his second with a finish from close range.
Fulham 6 Middlesbrough 0
Williams himself couldn’t cap an energetic display with a goal as he steered one just wide from O’Halloran’s cross, the young lad maybe trying too hard to get that goal when given the chance in his favoured position. Tankovic just about had time to force a good save from Montgomery low down at his near post before the referee called time on an impressive display, albeit against a team bereft of quality.
On a day when most Fulham players sparkled, Tankovic just nicks man of the match for me from Hyndman. The American dictated the majority of our attacking play but the hat-trick hero takes the gong with his own build up play and energetic enthusiasm causing Boro problems on a day they’d like to forget.
Fulham : Oberschmidt; Donnelly (O’Halloran), Arthurworrey (c), Burgess (O’Reilly), Evans; Roberts, Sambou (Richards), Hyndman, Della Verde; Williams, Tankovic
not used : Norman (GK) who was in goal for the under 16’s
Middlesbrough : Montgomery; Coleby, Tinkler, Weledsi, Kitching; O’Neill (Garrity), Morris, Griffiths, Jones, McCarthy (Armstrong); Fewster
not used : Bland (GK)
A last congratulations to Chelsea under 18’s who are now uncatchable in the National Group 3 and remain the only unbeaten side at this level, though a visit to Motspur Park still awaits where Fulham may very well need something to continue on to the Elite Group.
Highlights of this match can be found here : http://www.fulhamfc.com/news/2012/november/19/u18s-boro-highlights