Fulham’s under 23 side were narrowly beaten by promotion-chasing Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium with teenage striker Douglas Taylor grabbing the only goal of the game.
The Potters made it six wins in a row after Taylor pounced in the nineteenth minute, controlling a clever ball inside from D’Margio Wright-Phillips and finding the bottom corner with a composed low finish. The hosts had began brightly, seeing plenty of the ball, but had struggled to create clear chances before their front three isolated captain Conor McAvoy and took the lead. Stoke skipper Ethan Varian had sent their best opening wide when he headed past Taye Ashby-Hammond’s far post with the Fulham goalkeeper well beaten.
The visitors, who included several members of their under-18 side for the trip to the Potteries, recovered well from going a goal down. They thought they had grabbed an equaliser almost immediately through Tyrese Francois’s fine finish from just outside the box, but an offside flag against Jean-Pierre Tiehi controversially ruled out the goal. Mika Biereth and Ollie O’Neill combined cleverly but the Irish midfielder’s curling effort drifted agonisingly wide.
Ashby-Hammond did well to deny Stoke a second when Wright-Phillips appeared destined to double the home side’s lead – and Fulham stepped up their search for an equaliser after the break. It almost arrived early in the second half when Francois found Sylvester Jasper down the left wing and his low cross almost reached Biereth for a tap in, only for Connor Taylor to snuff out the danger with a brilliant last-ditch tackle.
Former Dundalk midfielder Gabby Adebambo struck the post with an effort from distance and, although Stoke enjoyed plenty of possession, they created little else to overly test Ashby-Hammond in the Fulham goal. Jay Stansfield continued his comeback from a lengthy ankle lay-off with half an hour as a substitute, but Colin Omogbehin’s youngsters couldn’t force an equaliser despite a concerted spell of late pressure. Jasper and Adrian Pajaziti both had shots blocked on what was ultimately a frustrating afternoon for the young Whites.
STOKE CITY U23s (4-3-3): Bursik; Coates, Jones, Macari, C. Taylor; Malone, Adebambo, Goodwin; D. Wright-Phillips (Jarrett 78), D. Taylor (Sy 69), Varian. Subs (not used): Hemfrey, Okagbue, Malbon.
GOAL: Taylor (19).
FULHAM U23s (4-3-3): T. Ashby-Hammond; Duru, Larkeche, Bowat, McAvoy; Pajaziti, O’Neill, Francois; Jasper, Biereth, Tiehi (Stansfield 63). Subs (not used): Borto, J. Aina, Odutayo.