There were grumbles towards the end of Scott Parker’s reign about just how difficult it was for some of Fulham’s promising talent to force their way into the first team picture. Fabio Carvalho did appear at the tail end of a dismal season, but his eye-catching cameos left you wondering why it had taken so long. The attacking midfielder staked his claim for a first-team start in the Championship with a beautiful winning goal made by his fantastic fellow academy graduate Tyrese Francois as Marco Silva’s side finished their pre-season preparations with a routine win over League One Charlton Athletic.
Silva sprung some surprises with his teamsheet, selecting Paulo Gazzaniga in goal and pairing Australian youngster Francois alongside Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa at the heart of the engine room. Carvalho looks certain to deputise for the injured captain Tom Cairney against Middlesbrough next Sunday and the two youngsters seized their chance to shine, delivering composed performances that belied their tender years. The decisive goal was a thing of beauty – Francois jinked away from two tacklers just inside the Charlton half and threaded a ball out of the reach of Ryan Innes. Carvalho raced beyond the visiting backline and calmly slotted his finish between Craig MacGillivray’s legs.
On the balance of play, Fulham should have been further in front by the end but Charlton had began brightly with Dialling Jaiyesimi awkwardly hooking a half chance high into the Hammersmith End and Sean Clare blazing over the bar after Robinson had carelessly surrendered possession to Jaiyesimi. Carvalho was Fulham’s most regular threat, darting into dangerous pockets of space behind Aleksandar Mitrovic. Akin Famewo bravely blocked a snapshot from the youngster before he stripped Albie Morgan of possession from a throw in and surged towards the box only to overhit his attempted pass to the Serbian striker.
Francois was full of energy at the base of the Fulham midfield in the absence of Harrison Reed and produced a jaw-dropping bit of skill on the halfway to kill a ball that dropped from the sky stone dead on the halfway line. The classy midfielder was the architect of the only goal just after the half mark when he skipped past two tacklers and slipped a beautiful ball between the Charlton centre halves allowing Carvalho to demonstrate his potency in front of goal yet again.
Carvalho nearly fashioned a second before half time but his unselfishness attempt to square for Mitrovic, who would have a tap in, rather than shoot himself allowed Adam Matthews to stab out a foot and clear. By this point, Carvalho was everywhere and he popped up to head wide after excellent approach play by Robinson and Neeskens Kebano down the Fulham left. There was far more fluidity about Fulham’s work in the final third, with players interchanging regularly, even if Mitrovic had a largely quiet afternoon at the head of the hosts’ attack.
The pattern continued into the second half. Fulham probed patiently, with Carvalho and Francois to the fore, but created little in the way of clear cut chances. Knockaert was culpable on a number of occasions, fluffing his lines at the far post after a Robinson cross had dropped inviting over Chris Gunter’s shoulder, and then spurning a great header opportunity from a curling Anguissa cross. Charlton’s best chances came from set plays with Morgan drilling one into the wall after a rash Robinson challenge and then supplying a free header for Clare that he guided wastefully into the away fans.
The game briefly threatened to become nasty. Innes and Mitrovic enjoyed a personal physical battle all afternoon, but the Charlton centre back overstepped the mark when he clattered into the Fulham striker’s knees on the halfway line. Referee Gavin Ward didn’t even issue a warning, but quickly booked Knockaert after he led with an arm against Jaiyesimi. Tempers rose but the football quickly broke out again and a watchable contest produced further Fulham chances as Charlton tired.
Harry Wilson should have scored within seconds of coming off the bench for a first appearance in a Fulham shirt but sent a shot wide from close range after fine approach play from Carvalho. Knockaert rattled the side netting after being set up by Robinson before substitute Joe Bryan extended MacGillivray with three minutes to go when he surged down the left flank and fired towards the top corner but the Charlton keeper improvised a smart save.
There was plenty for Silva to purr over here – it is clear that his approach his far more enterprising than his predecessor and several of his key combinations appear to be locked in. But the tepid nature of this friendly will be apart as far removed as possible from a visit by Neil Warnock’s charges on the opening weekend – and Fulham will need to be far more ruthless to come away with three points. Charlton can look back with pride on another encouraging pre-season display, they were disciplined and determined without seriously threatening, and they have a good chance of going from strength to strength under Thomas Saandgard and Nigel Adkins.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Tete, Robinson (Bryan 79), Adarabioyo, Ream (Mawson 79); Anguissa, Francois (Seri 79); Knockaert, Kebano (Wilson 64), Carvalho; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): L. Ashby-Hammond, Odoi, Onomah, Kamara, Stansfield.
GOAL: Carvalho (32).
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-3-3): MacGillivray; Matthews, Gunter, Famewo, Innes (Elerewe 65); Dobson (Watson 75), Morgan (Gomes 75), Clare; Jaiyesimi, Stockley, Washington (Clayden 65). Subs (not used): Harness, Roddy, Pearce, Davison, Watson, Ghandour, Dempsey.
REFEREE: Gavin Ward (Surrey).