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Kebano delighted with ‘dream’ day

Neeskens Kebano admitted he couldn’t have dreamt of a better afternoon after Fulham put Nottingham Forest to the sword at the City Ground today.

The Congolese winger scored Fulham’s third of four as the Whites returned to the automatic promotion places with a resounding win over Steve Cooper’s in-form side. Kebano told FFCTV after the final whistle that the professional performance made for the perfect away day.

That was what we were aiming for. We’re very happy. Four goals and a clean sheet – you couldn’t dream a better dream! It’s good for us. We just need to keep on building towards what we want to do.

Kebano was modest about his own impact since returning to Marco Silva’s starting eleven – even if he felt pleased to score his first Fulham goal since securing a place in the play-off final back in 2020.

“It is about time! I got my goal but the most important thing is the victory and what we are building so we have to carry on that path. It’s good to be in the starting line up. I try to do my best every minute I’ve been given. Today, I’m happy.

The 29 year-old revealed that work on how to take on promotion rivals West Brom will resume at Motspur Park in the coming week, with an immediate focus on recuperation after three big wins in the space of eight days.

We’ll do all the analysis in the upcoming days. We’ll have fresh minds to get the right things to do put them in trouble. Now, it is time to rest. We just came out of a difficult week with a game every three days. We need to refresh our minds and we will go again.

Silva pleased with third straight win

Marco Silva was delighted after Fulham won their third game in a week by thrashing Nottingham Forest 4-0 at the City Ground this afternoon.

The Fulham boss admitted his side were far from their flawless best but was pleased that the Whites proved clinical in front of goal to move back into the Championship’s automatic promotion places again. Speaking to the press after the final whistle, Silva emphasised how impressive it was to see his side end Steve Cooper’s unbeaten start in charge of Forest.

“It was a tough game, like we expected. We came here to play against a team in a good moment. In the last six, they had won five. Since Steve’s arrival, they hadn’t had a bad result. Our aim was clear, to claim nine points in a week and that’s what we did. This is our way, it’s what we work on. Keeping a clean sheet is important, because to play good offensive football, you have to be compact as a team and be balanced. We clearly improved in the second-half, and scoring four goals again, it’s not the first time, it’s more than once.

Silva was particularly pleased that captain Tom Cairney came through his first ninety minutes in nearly a year unscathed.

“You saw how Tom finished the game. He was really tired. We tried to give 90 minutes because the result was under control. We have to work more with Tom, it’s all part of the process. If we have all our player available, we will be stronger as a team. Some moments we will be more compact, and sometimes we’ll be more creative. As a complete performance, we still have something more. The score gives a boost to the players’ confidence, and we’re really happy with the result.

The Fulham head coach also heaped praise on striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who added another brace in a display of first class finishing.

“Our goal is clear, we want to be successful at the end of the season. Every goal Mitrovic will come as a consequence of our game. He started well, and if you create for him, he’s a dangerous player. It’s up to us to create the conditions for him. Of course, he’s an important player for us, but everyone is working hard.”

Fulham hit four at Forest

Fulham moved back into the Championship’s automatic promotion places by putting four past Nottingham Forest at the City Ground and bringing Steve Cooper’s unbeaten start to his new job to a shuddering halt. Marco Silva’s side scored three times in the space of nine second half minutes as Forest quickly lost control at what had been a largely even contest. Aleksandar Mitrovic bagged a brace after pressurising former Fulham academy graduate Djed Spence into an early own goal – registering his fifteenth goal in fourteen games.

Silva signalled his intentions to dominate proceedings by handing Tom Cairney a first start in eleven months after his goalscoring return against Cardiff in midweek alongside Jean Michael Seri in central midfield. Any concerns that Fulham’s engine room might prove a little lightweight against Cooper’s industrious outfit had long since been dispelled by the time the pair were playing one-touch keep ball between themselves with a quarter of an hour still remaining. Fulham were far from their fluent best, but clinically killed off the hosts – who had looked dangerous when their wing-backs got well forward.

The visitors enjoyed a dream start when Denis Odoi’s decoy run at Seri’s corner attracted Forest’s attention and allowed Mitrovic to move unimpeded towards the near post. The Serbian forward flicked a finish goalbound, although the final touch came off the unfortunate Spence. Fulham enjoyed more of the possession and could have had a second when Harry Wilson waltzed to the byline, but Mitrovic couldn’t find a decisive connection at the near post.

Forest’s own clear opening of the first period came when Brennan Johnson won a duel with Antonee Robinson and darted dangerously into the area but dragged his shot wide of the near post, but Cooper would have been encouraged by the way his charges put together a decent spell of possession in the last ten minutes of the first half. They had a great chance to equalise at the start of the second period when Spence sprinted into acres of room down the right flank and found Philip Zinckernagel, but Grabban somehow skied his finish high over the bar.

Cooper hauled off Jack Colback, who had already been booked, after he escaped further sanction for pulling down Wilson and the hosts were soon the architects of their own downfall. There was a horrible mix up after Scott McKenna appeared to have cleared the danger when he collided with Tobias Figueiredo and Mitrovic rifled a second beyond Brice Samba. Forest looked all over the place at the back and the lively Neeskens Kebano soon made it three. The Congolese winger worked a clever one-two with Wilson after winning possession back and slotted an assured strike behind the goalkeeper and his near post.

Fulham were now rampant and Mitrovic added his second of the afternoon from the penalty spot after Odoi had been held back by Ryan Yates as he lined up a shot. Samba went the right way in trying to save Mitrovic’s penalty, but the Serbian’s spot kick had too much power. Kenny Tete ended his two month injury exile as a late substitute and, after Marek Rodak had saved smartly from Joe Lolley, Fulham spurned a three-on-one break as they finished in fifth gear. This might not have been the most complete of performances but a display of real ruthlessness – together with another clean sheet – sent out a serious message to the rest of the promotion contenders.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (3-4-1-2): Samba; Worrall, Figueiredo (Mighten 60), McKenna; Spence, Lowe, Yates, Colback (Garner 50); Zinckernagel (Lolley 62); Johnson, Grabban. Subs (not used): Horvath, Bong, Ojeda, Taylor.

BOOKED: Colback, Zinckernagel, Garner, Yates, Samba.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Cairney; Kebano, Decordova-Reid, Wilson; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Hector, Reed, Onomah, Muniz, Stansfield.

BOOKED: Ream, Odoi, Robinson, Wilson.

GOALS: Spence (o.g. 7), Mitrovic (58, pen 67), Kebano (61).

REFEREE: Matt Donohue (Lancashire).

ATTENDANCE: 27,470.

Up next: Nottingham Forest (a)

Fulham head for Nottingham this weekend full of confidence after two convincing victories injected some much needed momentum into their promotion push. Both wins over QPR and Cardiff City had their jittery moments but the fact that the Whites were able to come through a couple of sticky periods and put stubborn opposition to the sword said something about their strength of character after the catastrophic collapse at Coventry prior to the international break – and a rare West Brom defeat even ensured that Marco Silva’s men moved into the top two for good measure.

Any suggestion that a third consecutive win is a mere formality should have been dispelled by the crazy nature of this Championship season. If it hasn’t, then Forest’s form under Steve Cooper demonstrates that they will serve as a strong test of Fulham’s tenacity. Chris Hughton paid for a dire start and an unambitious approach as he left the City Ground having picked up a single point from his first seven league games. Cooper, a vastly underrated coach at this level who might have pitched up at Craven Cottage this summer had things gone a little differently, has had an immediate impact at one of English football’s sleeping giants.

The man who led Swansea to two successive play-offs is undefeated in five games in charge by the Trent, winning four. The latest victory – which saw Forest stun Bristol City by coming from behind through a Lyle Taylor double in the space of fifty seconds in added time – attested to just how successfully Cooper has restored a sense of belief into his squad. Always an innovator in his impressive coaching career, Cooper’s switch to a back three has worked a treat, with Joe Worrall, Tobias Figueiredo and Scott McKenna really gelling at the heart of what had previously been a porous defence, and former Fulham academy man Djed Spence injecting some real energy at right wing back.

There are plenty of threats throughout the Forest ranks. Lewis Grabban has been a regular goalscorer at this level for years and seems to be finally clicking into gear at the City Ground, whilst Brennan Johnson’s talent is beginning to flourish for both club and country. Cooper could be tempted to make a couple of alterations tomorrow afternoon with Joe Lolley likely to replace Philip Zinckernagel after making a real impact off the bench at Ashton Gate in midweek. The Reds have plenty of midfield talent to pick from with Manchester United loanee James Garner a cultured operator in the engine room and homegrown Ryan Yates also blossoming in the heart of midfield.

Fulham will therefore face a side full of confidence and eager to add another scalp to their impressive winning run, which has catapulted the early-season strugglers up to fourteenth in the table. Silva’s side took a while to break down Cardiff City, who were spirited if limited, and had to rely on the returning Tom Cairney to supply an emotional breakthrough twelve minutes after he stepped off the bench. Cairney said in the aftermath of that dramatic intervention that it is probably too early for him to start matches, but the Fulham skipper will be keen to feature at the City Ground, having been born in Nottingham to a fanatical Forest supporting father.

Without Fabio Carvalho, Cairney definitely provides something that Fulham have lacked since the early weeks of the season. He helps a team so committed to possession keep the ball more comfortably, but on Wednesday night at least injected a sense of purpose and energy that had been missing in the first half. He’ll no doubt be a pivotal piece of the puzzle for Fulham going forward, but it isn’t worth risking his astonishingly swift recovery this early. Silva left us in no doubt that he had been disappointed with Domingos Quina’s early performances – and, if the Portuguese playmaker was signed as a possible Cairney replacement, he has yet to fulfil that brief.

There’s still a sense that Fulham’s midfield is a bit of a work in progress. Jean Michael Seri has orchestrated things wonderfully from a deep-lying role that nobody imagined he would be filling, but Harrison Reed’s transformation to a busy, box-to-box midfielder at Silva’s urging still strikes me as a radical reskilling of the club’s only proven defensively-minded midfielder. Reed came close to grabbing a first goal for the club with a couple of goes from long range against Cardiff but this uber-adventurous Fulham side does look a little shorthanded when the oppositions breaks our initial press, which is where Reed’s excellent reading of the game would typically come in handy.

Silva has a few injury concerns to consider before he settles on his starting eleven for Sunday, but it would come as a big surprise were there major changes to a winning formula. Marek Rodak has appeared much more convincing since replacing Paulo Gazzaniga in goal, whilst the only other question will be when Kenny Tete is fit enough to reclaim the right back spot from Denis Odoi. This won’t be an easy encounter – but it is another opportunity for Fulham to send out a statement about the seriousness of their promotion credentials.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed, Seri; Decordova-Reid, Kebano, Wilson; Mitrovic. Subs: Gazzaniga, Odoi, Mawson, Onomah, Cairney, Muniz, Stansfield.

Silva: Quina must ‘work harder’

Marco Silva has demanded that Domingos Quina ‘work harder’ if the midfielder wants to feature in Fulham’s starting line-up.

The Portuguese playmaker played 55 minutes of the under 23’s 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest last night to gain more match practice having not been involved at first team level for more than a month after the League Cup tie against Leeds United. Speaking during his pre-match press conference yesterday, the Fulham head coach said the 21 year-old will need to drastically up his performance levels following Tom Cairney’s goalscoring return in midweek.

“Domingos has to work harder to win back his place. He got his chance and that is clear by getting in the starting eleven against Leeds and Blackpool, and it was not just a matter of performance, but in the training sessions as well. He is fit, but was not in the squad the last game – a technical decision and it was mine.”

Quina has made just three appearances since joining Fulham from Watford on the last day of the summer transfer window – and has yet to complete a full ninety minutes.