Fulham scored three goals in six second half minutes to register their first away win of the Premier League season and move up to sixth in the table after Nottingham Forest threw away another winning position at the City Ground tonight. Fulham had more of the ball and the play in the first half but had little to show for their territorial dominance, trailing as they did at half time to a header from Taiwo Awoniyi. Marco Silva kept faith with the unconventional side that had started proceedings, including deploying Tim Ream at left back, and was rewarded with a second half goal glut.
Tosin Adarabioyo climbed above everyone at the far post to power in Willian’s corner to level the scores before João Palhinha gave the Whites the lead with a stunning strike that flew into the top corner. Everyone was just getting their breath back when the visitors found a third, with Bobby Decordova-Reid beautifully found by a peach of a pass from Mitrovic. The winger’s lovely delivery allowed to run to Reed by Willian and the midfielder swept home his first goal for Fulham, having arrived late at the back post. Forest fought to get back into it and made the last fifteen minutes very nervy when Lewis O’Brien punished a poor clearance from close range, but Silva’s side hung on to record a precious three points.
The joyous celebrations that greeted the final whistle – after six minutes of stoppage time – were a long way from where Fulham started the evening. Forest took the lead on eleven minutes when Morgan Gibbs-White’s corner was flicked on by Ryan Yates and Awoniyi planted a powerful header past the helpless Bernd Leno. But the hosts struggled to build any momentum after taking the lead. It was Fulham who spurned the clearer chances with Aleksandar Mitrovic seeing a shot blocked and having a header saved by Dean Henderson, with Decordova-Reid unable to force the follow-up over the line. Perhaps the biggest talking point came when Steve Cook chopped down Willian as he appeared through on goal, but the former Bournemouth defender was onlu
It was something of a surprise to see Fulham, who appeared hamstrung by the need to play Ream at full back in place of the injured Antonee Robinson, emerge unchanged at the start of the second half. They were indebted to Leno for rushing off his line to prevent the dangerous Brennan Johnson from doubling the lead. Instead, Fulham became more clinical at the other end. Adarabioyo’s prodigious leap levelled matters, but even better was to come for the Cottagers.
It still seems a source of wonder that Palhinha is playing for Fulham – and cost a mere £17m up front, something of a steal in the current climate. The Portuguese holding midfielder is better known for breaking up attacks, but here he showed his technical ability is second to none. A slick move down the Fulham right saw Kenny Tete and Willian combine to tee up Palhinha, with the former Sporting Libson midfielder lashing in a fabulous effort from around 20 yards. When Reed popped up at the far post to make it 3-1, it seemed like Fulham were on easy street.
Nothing is ever that straightforward for a Fulham follower, of course. O’Brien – sent on to inject some spark into the Forest midfielder – gave Steve Cooper’s side something of a lifeline when he followed up with a calm finish after Adarabioyo had attempted to backheel Johnson’s ball away from danger. Red shirts poured forward in search of an equaliser as the home crowd rediscovered their force, but Fulham remained resolute to claim a victory that speaks volumes for the character Silva has instilled in this group of players.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (3-4-1-2): Henderson; McKenna, Cook (Lingaard 63), Boly (Worrall 63); N. Williams (Dennis 88), Lodi, Yates, Freuler (O’Brien 70); Gibbs-White; Johnson, Awoniyi (Surridge 70). Subs (not used): Hennessey, Biancone, Toffollo, Kouyate.
BOOKED: Cook, Boly.
GOALS: Awoniyi (11), O’Brien (70).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete, Ream, Diop, Adarabioyo; Reed, Palhinha; Willian (James 70), Decordova-Reid (Kebano 90+1), Pereira (Cairney 83); Mitrovic (Vinicius 90). Subs (not used): Rodak, Mbabu, Duffy, Chalobah, Harris.
BOOKED: Tete, Diop, Palhinha, Pereira.
GOALS: Adarabioyo (54), Palhinha (57), Reed (60).
REFEREE: Jared Gillett (Australia).