This was a long, hard slog for Fulham after three weeks without football. They were more than a little fortunate to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup at Ashton Gate this afternoon after Bristol City had squandered the best of the chance and substitute Harry Wilson’s winner from a short corner had plenty of luck about it as well. The Welsh winger, without a goal in five games, whipped in a dangerous cross from a well-worked short corner that narrowly eluded Bobby Decordova-Reid and went all the way in.
After all the postponements and coronavirus panic, it was understandable that a combination of fringe players and Marco Silva’s more regular lieutenants looked decidedly rusty for much of a forgettable first period. Aside from an early sighter from Domingos Quina, it was Nigel Pearson’s men who made most of the early running. A long throw saw two former Fulham loaneees link up as Tomas Kalas hurled it in the direction of Chris Martin only for Alex Scott to fail to convert the flick on. Scott headed over again after clever interplay between Martin and Nakhi Wells, who then grazed the crossbar with a 25 yard free-kick.
Fulham threatened sporadically on the counter and there would have been an irony in their opening goal being fashioned by a pair of old Robins stalwarts. Joe Bryan and Bobby Decordova-Reid made more than 380 appearances for their boyhood club and were booed throughout by the sparse home support, with the latter just failing to head home a trademark deep Bryan cross and provide the perfect response.
Fulham’s lethargy was epitomised by the way in which the returning Michael Hector carelessly played Fabio Carvalho into trouble after underhitting a simple pass. The teenager was forced to bring down Han- Noah Massengo just outside the box and Martin drilled the ensuing free-kick straight at Paulo Gazzaniga. The visitors then had their best spell of the half. Nathaniel Chalobah darted dangerously into the home penalty area and created space for Decordova-Reid, who slammed his shot into the side netting. Rodrigo Muniz mistimed his jump at the far post as he sought to head in a lovely cross from Carvalho and Chalobah, after winning the ball fiercely in midfield, shot fractionally wide from distance.
But it was still Bristol City who wasted the clearest opening right before the break. Martin was sent through on goal by a slide-rule pass from Aymar Benarous but first Tosin Adarabioyo and then Gazzaniga halted his progress as the former Derby forward bore down on goal. Just how off-colour Silva’s side were could be seen from the fact that had enjoyed just 34 per cent possession.
They began brightly after the interval with a sweeping move culminating in Decordova-Reid seeing his volley blocked at source. Muiz, largely shackled by the diligent defending of former Fulham centre half Rob Atkinson, almost produced a brilliant opener from nothing with another audacious bicycle kick but, as against Derby, the ball flew agonisingly over the bar. The Brazilian had a snapshot blocked by Atkinson shortly afterwards and his afternoon of toil ended when he was replaced by Aleksandar Mitrovic.
The hosts then got a second wind after a couple of promising runs from Wells. He almost picked out Callum O’Dowda with a cut back from the right and then chipped an inviting ball to the back post where two red shirts were waiting only for Denis Odoi to clear over his crossbar at full stretch. Then came City’s best chance. The impressive Massengo burst down the right and found Martin, whose measured pass gave O’Dowda the whole game to aim at, but the winger blazed badly over the bar. Massengo wasn’t finished there, he drove into the area and found Jay Dasilva, who was denied by Gazzaniga at the near post, after referee Jon Moss – who had decided he wasn’t going to penalise robust challenges at the outset – ignored a clear push on Odoi.
Still, the red shirts poured forward. Massengo was by this point leading one-man assault on the Fulham goal and he was only denied a late winner by the bravery of Adarabioyo, who stuck his head into harm’s way to block the French midfielder’s goalbound drive. Silva sent on Wilson for extra time – and the he took just fourteen minutes to break the deadlock when his cross completely wrongfooted Max O’Leary. City substitute Tommy Conway missed good chances either side of Fulham’s moment of fortune, the first when he rounded Gazzaniga but failed to hit the target, and then after shooting straight at the goalkeeper after superb feet from Artur Semenyo.
The Bristol City goalkeeper made amends right at the start of the second period of extra time with a superb reaction save, clawing away Tom Cairney’s finish after the Fulham captain had won possession on the edge of the area. Fulham should still have wrapped it up when Kebano, running through on goal, shot far too close to O’Leary and Mitrovic managed to send the rebound over the bar.
BRISTOL CITY (3-4-3): O’Leary; Kalas, Atkinson, Pring; Scott (Weimann 105), O’Dowda, Massengo, King (Dasilva 71); Benarous (Palmer 78), Martin (Semenyo 89), Wells (Conway 90). Subs: Bentley, Wiles-Richards, Vyner, Bell.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Odoi, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Hector; Francois (Reed 71), Chalobah (Wilson 90); Decordova-Reid, Carvalho (Cairney 86), Quina (Kebano 71); Muniz (Mitrovic 70). Subs: Rodak, Tete, Ream, Robinson.
BOOKED: Carvalho, Francois, Cairney.
GOAL: Wilson (105).
REFEREE: Jon Moss (West Riding).