Fulham moved back into the Championship’s automatic promotion places by putting four past Nottingham Forest at the City Ground and bringing Steve Cooper’s unbeaten start to his new job to a shuddering halt. Marco Silva’s side scored three times in the space of nine second half minutes as Forest quickly lost control at what had been a largely even contest. Aleksandar Mitrovic bagged a brace after pressurising former Fulham academy graduate Djed Spence into an early own goal – registering his fifteenth goal in fourteen games.
Silva signalled his intentions to dominate proceedings by handing Tom Cairney a first start in eleven months after his goalscoring return against Cardiff in midweek alongside Jean Michael Seri in central midfield. Any concerns that Fulham’s engine room might prove a little lightweight against Cooper’s industrious outfit had long since been dispelled by the time the pair were playing one-touch keep ball between themselves with a quarter of an hour still remaining. Fulham were far from their fluent best, but clinically killed off the hosts – who had looked dangerous when their wing-backs got well forward.
The visitors enjoyed a dream start when Denis Odoi’s decoy run at Seri’s corner attracted Forest’s attention and allowed Mitrovic to move unimpeded towards the near post. The Serbian forward flicked a finish goalbound, although the final touch came off the unfortunate Spence. Fulham enjoyed more of the possession and could have had a second when Harry Wilson waltzed to the byline, but Mitrovic couldn’t find a decisive connection at the near post.
Forest’s own clear opening of the first period came when Brennan Johnson won a duel with Antonee Robinson and darted dangerously into the area but dragged his shot wide of the near post, but Cooper would have been encouraged by the way his charges put together a decent spell of possession in the last ten minutes of the first half. They had a great chance to equalise at the start of the second period when Spence sprinted into acres of room down the right flank and found Philip Zinckernagel, but Grabban somehow skied his finish high over the bar.
Cooper hauled off Jack Colback, who had already been booked, after he escaped further sanction for pulling down Wilson and the hosts were soon the architects of their own downfall. There was a horrible mix up after Scott McKenna appeared to have cleared the danger when he collided with Tobias Figueiredo and Mitrovic rifled a second beyond Brice Samba. Forest looked all over the place at the back and the lively Neeskens Kebano soon made it three. The Congolese winger worked a clever one-two with Wilson after winning possession back and slotted an assured strike behind the goalkeeper and his near post.
Fulham were now rampant and Mitrovic added his second of the afternoon from the penalty spot after Odoi had been held back by Ryan Yates as he lined up a shot. Samba went the right way in trying to save Mitrovic’s penalty, but the Serbian’s spot kick had too much power. Kenny Tete ended his two month injury exile as a late substitute and, after Marek Rodak had saved smartly from Joe Lolley, Fulham spurned a three-on-one break as they finished in fifth gear. This might not have been the most complete of performances but a display of real ruthlessness – together with another clean sheet – sent out a serious message to the rest of the promotion contenders.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (3-4-1-2): Samba; Worrall, Figueiredo (Mighten 60), McKenna; Spence, Lowe, Yates, Colback (Garner 50); Zinckernagel (Lolley 62); Johnson, Grabban. Subs (not used): Horvath, Bong, Ojeda, Taylor.
BOOKED: Colback, Zinckernagel, Garner, Yates, Samba.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Cairney; Kebano, Decordova-Reid, Wilson; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Hector, Reed, Onomah, Muniz, Stansfield.
BOOKED: Ream, Odoi, Robinson, Wilson.
GOALS: Spence (o.g. 7), Mitrovic (58, pen 67), Kebano (61).
REFEREE: Matt Donohue (Lancashire).