Fulham recorded a quite incredible win at Huddersfield Town this afternoon to further ease their relegation fears, despite being reduced to ten men.
Kit Symons’ side climbed above Rotherham to twentieth in the Championship table after scoring at both the beginning and end of a breathless encounter in west Yorkshire. The drama began in the second minute when Swedish winger Alex Kacaniklic swung a corner straight in from the right-flank, with his delivery outwitting both goalkeeper Alex Smithies and former Fulham defender Mark Hudson as Matt Smith caused problems at the near post.
Huddersfield, themselves seeking points in their own battle against the drop, mounted an immediate response when Sean Scannell headed into Marcus Bettinelli’s arms from a cross from Tommy Smith. The Fulham goalkeeper then produced another instinctive stop to prevent Shaun Hutchinson from putting into his own net and also fielded a header from Ishmael Miller as the Terriers’ stepped the pressure. Jacob Butterfield tried his luck from range but Bettinelli kept hold of his low shot as it came through the crowd and then pushed Miller’s header onto the far post as the visitors somehow went in at half time ahead.
Scannell served notice of the hosts’ intentions six minutes after the break when he skipped away from two challengers to send the perfect ball across the face of goal, but there was no-one in a Town shirt in the middle to convert what would have been a simple chance. Bettinelli made another smart save to keep out another Butterfield piledriver, before referee Richard Clark took centre stage. He gave a spot-kick for handball on the line – which looked contentious to the naked eye – and initially sent off a disbelieving Cauley Woodrow before being persuaded to consult his fourth official and instead showing the red card to Shaun Hutchinson.
There was a long delay before the penalty area was cleared and Nakhi Wells stepped forward, but Bettinelli made a superb sprawling save. Symons sent on Nikolay Bodurov as the ten men reorganised at the heart of their defence and a resolute rearguard tried to cling on despite their numerical disadvantage. Woodrow almost snaffled a second out of nothing, when he latched onto Tim Hoogland’s through ball and rounded Smithies only to rattle the near post with an attempted finish from an acute angle.
It looked like Fulham’s brave resistance was about to broken with eighteen minutes left when Jazz Richards wrestled Scannell to the ground in the box. Wells took responsibility from twelve yards again but drilled his effort against the far post – and the away side breathed a huge sigh of relief. Substitute Fofana almost created a matchwinning second when his raking ball from central midfield released Woodrow but the striker’s low cross-cum-shot eluded both Smith and the far corner.
Bodurov bravely blocked an effort from David Edgar and Bettinelli palmed a Butterfield drive onto the post before bravely diving at the feet of Scannell as he seemed destined to score. Butterfield then clipped the top of the crossbar with a rising strike from long range before, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, an audacious attempt to chip Smithies from 35 yards by substitute Hugo Rodallega flew fractionally wide.
After six minutes of added time, Fulham could have been forgiven for simply sitting back and praying for the final whistle. But Fofana seized on the opportunity to grab a decisive second when, with Huddersfield having sent everyone forward in the desperate hunt for an equaliser, first Michael Turner and then Matt Smith won challenges inside the Fulham half. The on-loan Manchester City midfielder carried the ball all the way to the edge of the box and, with only Ryan Tunnicliffe for company, rattled an effort against the base of the post. But Fofana kept his composure to score his first Fulham goal and spark delirious celebrations by running into the travelling contingent.
HUDDERSFIELD (3-5-2): Smithies; Edgar (Charles 87), Hudson, Lynch; Smith (Majewski 75), Scannell, Hogg (Lolley 74), Coady, Butterfield; Miller, Wells. Subs (not used): Murphy, M. Wallace, Carroll, Gobern.
FULHAM (4-1-2-1-2): Bettinelli; Grimmer, Richards, Hutchinson, Turner; Tunnicliffe, Hoogland, Kavanagh (Bodurov 61), Kacaniklic (Fofana 67); Smith, Woodrow (Rodallega 88). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Burn, Donnelly, Roberts.
BOOKED: Smith, Kacaniklic, Hoogland, Richards, Bettinelli.
SENT OFF: Hutchinson.
GOALS: Kacanklic (2), Fofana (90+6).
REFEREE: Richard Clark (Northumberland).