Match report by Robbie Sharp
Goals from the Elijah Adebayo and the in-form Cameron Thompson secured a third straight win for Fulham’s under 23s as they brushed aside Norwich City in tonight’s Premier League 2 encounter at Motspur Park.
Peter Grant’s men came into the meeting with the Canaries’ development squad full of confidence after victories over Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers and made all of the early running, inspired by the ambition of debutante Djed Spence, who proved very adventurous from right back. Michael Elstone drew the first save from Aston Oxborough with a powerful header from a corner after a couple of minutes and some excellent link-up play between midweek hat-trick hero Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson and Thompson almost released the latter but his control let him down at the crucial moment.
The visitors, who included Scottish international Russell Martin in their defence, played some patient possession football and gradually worked their way into the contest. Tristan Abrahams had Norwich’s first opportunity after a good spell but snatched at a first-time shot when he was played in and the Canaries were quickly left ruing that miss. Fulham went in front four minutes later when Adebayo was felled in the box and the forward picked himself up to send the keeper the wrong way.
The hosts soon created good chances to go further ahead. Thorsteinsson, playing with the confidence that comes with such outstanding form, produced an outrageous Cruyff turn to outfox his man and the Icelander’s cross just eluded Adebayo and Elstone. The Whites went even closer from a cleverly-worked free-kick when Matt O’Riley located Arron Davies at the back post and, instead of shooting, the Welsh youth international cut it back for Jayden Harris, whose effort bounced back off the post.
Thorsteinsson spurned another opportunity to double Fulham’s lead before half-time but Norwich showed, after absorbing all that pressure, that they couldn’t be counted out. Pierre Fonkeu nodded an inviting cross over the bar before Devonte Aransibia’s speculative strike from fully 30 yards out whistled fractionally over Luca Ashby-Hammond’s crossbar.
The second half started at a frantic pace and, either side of the referee ignoring Adebayo being sent to the turf in the box, Norwich had the best chances to level the score. Abrahams drove well over a minute into the second period and then Todd Cantwell crashed a venomous drive against the crossbar. The game continued to be very open and Rob Atkinson saw a strong header well saved from a corner before Elstone was thwarted by a fine save by Oxborough and the Canaries scrambled away the rebound.
The visitors threw everything at Fulham in the closing ten minutes with both Spence and Davies blocking goalbound Norwich efforts before Grant’s men clinched the victory with a clinical counter-attack down the right flank. Thompson began the move himself and the intelligent Isaac Pearce did superbly to maintain its momentum before picking out his fellow substitute, who finished clinically to seal Fulham’s four win in five games at this level.
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): L. Ashby-Hammond; Spence, Atkinson, Jenz, Davies; Harris, O’Riley; Kwietniewski (Pearce 73), Thorsteinsson, Elstone; Adebayo (Thompson 59). Subs (not used): Nabay.
GOALS: Adebayo (pen 18), Thompson (85).
NORWICH CITY (4-2-3-1): Oxborough; Aarons, Kamal, Martin, Phillips; Odusina, Aransibia; Fonkeu (Sambu 82), Middleton, Cantwell (McIntosh 82), Abrahams. Subs (not used): Hallet, Wallace, Payne.
BOOKED: Aarons, Fonkeu.