Fulham’s under 23s were held at Aston Villa tonight – having to settle for a point against the league leaders despite taking an early lead through Conor McAvoy’s second minute spot kick.

Steve Wigley’s side gifted early pacesetters Villa a route back into the contest when Caleb Chukwuemeka capitalised on a mix-up between Taye Ashby-Hammond and the visiting defence to reach a through ball first and roll the equaliser home after rounding the Fulham goalkeeper. That meant that the sides went in level at the break despite the Londoners having the better of the first period.

Fulham made the perfect start when Terry Ablade was brought down by Paul Appiah and Lamare Bogarde in the box with just thirty seconds on the clock and McAvoy made no mistake from twelve yards, emphatically firing the penalty right down the middle of Viljami Sinisalo’s goal. The Whites had good chances to make it 2-0 after Ablade was denied a second spot-kick with Sonny Hilton striking the post after a well-worked move.

Villa had already threatened through Tristan Goodridge before Chukwumeka’s equaliser and both sides attacked with renewed purpose after the interval. Ollie O’Neill and Ablade both headed fractionally over before a brilliant piece of defending from McAvoy prevented Chukwuemeka from scoring his second of the evening when the Villa forward looked set to race through on Ashby-Hammond.

Hilton shot straight at Sinisalo after linking up impressively with Ablade, before McAvoy scrambled Chukwumeka’s header off the line as Villa put the Fulham goal under serious pressure. The young Whites did have chances to win it in the closing stages with Luke Harris firing wide after fine work from Ablade down the right flank and Hilton narrowly missing the target with an angled drive.

ASTON VILLA UNDER 23s (4-3-3): Sinisalo; Appiah (Zito 59), Swinkels, Feeney, Bogarde; Lindley, Thorndike, Iroegbuman; Goodridge, Reddin, Chukwumeka. Subs (not used): Sewell, Hart, Tommi O’Reilly, Marschall.

BOOKED: Iroegbuman.

GOAL: Chukwumeka (32).

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): T. Ashby-Hammond; Fossey, Larkeche, Odutayo, McAvoy; Pajaziti (Bowie 67), S. Sessegnon; Hilton, O’Neill, Harris; Ablade. Subs (not used): Las, C. Robinson, Davis.

BOOKED: Odutayo, O’Neill.

GOAL: McAvoy (2).