Fulham’s under 23s continued their excellent start to the new PL2 campaign with a second successive victory as they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0 at Motspur Park last night.
A brace from striker Terry Ablade and another fine finish from the in-form Sonny Hilton saw Fulham’s youngsters ease into a three-goal lead before half-time on another encouraging night for the club’s academy. Cyrus Christie gained some minutes at the heart of a reshaped defence, replacing Idris Odutayo after the see-saw win at Sunderland on Monday night, and Luca Ashby-Hammond came in for his brother Taye in goal.
It took the hosts just eleven minutes to hit the front. Young Luke Harris, who scored the under 23’s first goal of the season up at Sunderland earlier this week, produced a peach of pass to unlock the Albion defence and Ablade effortlessly rounded stranded goalkeeper Alex Palmer and slotted home the opener. The visitors responded spiritedly with veteran Robert Snodgrass seeing a free-kick cause a few moments of panic in the Fulham area and Taylor Gardner-Hickman and Snodgrass, on two occasions, coming very close to levelling matters. Ashby-Hammond also produced a strong reaction save to deny Jovan Malcolm.
But Fulham doubled the lead on the half hour as Ablade added a similar second to the goal he had already grabbed. Harris played another perfect through ball between the retreating West Brom defenders and the 19 year-old Finnish forward confidently cantered around the goalkeeper to extend the hosts’ lead. Christie, who had saved his side with a smart defensive header as Albion looked to fight back, floated a fine ball over the Albion backline to release Hilton and the attacking midfielder fired in another fantastic finish right on the stroke of half time.
Ablade missed a chance to complete his hat-trick eight minutes after the interval when he burst clear along the left flank and beat the onrushing Palmer to ball but could only stab a finish wide. The away side had more chances in a quieter second period, with both Rico Richards and Owen WIndsor going close to grabbing a consolation goal but Kieron Bowie and Ablade missed good opportunities to extend Fulham’s lead right at the death.
The comprehensive victory means Fulham’s under 23s are level on points with Aston Villa, who they face in their next fixture at Bodymoor Heath on Friday night, at the top of the early table.
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): L. Ashby-Hammond; Fossey, Larkeche (Odutayo 89), Christie, McAvoy; Page (Bowie 51), Pajaziti; O’Neill, Hilton, Harris; Ablade. Subs (not used): Las, Davis.
GOALS: Ablade (11, 30), Hilton (45).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION U23s (3-4-2-1): Palmer; Shotton, Taylor, Delaney; Ingram (Richards 60), Snodgrass (Andrews 45), King, Gardner-Hickman; Fellows, Malcolm, Faal (Windsor 60). Subs (not used): Hollingshead, Ashworth.