Fulham squandered a glorious chance to reduce the gap between themselves and safety at the foot of the Premier League after they let a second half lead slip at Turf Moor. Scott Parker had spoken about the necessity of turning draws into wins ahead of a crucial run of fixtures against their relegation rivals, but his side were unable to hold onto the advantage handed to them by Ola Aina’s scrappy strike from a corner four minutes after half-time. Sloppy defending allowed Ashley Barnes to tuck home an equaliser three minutes later and, despite a prolonged period of late pressure, Fulham were unable to earn a first win at the Clarets in nearly seventy years.
The enormity of this fixture – with both sides seeking points to bolster their perilous position at the wrong end of the table – made for a cagey contest. Fulham were far less adventurous than in their impressive win at Everton on Sunday night and, whilst Sean Dyche’s side forced the pace to a greater degree, clear cut chances were at a real premium. Barnes had the best sight of goal when he was found by a raking forward ball from Ashley Westwood but he produced a fresh air shot from just inside the box having got clear of the Fulham back line. Kevin Long, in for the injured Ben Mee at the heart of the Burnley defence, then sent a free header over the bar from five yards after Alphonse Areola had flapped at an inswinging corner.
The French goalkeeper then fielded a thunderous drive from Westwood from a half-cleared set-play, but fortunately for Fulham the former Aston Villa midfielder’s strike was straight at Areola. The visitors had offered little as an attacking force, with their one flowing move fashioning a sniff of goal for Josh Maja only for Long to reach Kenny Tete’s cross just ahead of him. There was a real let off for the Whites right at the end of the first half when Tarkowski motored down the left and produced a peach of a cross that eluded Barnes and was pushed away from the sliding Jay Rodriguez by Areola’s vital touch.
Fulham had struggled to get a foothold in a scrappy affair before the break. Parker tweaked things a touch in the second half, deploying Ruben Loftus-Cheek a little more centrally, but their opening goal arrived from a corner with a huge slice of fortune. Ademola Lookman’s delivery was flicked on by Joachim Andersen at the near post and the loose ball struck Aina on the chest and careered into the net, via Robbie Brady’s rather casual attempt at a clearance. It was similar to the way Fulham took the lead at Newcastle in December and, disappointingly, it was to prove just as academic.
Burnley were level within three minutes. Aina and Lookman tried to lead a raid down the left but Fulham’s move quickly broke down and their ambition proved their outstanding. Rodriguez spun away from Tosin Adarabioyo with a smart turn that created space down the right touchline and his measured pass for his strike partner left Barnes clear on goal. He recovered from an abysmal first touch to slot past a stranded Areola and wipe out Fulham’s precious advantage.
The visitors then weathered a sticky spell as Dyche’s men looked to capitalise on their setback. The introductions of Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa and Ivan Cavaleiro studied things for Fulham. The Portuguese winger’s purposeful running from the right gave them a new attacking outlet and one such foray fashioned a chance for Maja, whose turn and snapshot from 30 yards drew a sprawling save from Nick Pope. Cavaleiro then carved out a deep cross for Loftus-Cheek, who guided his header horribly wide with the goal gaping.
Suddenly, it was Fulham doing all the pressing. Loftus-Cheek and Cavaleiro linked up well down the right with the former’s pacey cross rather surprising Maja. The ball ran out to hit Lookman and loop goalwards, but it lacked the power needed to overly trouble Pope. Maja did brilliantly to create a chance for Lookman on the left angle of the area, holding the ball up and locating the winger with a precise pass but the curling effort didn’t bend enough to nestle in the far corner.
There was a let off right at the end of the three added minutes when Areola came and failed to get anywhere near a Burnley corner, with Barnes uncharacteristically heading wide from six yards on. Referee Jon Moss had apparently whistled for a foul on the goalkeeper – but any Fulham relief was shortlived. This felt like a golden opportunity to pick up a precious three points and pile the pressure not just on Newcastle, now six points clear of the drop zone, but Burnley as well. Parker smiled ruefully as he walked off; coming to terms with the fact that his side had squandered the chance to add more momentum to their survival bid.
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Pope; Lowton, Taylor, Tarkowski, Long; Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson (Brady 40; Brownhill 65), McNeil; Barnes, Rodriguez. Subs (not used): Peacock-Farrell, Norris, Bardsley, Dunne, Driscoll-Glennon, Benson, Mumbongo.
BOOKED: Brady 40.
GOAL: Barnes (52).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Tete (Robinson 78), Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Reed, Lemina (Anguissa 61); Loftus-Cheek, Lookman, Decordova-Reid (Cavaleiro 67); Maja. Subs (not used): Rodak, Hector, Kongolo, Ream, Odoi.
GOAL: Aina (49).
REFEREE: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire).
VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Darren England (South Yorkshire).