Substitute Kasey Palmer snaffled an equaliser as Fulham were held to a frustrating draw at Ashton Gate this afternoon – with Aleksandar Mitrovic opening the scoring but then missing three glorious chances in stoppage time as Marco Silva’s side failed to get back to winning ways against Bristol City.
The game burst into life following Palmer’s close range leveller after Paulo Gazzaniga had brilliantly denied former Fulham forward Chris Martin. The visitors pushed for a late winner and were denied by the woodwork when Jean-Michael Seri’s shot deflected off Rob Atkinson and looped over Daniel Bentley. They then fashioned three further chances during three minutes of stoppage. All three fell the way of the Serbian striker – who was suddenly found wanting in front of goal.
American full-back Antonee Robinson was the architect of every opening. His first cross struck Harry Wilson and fell kindly for Mitrovic, but the hulking number nine’s right-footed finish flew fractionally wide. There was more frustration seconds later when the Serbian striker superbly chested down another Robinson ball in to leave Tomas Kalas helpless but scuffed his shot wide of goal. With the final action of the match, Mitrovic clipped the top of the bar with a glancing header as Fulham were punished for their prolificacy in front of goal.
The mood was decidedly different amongst the travelling fans when Neeskens Kebano created the opener minutes after coming on as a half time substitute. Silva had clearly been underwhelmed by a flat first half display, where it took more than forty minutes for his side to work Bentley, and the Congolese winger beat his man at the first opportunity before delivering a dangerous cross that Wilson nodded back across goal for Mitrovic, who had rattled the bar with a venomous drive minutes earlier, to bury a straightforward header. The Fulham players went straight over to join Rhys Porter in their celebrations – a touching moment for the young goalkeeper with cerebral palsy, who was made a member of the club’s first team squad this week in recognition of the wonderful way he has responded to awful social media abuse.
But Fulham failed to add to their advantage and – not for the first time this season – were unable to put their opponents to the sword. Kebano could have done it himself after being sent clear by Harrison Reed, another second half substitute but saw drove into the legs of Bentley when one-on-one. Wilson chipped the Bristol City goalkeeper but his finish dropped wide after he had latched onto a lovely through ball from Bobby Decordova-Reid and substitute Nathan Baker arrived in the nick of time to snuff out the danger as the Welsh winger looked set to fire home from another delicious Decordova-Reid pass.
City, without a win in fourteen home games before this fixture, clearly took confidence from the fact that they were still in the contest. They might have marginally shaded a first half full of endeavour but shot on quality with Tyreeq Bakinson drawing a good save from Gazzaniga. Nakhi Wells volleyed over a teasing cross from George Tanner and Nigel Pearson really went for it, switching to a back three and throwing on Palmer in search of a leveller. Baker might have provided one but he couldn’t keep a header down after Fulham failed to clear a corner.
Substitute Joe Williams sliced wide from 20 yards shortly after coming on and Andi Weimman was pressed into service as a makeshift right back once Palmer arrived with fifteen minutes to play. The home fans whipped up a frenzied atmosphere and Fulham wilted as the Robins poured forward. Gazzaniga thwarted Wells with another fine reaction stop but the visitors failed to switch on from the ensuing corner. The Argentine goalkeeper somehow kept out a Martin drive, but the ball broke for Palmer, who slid in to level from an acute angle.
This draw – and the recent dispiriting defeats at the hands of Blackpool and Reading – suggest that teams have began to work out how to nullify Silva’s side. Fulham look far less formidable without their teenage playmaker Fabio Carvalho, still troubled by a broken toe, but there was a lethargy about their approach play, which looked far more laboured than in August, again. City were content to sit deep in two banks of four and smother their opponents’ pretty passing, which produced only one flowing first half move of note, when Josh Onomah rifled a drive into Bentley’s gloves after a brilliant Wilson backheel.
Plenty of sides will plan to borrow from Pearson’s playbook and some verve is desperately needed before Swansea visit Craven Cottage on Wednesday night.
BRISTOL CITY (4-4-2): Bentley; Tanner (Palmer 76), Kalas, Atkinson, Dasilva; Weimann, James, Bakinson (Williams 65), Pring (Baker 65); Martin, Wells Subs (not used): O’Leary, Simpson, King, O’Dowda.
GOAL: Palmer (79).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Gazzaniga; Odoi, Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Chalobah (Reed 45), Onomah (Kebano 45); Wilson, Decordova-Reid (Cavaleiro 87), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Mawson, Bryan, Muniz.
BOOKED: Chalobah, Decordova-Reid, Reed.
GOAL: Mitrovic (49).
REFEREE: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).