On a miserable afternoon by the banks of the River Thames, Fulham were given a sharp reminder that their promotion to the Premier League is far from a sure thing. Huddersfield recorded their first win at Craven Cottage in 29 years on the back of a resolute defensive display, another predatory strike from Danny Ward and what looked a generous penalty from Duane Holmes. The Terriers extended their fine unbeaten run to fifteen games, surviving a late Fulham fightback sparked by Bobby Decordova-Reid’s strike seven minutes from time – with referee Tony Harrington somehow missing Sorba Thomas’ handling of Tosin Adarabioyo’s header. A point probably would have papered over the cracks of a below-par display from Marco Silva’s side, however.
Silva, who had warned his team of the perils of complacency in the build-up to this match, made one change to the team that had triumphed at Hull last weekend with Decordova-Reid included at the expense of Neeskens Kebano. He might have put Fulham in front twice in the first ten minutes, lashing wastefully over running into space to connect with Tom Cairney’s corner, and flicking a header wide at the far post. A flowing move saw Fabio Carvalho get behind the Huddersfield back four only for the teenager’s cut break to narrowly avoid Aleksandar Mitrovic, who collided with the near post.
The visitors then scored with the very next attack. It was far too easy for Sorba Thomas to latch onto a punt forward ahead of Robinson but Tom Cairney appeared well position to deal with the danger from Harry Toffolo’s cross. The Fulham captain’s heavy touch went straight to Ward, who drove a first-time finish under Rodak. It was a very avoidable goal to concede and going in front galvanised Carlos Corbaran’s side. The in-form Ward took aim from twenty yards, but the Fulham goalkeeper was able to smother that strike.
The decisive moment arrived just before the break. Rodak came from his line to gather a loose ball and seemed to have nowhere to go as Thomas ran into him. Referee Tony Harrington saw it differently and pointed to the spot. Holmes ended Huddersfield’s horrible streak of five missed penalties in succession by blasting this one straight down the middle – with the ball going in off a raging Rodak’s knee.
The league leaders badly needed a response early in the second half. Carvalho almost provided it, seeing a low shot tipped wide by Lee Nicholls after Mitrovic created a pocket of space in the penalty area. The Serbian striker didn’t have many sights of goal himself, again seeing a low ball from Williams flash across the face of goal – inches away from his own effort to turn in home and beyond Kebano at the back post.
Ivan Cavaleiro almost conjured up an opening for Decordova-Reid within seconds of stepping off the bench before Nicholls produced a quite brilliant reaction save to turn Mitrovic’s downward header aside. Fulham did find a route back into the contest from the ensuing corner, when Williams’ miscued shot fell nicely for Decordova-Reid, who found the far corner with a lovely left-footed finish.
That set up a frantic finale as Fulham threw everybody, including Rodak, forward. Adarabioyo saw two headers saved before, referee Harrington waved away concerted home appeals for a penalty deep into stoppage time after another header had been handled by Jonathan Russell. Suddenly, Fulham’s cushion at the top of the Championship doesn’t look anything like as commanding.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Williams, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Chalobah (Reed 76), Cairney (Kebano 60); Wilson (Cavaleiro 76), Decordova-Reid, Carvalho; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Hector, Seri.
BOOKED: Mitrovic, Carvalho.
GOAL: Decordova-Reid (83).
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-3-3): Nicholls; Turton, Toffolo, Pearson, Lees; Hogg, Russell, O’Brien; Thomas (Sarr 86), Holmes (Sinani 76), Ward (Rhodes 85). Subs (not used): Chapman, Ruffels, Eiting, Koroma.
GOALS: Ward (31), Holmes (43).
REFEREE: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).