Fulham forward Ross McCormack fired in another fine free-kick to rescue at Bolton this afternoon after Zach Clough’s brace threatened to give the Championship’s bottom club their second win of the campaign.
Wanderers, marooned at the foot of the table and in serious financial strife, looked set for a morale-boosting win when teenage striker Clough scored twice in thirteen second half minutes. The hosts appeared set to punish their opponents prolificacy after Fulham missed a succession of chances to add to Luke Garbutt’s first goal for the club – until McCormack stepped up to curl home his fourteenth goal of the season with five minutes to play.
The Whites, now without a win since the end of October, travelled to the north west brittle in confidence but positively brimming with belief compared to a Bolton outfit who have been rocked by the financial uncertainty engulfing their ownership with threatens both the stadium and the club’s long-term future. Fulham adapted faster to challenging conditions, with the game played in biting wind and a heavy downpour, but needed some assistance in opening the scoring.
Error-prone French centre back Prince-Desir Gosuanoto generously offered a helping hand. He waited for a ball to bounce before making a routine clearance, which is always risky with McCormack around. The Scot stripped him of possession and played it back for Garbutt, who struck a sweet shot off his weaker foot from twenty yards that left Ben Amos with no chance. The fabulous finish was the on-loan Everton full back’s first goal since he scored for Colchester against Crewe more than two years ago.
Wanderers were caught out again three minutes later by Dean Moxey’s error. But after outpacing Prince, Moussa Dembele skied a right foot effort from 18 yards over the bar.
Fulham were now dominating and Kacaniklic was just off target with another attempt before Wanderers finished the half with a rare flourish as Jay Spearing’s shot cannoned behind off Richard Stearman for a corner.
The Whites should have been comfortably in front by the break with Alex Kacaniklic spurning a pair of golden opportunities to double the lead – and Fulham were made to pay in the second period after Neil Lennon laid into his side. Bolton came close with a header from Gary Madine, before Clough took centre stage. On his first home start since September after recovering from a dislocated shoulder, the youngster stung in the hands of Andy Lonergan with a powerful free-kick before setting up Liam Feeney, who stabbed just wide.
Kacaniklic then missed his third clear chance of the afternoon when played in by McCormack with the Swedish winger shooting weakly at Amos – and Bolton went straight down the other end to level the contest. Mark Davies crossed for Clough to clinically convert from twelve yards and the young forward gleefully tapped home from only inches out to put the hosts ahead after excellent work from Feeney.
Stuart Gray fumed on the touchline as Clough received a rousing ovation as he was replaced by Emile Heskey in the closing stages. McCormack did bend in a brilliant free-kick to restore parity – the superb strike was a fitting way to mark the sad passing of Fulham saviour Jimmy Hill – but this was a game the Londoners should have won at a canter. The Scottish striker was left pounding the turf in frustrating after hitting the bar in added time, although in typical Fulham fashion, the visitors almost left the north west with nothing at all when 37 year-old Heskey fired wide from close range with seconds to play.
There remains plenty for Fulham’s permanent boss – whenever they might appoint one – to sort out.
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Amos; Holding, Moxey, Wheater, Gouano; Spearing (Danns 75), Pratley, Feeney, Davies; Madine (Dobbie 88), Clough (Heskey 80). Subs (not used): Rachubka, Dervite, Casado.
GOALS: Clough (61, 74).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lonergan; Richards, Ream, Stearman, Burn; Parker (Hyndman 78), O’Hara, Kacaniklic, Garbutt (Pringle 64); McCormack, Dembele (Woodrow 64). Subs (not used): Lewis, Hutchinson, Cairney, Smith.
GOALS: Garbutt (28), McCormack (85).
REFEREE: Nigel Miller.