A poacher’s goal from Tammy Abraham sent Bristol City through to the fourth round of the EFL Cup for the first time since 1989 on another frustrating night for Fulham at Craven Cottage. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side dominated the first half but contrived to concede an equaliser just before the break and will rue squandering a second-half penalty as a youthful second-string slipped to a disappointing defeat.
Lee Johnson’s side deserve all the plaudits, however, for keeping themselves afloat in the face of an early Fulham onslaught, taking their only chance of the first period and adjusting after the break with a tactical change and timely substitution. In the second half, City were the more composed side in possession, not frightened to take the game to their hosts – and gradually put Fulham on the back foot. Irish winger Callum O’Dowda became increasingly influential down the left but Aaron Wilbraham missed a pair of gilt-edged chances before Abraham, introduced as a substitute, continued his sensational goalscoring run to send the Robins through.
It was understandable that City needed some team to gel after Johnson made nine changes from the side that had drawn with Derby at the weekend, but Fulham were the quickest out of the blocks. Jokanovic had included the likes of Dennis Adeniran and Tayo Edun again in midfield, but it was a more experienced debutant who made a significant impact in front of goal. On-loan Chelsea forward Lucas Piazon opened the scoring with a magnificent diving header from a floated Woodrow cross – even more impressive when the ball looked to be behind him.
Woodrow, preferred to Matt Smith and Chris Martin up front, looked eager to make the most of his opportunity to lead the line. He nearly doubled the lead with a replica of his free-kick at Leyton Orient, blasting just wide from 35 yards out, but should have punished some casual play from Will Pack when released by Edun, only to shoot straight at the excellent Ivan Lucic when sent through on goal. That miss was to prove costly.
The Robins, hitherto outplayed, found an equaliser from their first real attack just before half-time. A surging run from O’Dowda took the former Oxford man to the edge of the Fulham box and a clever pass put Wilbraham in the clear. The evergreen ex-Tranmere forward kept his cool in front of goal, advancing on Jesse Joronen and lifting the finish over the onrushing Finnish goalkeeper to level the tie.
The pattern appeared set to repeat itself in the second period when Fulham were given a glorious lead to re-take the lead. England under-20 skipper Taylor Moore’s only mistake of the evening was to send Woodrow tumbling in the box, but the former Lens defender was rescued by Lucic’s excellent save from the spot. Woodrow was perhaps fooled by the goalkeeper leaving a lot of space to his right – but the City custodian’s full-length drive and parry was still excellent. The home side wouldn’t get a better chance all night.
That setback seemed to subdue Fulham – and Woodrow in particular – whilst galvanising the visitors. They should have been in front long before Abrahams’ late intervention but Wilbraham’s calm head in front of goal had now deserted him. First, Pack’s low ball offered him a clear sight of the net from eight yards but he somehow managed to send his finish embarrassingly wide and then, just three minutes later, the veteran dragged an O’Dowda cross past the post when he seemed easier to score.
Fulham offered only flashes in the final third during the second period. Their two best openings came from crosses by the full-backs. Makeshift right back and captain for the night Ryan Tunnicliffe delivered a dangerous centre that whistled right across goal, whilst Scott Malone’s exasperation when nobody gambled to meet a cut back to the six-yard line said it all. Three white yards, including Woodrow, were stationed in the box but failed to get into a position to convert the chance. There was no such hesitancy at the other end.
Abraham, introduced to add a bit of potency to Bristol City’s attacks, was already asking plenty of questions of the Fulham back line. He dragged Michael Madl all over the pitch with his pace and clever movement and he saved the best until last. O’Dowda was again the provider – a low ball towards the near post – and the teenage forward on loan from Chelsea broke Fulham hearts with an instinctive finish under Joronen to register his ninth goal in eleven games. The Whites have been warned – because on this evidence Abraham could punish them once again come Saturday.
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Joronen; Tunnicliffe, Malone, Madl, Ream; Johansen, Adeniran, Christensen (Kebano 85), Edun (de la Torre 79); Piazon; Woodrow. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Sessegnon, Sigurdsson, Jozabed, Smith.
GOAL: Piazon (14).
BRISTOL CITY (4-4-2): Lucic; Matthews (Little 45), Golbourne, Flint, Moore; Brownhill, Pack, Freeman, O’Dowda; Wilbraham (Reid 69), Engvall (Abraham 62). Subs (not used): O’Donnell, Ekstrand, O’Neil, Tomlin.
BOOKED: Pack, Moore.
GOALS: Wilbraham (45), Abraham (90).
REFEREE: Andy Davies (Hampshire).