A last gasp Victor Akinwale equaliser denied Fulham’s under 18s a local derby victory as battling Crystal Palace forced a draw at Motspur Park this afternoon.

In a tight and fiercely competitive encounter, Fulham had to wait until twenty minutes from time to take the lead when Ollie Sanderson volleyed home after a fine move. After a period of patient passing, Luc de Fougerolles floated in a fine cross from the left flank and Sanderson fired in his seventh goal of the season. But Ali Melloul’s side were not able to withstand a spirited spell of late pressure from Palace who forced an equaliser with lively striker Akinwale stabbing home from close range after Alfie McNally had made a fine save to keep out Joe Sheridan’s header.

Xavier Benjamin made a long-awaited return to action at the heart of the Fulham defence after a prolonged injury absence and the hosts began brightly with Sanderson shooting wide after winning possession off the Palace defence. Sheridan came closest for Palace when his smart header was well gathered by McNally as the visitors began to gain a foothold in the contest. Some more excellent approach play saw Sanderson feed Imani Lanquedoc and Palace goalkeeper Owen Goodman did well to gather the midfielder’s snapshot, which bounced awkwardly in front of him.

McNally dashed from his line to deny Kalani Barton a sight of goal and then pulled off an excellent save to prevent Cadogan from scoring a fine individual effort after darting infield from the left flank. Fulham almost went ahead just before the break but Sanderson was denied by a good save at his near post by Goodman after Michael Olakigbe had surged along the right wing.

Palace created the better openings at the start of the second half with Jadan Raymond seeing a shot blocked and Akinwale heading over from an excellent Barton cross. Fulham were furious not to be awarded a penalty when Olakigbe appeared to have been brought down in the box, but Sanderson quickly rendered that refereeing decision academic with his fabulous volley. The home side couldn’t hang on to their slender lead – and the point means the young Whites are four points behind leaders Chelsea in fourth place.

FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-3-3): McNally; Tanton, de Fougerolles, Benjamin (Antonsson 52), Araujo; McCoy-Splatt, Dibley-Dias, Lanquedoc; Wildbore (Gordon 67), Olakigbe, Sanderson. Subs (not used): Okkas, Parker, Works, Gordon.

GOAL: Sanderson (70).

CRYSTAL PALACE UNDER 18s (5-3-2): Goodman; Barton (Nascimento 86), Williams (Ola-Adembomi 77), Sheridan, Rodney, Ozah; Bartley, Raymond (Vigor 90+4), Cadogan; Mooney, Akinwale. Subs (not used): Ling, Izquierdo.

GOAL: Akinwale (90).

BOOKED: Rodney, Cadogan.