Anthony Knockaert’s first Fulham goal was the highlight as Scott Parker’s side were held to a 1-1 by Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium this evening.
A much-changed Whites’ eleven began brightly with Knockaert particularly keen to impress on his first start since completing a loan move from Brighton on Sunday. The French winger looked a cut above as he sought to influence proceedings from the right flank, frequently beating his man and venturing infield to dictate play. There was little surprise when Knockaert curled home a majestic free-kick from a central position just outside the box to give the visitors the lead.
Fulham had started sloppily and needed a timely intervention from Cyrus Christie, who blocked John Mousinho’s drive at the back post, to preserve parity after four minutes. Parker’s charges gradually began to get a grip on proceedings and Knockaert’s clever curler, which caught Simon Eastwood out at his near post, signified their sharper instincts in the final third. Fulham might have doubled their lead on the half hour when Malachi Napa’s poor pass allowed Rui Fonte a free run on goal, but the Portuguese forward lacked the composure to beat Rob Dickie and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
With several second string players eager to impress, Tayo Edun’s robust challenge on Tariqe Fosu carried more of an edge that might have been expected from a pre-season friendly. The stand-in left back was rightly booked – and Oxford boss Karl Robinson was far from impressed on the touchline.
The game followed a similar pattern after the break. Knockaert saw a shot blocked before Christie was unfortunate not to double the visitors’ lead when he rattled the post with his left foot after a speedy break. Fulham were leaving alarming gaps at the back and escaped unharmed when Napa somehow lifted a shot over the bar from the edge box, but their reprieve lasted less than a minute.
It was a sloppy goal that would have greatly frustrated Parker and Stuart Gray. Cameron Branagan’s floated free-kick drifted towards a clutch of players and Mousinho managed to get a decisive touch as the ball looped over a stranded Marek Rodak. Mousinho’s muted celebration suggested he was more than a little sheepish about accepting the credit – but it was the spark for a much more open last half an hour.
Knockaert nearly restored Fulham’s lead with another finish finish but an audacious long-range volley just cleared the crossbar, failing to dip enough for a spectacular second. It was the League One side who finished markedly the stronger. James Henry’s free-kick deflected just wide and Tony McMahon almost finished off the move of the net but saw his strike bravely blocked.
Oxford nearly clinched victory with three minutes remaining. Former Liverpool midfielder Brannagan did brilliantly to locate substitute Kyran Lofthouse at the far post and the forward’s left-footed effort squirmed out of Rodak’s grasp, clipping the outside of the post and rolling away to safety.
Fulham will complete their preparations for their Championship season with a final friendly against West Ham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
OXFORD UNITED (4-2-3-1): Eastwood (Stevens 80); Cadden (McMahon 70), Ruffels, Dickie (Long 80), Mousinho (Jones 80); Brannagan, Gorrin (McCreadie 80), Hanson (Berkoe 70); Napa, Fosu (Lofthouse 70), Mackie (Henry 45).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Edun, Odoi, Opoku; McDonald (Harris 70), Francois, de la Torre; Knockaert (O’Riley 70), Ayite, Fonte. Subs (not used): L Ashby-Hammond, Drameh, Mundle-Smith, Le Marchand, Bryan, Kebano, Kamara.