A superb hat-trick from Stevie Humphrys secured a thumping win for Fulham’s Under 23s at Middlesbrough this afternoon in their latest Premier League 2 encounter.
Peter Grant’s young side showed tremendous spirit to shrug off the concession of an early goal to win 4-1 at a cold Rockliffe Park and put Boro’s highly-rated academy to the sword. The margin of victory was more impressive as Grant’s team were missing a number of players who have first-team experience due to international commitments and the close proximity of tomorrow’s Championship clash with Sheffield Wednesday at Craven Cottage.
The Whites fell behind to a ninth minute penalty after Tayo Edun had felled Alex Pattison in the box and Middlesbrough captain Callum Cooke stepped up to calmly convert the spot-kick past Marek Rodak. Fulham gradually gained a foothold into the contest and, after Humphreys had headed straight at Aynsley Pears in the Middlesbrough from a threatening cross by Edun, the Whites equalised through the same combination. Edun, so impressive during his first-team cameos in the EFL Cup earlier this year, progressed down the left and crossed for Humphrys, who converted clinically on 38 minutes.
Just three minutes later and Fulham were in front thanks to a superb strike from long-range by Republic of Ireland under-21 international Sean Kavanagh. The defender, who had an unsuccessful trial with Boro earlier in his career, curled home a majestic finish from fully 25 yards out after being teed up by the composed Josh Smile and Fulham only showed signs of increasing their lead after the break, with Josh Walker heading narrowly over.
The visitors should great resolve and game management to weather a strong spell of Middlesbrough pressure midway through the second half. Bryn Morris headed fractionally over Rodak’s crossbar after an excellent cross from Ben Liddell and Cooke sent a rasping drive agonisingly wide after cutting in from the right flank, but Fulham were always threatening on the break. Humphrys, who played in a more withdrawn role behind Walker for much of the contest, offered a sign of what was to come with a powerful drive that was well held by Pears, before the former Bury forward completed grabbed his second of the afternoon with seventeen minutes left.
It was a classic centre forward’s goal, as well, with Humphreys climbing imperiously to direct an unstoppable header beyond the goalkeeper from a Dennis Adeniran cross after the England youth international had worked his way clear down the right flank. Humphrys, who has been in a rich vein of form so far this season, put the gloss on Fulham’s sixth league victory of the season six minutes from time with another emphatic finish.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Pears; Johnson, Kitching, Wheatley (Maloney 60′), McGhee; Morris, Elsdon; Pattison (McAloon 60′), de Pena (Mondal 75′), Cooke; Liddle. Subs (not used): Hegarty, Fryer.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Fossey, Edun, Davies, Kavanagh; Smile, Adeniran; de la Torre, Thorsteinsson, Humphrys; Walker. Subs (not used): Soutter, Jenz, Dolan, Pearce.