Fulham’s under 23 side moved up to fourth in the Premier League table by beating league leaders Middlesbrough this afternoon and recording a third consecutive victory.
French full back Ziyard Larkeche’s first goal since joining the club this summer gave the Whites the perfect start and second half strikes from Jaydn Mundle-Smith and Sylvester Jasper secured a stylish victory. Colin Omogbehin and Mark Pembridge rung the changes to the starting line-up with Kenny Tete stepping up his comeback from a calf injury and midfielder Josh Onomah also making a welcome return to competitive action after being sidelined since October.
Fulham settled the quicker at the London School of Economics with Tete driving over at the far post after excellent approach play between Sonny Hilton and Jasper, who has now recovered from the injury that interrupted his flying start to the season. The Whites made the breakthrough just after the quarter of an hour mark when Larkeche powered home a finish from close range after a bit of a goalmouth scramble followed Boro’s failure to clear a low cross.
Fabio Carvalho was denied a second on 22 minutes by an excellent reaction save from the Middlesbrough goalkeeper and Hilton drove disappointingly over the crossbar after being freed by a clever pass from Jean-Pierre Tiehi. Jasper rattled the woodwork with a venomous drive after darting infield from the right on the half hour. The hosts were back on the front foot after the break with Jayden Harris having a speculative shot saved and Jasper denied by a brave block after a lightning attack that saw Tiehi and Carvalho link up beautifully.
A second goal arrived ten minutes into the second period when skipper Mundle-Smith punished some slack marking at a corner to fire home at the back post. Boro, who had largely been quiet as an attacking force, fashioned a good opening at the other end when Joe Gibson was unfortunate to see an instinctive volley from Jack Robinson’s left-wing cross fly fractionally over, but Fulham made sure of the points when Jasper swept home a Tiehi cutback to make it three.
The visitors did grab a late consolation through former Sunderland striker Cole Kiernan, who notched his first goal for Middlesbrough from close range with five minutes left, but the Hartlepool-born forward spurned a glorious chance to set up a grandstand finish when he crashed a late spot-kick against the crossbar. Fulham’s victory narrows the gap to Middlesbrough to just a single point. The under 23s are next in action at Leeds United on Monday 21st December.
FULHAM U23s (4-3-3): L. Ashby-Hammond; Tete, Larkeche, McAvoy, Mundle-Smith; Harris, Hilton, Onomah; Carvalho, Jasper, Tiehi. Subs: J. Aina, Page, De Havilland, Taylor-Crossdale.