Scott Parker’s pre-season preparations got off to a worrying start as Fulham were beaten 3-1 by League Two Cambridge United at Motspur Park this afternoon.
The Whites were ruthlessly punished for a slow start and some sloppy defending. With just seven minutes on the clock, Jabo Ibehre seized on a poor backpass to sprint through on goal and beat a helpless Marcus Bettinelli from twelve yards out. Fulham gradually began to get into the game but both Tyrese Francois and Floyd Ayite both failed to hit the target from promising positions.
Bettinelli did well to keep out a speculative curler from Ibehre, but was left stranded again just after the half hour. A quickly-taken free-kick sent Tom Knowles away down the left and Harvey Knibbs crept in unattended at the back post to tuck away the cut-back and double the U’s lead. Things went from bad to worse a minute before half-time when Ibhere again punished some slack defending to hammer a loose ball past Bettinelli, who made a stunning save to from a brilliant Knowes’ free-kick to prevent the visitors from going in 4-0 to the good at the break.
Some stern words from Parker and a host of alterations at least sparked a response in the second period. They almost had a dream start two minutes in when Dimitar Mitov juggled Neeskens Kebano’s cross at the feet of Luca de la Torre, recovering just when the American seemed set to convert the loose ball. The lively Kebano rippled the side-netting with a low drive and then created the Fulham goal with a rampaging run and cross that de la Torre steered home.
de la Torre stuck the outside of the post a minute later and Fulham continued to pile on the pressure. Kebano was denied by a superb saving tackle from Harry Darling before substitute Rui Fonte saw a drive deflected wide and, from the ensuing corner, Alfie Mawson fired over. Mitov made a superb save from Tom Cairney, turning the Fulham skipper’s drive onto the crossbar with twelve minutes left, and Fonte spurned two good chances in the closing stages.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli (Rodak 45), Christie (S. Sessegnon 45), Mundle-Smith (Bryan 45), Odoi (Mawson 45), Le Marchand (Opoku 45); Francois (de la Torre 45), McDonald (Cairney 45), Edun (O’Riley 45); Harris (Fonte 60), Ayite (Kebano 45), Santos-Clase (Kamara 60).
GOAL: de la Torre (57).
CAMBRIDGE UNITED (4-4-2): Burton (Mitov 45); Knoyle (Davis 45), Trialist, Taylor (Darling 45), John (Taft 45); Lewis (Lambe 45), O’Neil (Hannant 45), Knowles (Worman 45), Norville-Williams (Dunk 45); Ibehre, Knibbs (Neale 45).
GOALS: Ibhere (7, 44), Knibbs (31).