Fulham’s Under 23s began their Premier League 2 season with an encouraging display and an entertaining draw against Manchester United at Motspur Park last night.
Peter Grant’s side commendable resilience to come from behind twice to claim a point against the Red Devils after conceding goals to Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong. The young Whites were indebted to their centre back partnership with set piece equalisers arriving courtesy of Arron Davies and Rob Atkinson. The draw was the least the home side deserved for an enterprising display full of ambition and creativity, sparked by the energy and drive of Tyrese Francois in central midfield.
Cameron Thompson, deployed on the left wing in a fluid 4-3-3 that mirrored Slavisa Jokanovic’s preferred system, had Fulham’s first sight of goal but couldn’t connect with Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson’s dangerous cross before Cauley Woodrow, who endured a frustrating evening in front of goal, wasted a good opportunity after a fine through ball from Matt O’Riley. United had dominated possession and gradually began to create chances of their own with Magnus Norman saving stubbornly from George Tanner at his near post.
Thompson did saw a shot well blocked by united’s Ro-Shaun Williams before the visitors broke swiftly, but James Wilson’s low cross didn’t find a team-mate. Estonian international midfielder Mathias Kait then drilled a shot fractionally wide of far post midway through the first period, but it was United who broke the deadlock. A neat passing move found Tanner out in space on the right flank and the full-back was afforded far too much time to cross. Angel Gomes drifted between Atkinson and Davies to direct a firm header past the helpless Norman.
The visitors, who despite their ample resources were surprisingly relegated last season, then had chances to double their lead before half-time. Former Fulham forward DJ Buffonge saw his effort bravely blocked by Atkinson and Davies then bravely threw himself in front of a Gomes effort to thwart further danger. United were to pay for those misses four minutes before the break when O’Riley’s deep free kick was turned home at the far post by Davies.
The equaliser gave Fulham a boost at the start of the second half. United keeper Kieran O’Hara pulled off a brilliant save from Woodrow’s improvised flick at his near post and Thornsteinsson then saw a strong penalty shout waved away by the referee. Instead, it was the Red Devils who went ahead again – hitting Fulham on the break. A lovely move involving Buffonge and Gomes finished with Belgian winger Chong drilling an excellent finish past Norman.
Defeat would have been harsh on the hosts and, to their credit, Fulham never gave up. They grabbed a deserved second equaliser from another O’Riley set play with Atkinson able to punish a poor clearance from Williams with a fine header. The Whites pushed hard for a third in the closing stages of an intriguing contest, but both sides ultimately had to be content with a point.
FULHAM U23s (4-3-3): Norman; Jenz, Mundle-Smith, Atkinson, Davies; Kait, Francois, O’Riley; Thornsteinsson, Thompson (Harris 73), Woodrow. Subs (not used): Stahl, Opoku, Drameh, Carvalho.
GOALS: Davies (41), Atkinson (80).
MANCHESTER UNITED U23s (4-2-3-1): O’Hara; Tanner, O’Connor, Williams, Garner; Poole, Hamilton; Chong, Gomes (Dearnley 88), Buffonge (Whelan 88); Wilson (Bohul 45). Subs (not used): Warren, Forstieck.
GOALS: Gomes (28), Chong (61).