Elijah Adebayo came back to haunt his old club as Luton Town held Fulham to a fourth draw in succession at Kenilworth Road this afternoon. The tall striker, who spent twelve years in Fulham’s academy set up, glanced in James Bree’s brilliant free kick to cancel out a poacher’s effort from Aleksandar Mitrovic as Marco Silva’s under-par side spurned another opportunity to put clear water between themselves and the Championship’s chasing pack.
Silva himself was far too slow to react to the fact that Fulham’s first half superiority had vanished as the Hatters raised their intensity after a half-time tongue lashing from Nathan Jones. Having shown the visitors too much respect in a first period that the league leaders were able to large control through precise passing, Luton were far more threatening after the interval and looked the likelier winners after Adebayo’s awesome diving header had levelled matters on the hour. Even after the belated introduction of Fabio Carvalho and Rodrigo Muniz, Fulham failed to fashion a clear chance in the closing stages.
This seemed a game tailor made for Harrison Reed but with the combative midfielder ruled out through injury, Silva went with Tom Cairney alongside Jean Michael Seri in central midfield. The pair overwhelmed Nottingham Forest’s engine room at the City Ground in an October thrashing but became increasingly ineffective as Luton’s pressing overpowered Fulham’s pretty and patient football. Chances were at a premium in the first period with the hosts lucky to get away with Sonny Bradley’s handball in the box after he had failed to a trap a ball on his thigh and Joe Bryan drilling one wide from twenty yards.
Fulham’s opener came from a set play. Harry Wilson’s deep free-kick was headed back across goal by Tosin Adarabioyo and, although Bradley managed to clear that effort off the line, Mitrovic was on hand to turn in his 23rd goal of the season home from a couple of yards. But Silva should have seen the warning sides that saw Luton finish the first half strongly with Zimbabwean forward darting infield and lashing into the side netting.
The recalled Muskwe set the tone for the second half within ninety seconds of the restart by beating Tim Ream and Joe Bryan, but his tame shot lacked the power necessary to really extend Marek Rodak. Adebayo then had a snapshot blocked after getting away from Adebayo, before Cairney blazed over after bright play from Neeskens Kebano at the other end and the Congolese winger shot straight at James Shea. The Londoners quickly paid for their prolificacy with an unattended Adebayo heading in his tenth of the season from a fabulous Bree free-kick.
The hosts almost went in front after a mad goalmouth scramble and Mitrovic was furious not to be awarded a penalty when his header hit Bradley on the hand again. A mazy run from Kal Naismith nearly teed up Bree for the winner but the wing-back failed to find the far corner and the best Fulham were able to muster as the match finished in a torrential downpour was a tame Muniz effort. Fulham’s lead over Bournemouth at the top of the table as Scott Parker’s side were beaten at home by Blackburn, but this still felt like a missed opportunity.
LUTON TOWN (3-5-2): Shea; Burke, Naismith, Bradley, Bree, Bell; Lansbury, Campbell (Osho 78), Mpanzu, Clarke; Muskwe (Onyedinma 77), Adebayo. Subs (not used): Sluga, Lansbury, Mendes Gomes, Jerome, Hylton.
GOAL: Adebayo (62).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Cairney (Onomah 76); Wilson (Muniz 87), Kebano (Carvalho 76), Decordova-Reid; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Hector, Odoi, A. Robinson.
GOAL: Mitrovic 19).
REFEREE: Thomas Bramall (South Yorkshire).