Ivan Cavaleiro’s mangificent curling strike sealed Fulham’s first win at Hull City in nearly a quarter of a century as Scott Parker’s side held on for a scrappy win on Humberside.
The Portuguese winger celebrated making his loan move from Wolverhampton Wanderers permanent earlier this week with the game’s only genuine glimpse of quality – bending a brilliant finish around goalkeeper George Long and into the far corner from the left angle of the penalty area after Reece Burke had slid in to halt a surging run from Anthony Knockaert. The visitors had to clung onto Cavaleiro’s sixth goal of the season – as the second half became increasingly bitty and the three points were marred by an ankle injury to Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was stretchered off with with ten minutes to go.
The hosts, who grew in believe the longer their deficit remained so slender, almost grabbed an equaliser in a gripping six minutes of stoppage time. Marek Rodak made an excellent save to deny the dangerous Jared Bowen and then substitute Alfie Mawson blocked Tom Eaves’ follow-up. Hull did have the ball in the net with virtually the last kick of the game but George Honeyman’s effort was touched home by Keane Lewis-Potter, who was a couple of yards offside.
Parker’s surpising line-up, which saw Tom Cairney remain on the bench throughout his return to his former club and Kevin McDonald preferred to Harry Arter as Fulham’s holding midfielder, started slowly. They survived a loud home shout for handball against McDonald before Eaves did brilliantly to slide Kamil Grosicki in behind the visiting back-line, but the Polish international dragged his shot disappointingly across goal as he advanced on Rodak.
Fulham, who had offered very little prior to Cavaleiro’s beautifully-taken goal, saw far more of the ball as the half game to an end, but they were immediately under pressure at the start of the second period. Eaves showed commendable endeavour to chase down a through ball that Michael Hector looked favourite for and somehow squeeze in a cross, but Grosicki elected to try and find a team-mate rather than shoot first time and the danger rather petered out.
The classy Jackson Irvine lifted a cross to the back post that narrowly eluded Eaves, whilst Fulham’s threat on the break was somewhat sporadic. Bobby Decordova-Reid saw a snapshot deflected wide, whilst Josh Onomah drove forward from central midfield but skied his shot horribly over when things opened up for him. The game then got a bit feisty as the clock ticked on, with Mitrovic fortunate to only receive a yellow for swinging an arm at Bowen. The Serbian striker so incensed the home fans after delaying proceedings twice in quick succession that they booed him off when he was eventually stretchered from the field.
By this time, Grant McCann had dispensed with his earlier caution and gone to three at the back in an attempt to grab an equaliser. Jordy de Wijs, comfortably Hull’s best performer on the day, swung in a deep cross for Eaves at the far post, but the tall could only head into the side netting. Parker’s decision to send on Joe Bryan and Mawson as the clock ticked down told you everything about his desire to claim only Fulham’s third away clean sheet of the season.
That they managed it represents significant progress on their recent Championship showings – although Hector and Tim Ream will have far sterner examinations than this. Fulham’s first win at Hull since their 3-0 victory at Boothferry Park by Micky Adams’ promotion winning side in December 1996 was certainly short on quality, but contained plenty of grit. It narrowed the gap to the top two after both West Brom and Leeds surprisingly dropped points, but automatic promotion still seems an awful long way away.
HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Long; Pennington, Lichaj, Burke (Lewis-Potter 70), de Wijs; Da Silva Lopes, Kane (Honeyman 61); Bowen, Grosicki, Irvine (Bowler 81); Eaves. Subs (not used): Ingram, Tafazolli, Batty, Fleming.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Odoi, Hector, Ream; McDonald, Onomah, Decordova-Reid; Knockaert (Mawson 90), Cavaleiro (Arter 86), Mitrovic (Bryan 80). Subs (not used): Norman, Johansen, Cairney, Stansfield.
BOOKED: Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, McDonald, Christie.
GOAL: Cavaleiro (29).
REFEREE: Matt Donohue (Manchester).