Goals from Aboubakar Kamara, Stefan Johansen and substitute Neeskens Kebano secured Fulham’s first league win at Nottingham Forest since 2000 tonight. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side established an early lead through Kamara – who was a surprise starter after opening his account for the club against Middlesbrough on Saturday – and showed great character to shrug off the setback of conceding an equaliser to Daryl Murphy before scoring twice in the final twenty minutes.
Much of Fulham’s impetus in the final quarter of the game came from some proactive Jokanovic substitutions. His decision to replace Denis Odoi with Oliver Norwood at half-time gave the visitors an extra man in central midfield, while Kebano and, especially the lively French winger Yohan Mollo, offered vital energy that drove the Whites forward when they might have been tempted to sit the lead delivered by Johansen’s splendid free-kick.
This defeat represents Forest’s fifth in six games and Mark Warburton cut a frustrated figure as the home side’s desperate pressure came to nothing. The hosts had began with purpose but Daryl Murphy spurned a number of first half chances, the first of which came after three minutes when he drew a decent save from Button, but the worst saw him spoon a shot high into the Bridgford End after expertly turning Tomas Kalas inside out.
Fulham had began cautiously but gradually got into their stride. Odoi sent an ambitious drive narrowly over the bar from 20 yards out and Kamara’s hulking presence up front was already causing problems for the Forest defence. A slick break saw Ryan Sessegnon slip Kamara clear and the former Amiens forward rattled in his second goal in his many games with a composed finish inside the near post. The visitors might have doubled their lead moments later when Sheyi Ojo was released by a fine Johansen pass but Jordan Smith repelled the Liverpool loanee’s shot and Ben Osborn bravely blocked Rui Fonte’s follow-up.
The visitors played plenty of football, but were punished for some slack defending after Forest had built up a head of steam. Jason Cummings latched onto Smith’s miskicked clearance and was allowed far too much room to run into the Fulham half, playing the ball out to Armand Traore. The full-back’s deep cross was guided back into the corner of the net by Murphy, who had effortlessly drifted away from Odoi into oceans of unguarded space at the far post. The hosts might have been in front before half-time as well but Kalas threw himself in front of a Cummings shot to preserve parity.
Fulham started the second half brightly with Ojo cutting in from the flank and curling an effort into Smith’s gloves and Johansen clipping the crossbar with a curler from the edge of the box after excellent approach play from Fonte and Kamara. Jokanovic’s side still looked shaky defensively and were indebted to a fine David Button save that denied Cummings before Ream blocked the rebound from Kieran Dowell.
The away side looked threatening on the counter and were the width of a post away from retaking the lead when Johansen’s threaded ball released Kamara, whose pace took him away from the Forest defence and his low drive beat Smith but thudded against the near post. Both sides pushed men forward but the vital second goal arrived at least partly courtesy of a rampaging Ryan Fredericks run. The Fulham full-back carried the ball nearly 40 yards before he was crudely cut down by Matt Mills in a central area just outside the box. Johansen made light of Tom Cairney’s continued absence by curling a wonderful free-kick into the top corner.
Smith saved smartly from Mollo and Forest’s search for an equaliser saw them exert serious pressure on a Fulham defence that has a penchant for letting in late goals. Substitute Zach Clough unlocked the visting back-line with a slide-rule ball but Murphy dragged his shot wastefully past the far post when he seemed easier to find the net. The Irish international’s miss was to prove costly as, after Kamara was foiled by a fine saving tackle from Michael Mancienne, Fulham secured all three points in the 89th minute.
Sessegnon sent Mollo scampering clear down the left but the French winger had the presence of mind to look up and play in Kebano, who had made a smart run into the centre of the box. The Congolese forward finished coolly and both celebrated wildly in front of the travelling Fulham support.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (3-5-2): Smith; Worrall, Mills, Mancienne (Carayol 84); Darikwa, Bridcutt, Osborn, Traore; Dowell (Clough 70); Cummings (Brereton 70), Murphy. Subs (not used): Henderson, Lichaj, McKay, Bouchalakis.
BOOKED: Worrall, Mills.
GOAL: Murphy (33).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Button; Fredericks, Odoi (Norwood 45), Kalas, Ream; McDonald, Johansen; Ojo (Mollo 68), R. Sessegnon, Fonte (Kebano 59); Kamara. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Djalo, Cisse, Graham.
GOALS: Kamara (13), Johansen (72), Kebano (89).
REFEREE: Scott Duncan (Newcastle-upon-Tyne).