Fulham’s under 21s were narrowly beaten by Everton on a cold, wintry evening at Motspur Park tonight.
Kit Symons fielded a strong side offering Eyoung Enoh his first start in a Fulham shirt since joining on loan from Ajax on transfer deadline day. The combative midfielder played for an hour alongside experienced former Welsh international and forward Chris David, who partnered the in-form Cauley Woodrow up front. Everton also opted to start with one of their recent arrivals, with highly-rated full-back John Stones making his first appearance since his deadline day move from Barnsley.
Fulham began brightly with Alex Smith stripping an Everton defender of possession but shooting straight at Mason Springthorpe in the Toffees’ goal. Greek striker Apostolos Velios, who was a threat all evening, spurned the visitors’ first opportunity, flicking a header wide of Neil Etheridge’s goal. The hosts failed to take advantage of a prolonged period of pressure ten minutes in when a swift counter-attack saw a smart pass from Davies release winger Ryan Williams but the Australian’s cross was smothered by Springthorpe at the second attempt. Shortly afterwards, the goalkeeper was almost beaten by an attempted clearance from Shane Duffy.
Fulham were soon to pay for their profligacy. On nineteen minutes, Velios took up the attentions of the Fulham defence, creating the space for Conor McAleny to beat Neil Etheridge from the right side of the box. Minutes later, another Everton counter-attack caused panic in the Fulham box and the visitors came close to doubling their lead. Fulham finished the first half strongly with David’s tame shot after a mazy run that took him away from three defenders easily gathered by the goalkeeper and young striker saw a rising drive from 30 yards tipped over the crossbar.
After a performance full of strong tackles and intelligent passing, Enoh made make for Ronnie Minkwitz after an hour. Having already made Fulham pay in the first, McAlney was unfortunate not to add a second with an effort that was turned aside by a sprawling Etheridge. Fulham pressed for an equaliser but their luck was definitely out – first, Smith’s volley threatened to drop into the corner but flew fractionally over and then David rattled the crossbar with a free-kick. Late on, Davies also hit the woodwork with a terrific volley from fully 35 yards as Fulham’s search for a leveller proved fruitless.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Etheridge, Grimmer, Kavanagh, Passley, Donnelly; Smith, Enoh (Minkwitz 60), Davies, Williams (Tankovic 83); Woodrow (Altman 90), David. Subs (not used): Joronen, Arthurworrey.
EVERTON: Springhthorpe; Stones, Garbett, Browning, Duffy; Lundstram, Junior (Hope 14), Kennedy (Johns 75), Grant; Velios, McAleny. Subs (not used): Griffiths, Long, Molyneux.