A young Fulham under 23s side were held to a 1-1 draw by National League South side Slough Town in their first pre-season outing at Arbour Park this evening.
Though it was billed as an under-23 eleven, Fulham offered plenty of opportunities to many of the youngsters who had defending their Premier League South under-18 title successfully last season. The Scottish centre back pairing that had been the linchpins of that campaign – Ibane Bowat and Conor McAvoy – started this contest, with Luke Harris, Ollie O’Neill and Kieron Bowie all given the opportunity to step up as well.
The evening started poorly, however, when a poor ball out from the back by Taye Ashby-Hammond was seized upon by former Reading midfielder Aaron Kuhl, who raced through on goal and tucked away a cool finish to give Slough an early lead. Fulham struggled to play fluent football initially although Harris and O’Neill gradually became more influential. The pair combined for Fulham’s equaliser eight minutes before the break with O’Neill delivering a teasing cross from the left which sixteen year-old Harris, who enjoyed a stellar breakthrough season with the under 18’s last term, guided home from close range.
The Whites introduced George Wickens, Stefan Parkes, Idris Odutayo, Matt Dibley-Dias, Michael Olakigbe and Olly Sanderson after the interval and they continued to carve out good chances against their hosts. Harris had a snapshot bravely blocked and the lively Dibley-Dias drilled an effort wide. Another O’Neill saunter down the left flank fashioned a great opportunity for Olakigbe but he contrived to miss the target from close range.
The younger winger wasn’t daunted by that miss as a storming run down the right was followed by a clever cutback for Dibley-Dias but the midfielder couldn’t get enough power behind his shot. Fulham did spurn a glorious chance to win it late on when Dibley-Dias was felled in the penalty area but Jonathan North made a smart save low to his right to keep out Sanderson’s spot-kick.
The under 23s head to Bromley on Saturday as their pre-season preparations gather pace.
SLOUGH TOWN (4-5-1): North; Fraser, Grant, Hollis, Nisbe; W. Harris, Worsfold, Hunt, Davies, Kuhl; Lawal. Subs: Pegg, George, Smith, Okorogheye, Hodges.
GOAL: Kuhl (14).
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): T. Ashby-Hammond (Wickens 45); D’Auria-Henry (McAvoy 68), Larkeche (Parkes 45), McAvoy (Araujo 60), Bowat (Odutayo 45); Page (Lanquedoc 60), L. Harris (Page 85); Pajaziti (Dibley-Dias 45), O’Neill, Ablade (Olakigbe 45); Bowie (Sanderson 45).
GOAL: L. Harris (37).