Goals from Sylvester Jasper, Ollie O’Neill and Callum McFarlane saw Fulham’s under 21s start life back in the top flight with an impressive victory over West Ham United at Motspur Park this afternoon.
Steve Wigley’s side were good value for a derby victory in the Surrey sunshine with the clinical finishing from a new-look outfit proving the difference against well-drilled opposition. The hosts settled quickest with Jasper looking lively down the left flank and having an early sighter bravely blocked by Angelo Ogbonna, who was looking to prove his fitness in attempt to ease the Hammers’ injury crisis in central defence.
The visitors looked lively on the break with Divin Mubama and Ademipo Odubeko keeping Charlie Robinson and Connor McAvoy on their toes. The Hammers’ front two really should have combined to put them in front with the pacey Odubeko bursting clear along the right wing and measuring a cross for Mubama, but the young striker somehow contrived to lift his finish over the crossbar.
Fulham made them pay for that glaring miss four minutes before half time after regaining possession from a West Ham throw. Jasper, who looked to have the beating of his man on every occasion, advanced in a shooting position and, although Levi Laing made an instinctive block, the winger was alert enough to steer the rebound beyond Krisztian Hegyi.
The young Whites might have doubled the lead just after the break but for a brilliant save from the Hungarian international goalkeeper who clawed away a Terry Ablade header from a fine free-kick by Ollie O’Neill. George Wickens made two smart saves at the other end to preserve Fulham’s slender advantage – gathering a deflected shot from Dan Chesters and then spreading himself well to thwart Odubeko.
O’Neill scored Fulham’s second midway through the second period, but the Irish under-21 international was the beneficiary of some good fortune after his cross from the right looped over Hegyi and into the far corner. The Hammers hit back within six minutes as Odubeko outsprinted Luciano D’Auria-Henry and Stefan Parkes to reach Chesters’ through ball and lifted a lovely finish over the onrushing Wickens.
But substitute McFarlane made sure of all three points just four minutes after replacing Ablade – showing a poacher’s instinct to steer an O’Neill cross into the bottom corner after stealing ahead of Laing.
FULHAM UNDER 21s (4-2-3-1): Wickens; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes, McAvoy, C. Robinson; Pajaziti (Williams 90+ 6); Dibley-Dias; Sekularac, Jasper, O’Neill; Ablade (McFarlane 71). Subs (not used): Allen, Bowat, Godo.
GOALS: Jasper (41), O’Neill (65), McFarlane (75).
WEST HAM UNITED U21s (4-4-2): Hegyi; Ashby (Simon-Swyer 77), Longelo (Clayton 49), Laing, Ogbonna; Potts, Appiah-Forson, Chesters, Oko-Flex; Odubeko, Mubama (Marshall 76). Subs (not used): Kurylowicz, Forbes.
GOAL: Odubeko (69).
REFEREE: Adrian Quelch.