A second half brace from Jay Stansfield helped Fulham’s under 23s cruise past Southampton at Motspur Park and maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
The eighteen year-old forward, deployed in a number ten role tonight, had a hand in all three of Fulham’s goals as Steve Wigley’s first shaded a tight first half and then put clear water between themselves and their visitors after the break. Stansfield, who scored a sensational first senior goal on his full debut for the Whites at Birmingham in the League Cup, supplied the opening goal for Kieron Bowie with a low cross and then scored twice in the space of three second half minutes to put the contest beyond Saints.
Stansfield produced a terrific finish to convert Marlon Fossey’s inviting cross six minutes after the interval and then repeated the trick shortly afterwards as the American full-back galloped forward once again to mark a poignant personal night on what would have been his late father Adam’s 43rd birthday. The teenager’s brilliant start to this campaign has showcased both his predatory instincts and maturity, but this was an excellent all-round performance, slotting seamlessly into an unfamiliar position, and playing several incisive passes.
Fulham were indebted to goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond for keeping the scores level before half-time. The England youth international produced three excellent saves as Saints flexed their muscles. He kept out Kazeem Olagibe’s low free-kick that appeared to be heading for the bottom corner before denying Ramello Mitchell as the forward shot from an acute angle and fielded a long-range effort from Kegs Chauke. The hosts might have been in front well before Bowie’s tap in had Irish midfielder Ollie O’Neill added the finishing touch after rounding Jack Bycroft in the Southampton goal, but he somehow shot wide. Idris Odutayo headed narrowly wide from a corner and Bowie’s fierce drive from distance was too close to Bycroft.
Stansfield’s quickfire double effectively ended the game as a contest. Fulham played some silky football in the second period but couldn’t find a fourth to underline their superiority. Steven Sessegnon, featuring on the left side of the back four, came the closest but his curler from outside the box rattled the post with the keeper grasping at thin air. Odutayo was denied when Bycroft brilliantly stretched to keep out another header. This emphatic victory keeps the Whites on top of the early Premier League 2 Division table, with ten points from four games, a point ahead of Norwich City.
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): T. Ashby-Hammond, Fossey (Larkeche 79), S. Sessegnon, Odutayo, McAvoy; Francois (Harris 45), Pajaziti; O’Neill, Hilton, Stansfield; Bowie. Subs (not used): McNally, McCoy-Splatt.
GOALS: Bowie (39), Stansfield (51, 54).
SOUTHAMPTON UNDER 23s (4-4-2): Bycroft; Otseh-Taiwo, Carson, Lancashire (Hewlett 23), Simeu; Chauke, Payne, Doyle (Ross-Lang.90+2), Olaigbe; Mitchell, Smith. Subs (not used): Ballard, Wright.