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Tosin’s late leveller keeps Fulham on top

Tosin Adarabioyo picked the perfect moment to break his Fulham duck as the towering centre half’s late equaliser spoiled Scott Parker’s return to Craven Cottage. Bournemouth looked poised to leave SW6 with all three points and move above Parker’s old club at the top of the Championship courtesy of Dominic Solanke’s stunning strike and some dogged defending, but Adarabioyo’s glancing header from Tom Cairney’s clipped cross handed the Whites a share of the spoils.

On the balance of play, that was the least Fulham deserved. They fashioned the clearer chances and – after being stung by Solanke’s superb finish seven seconds into the second half – laid siege to the Bournemouth goal. The Cherries, already indebted to goalkeeper Mark Travers for a string of superb saves, paid for Parker’s pragmatism as they were unable to cling onto their slender lead. Cairney, cast aside by Parker in Fulham’s survival bid last season when the captain felt he was fit enough to play a part, came off the bench to add creativity in midfield and it was no surprise when he unlocked the visiting defence with a clever ball that Adarabioyo guided beyond Travers’ despairing dive.

That Fulham were behind at all, having dominated an engrossing first half, probably had something to do with Parker’s meticulous preparation and the inside track on his former employers. Straight from the restart, for which the away side had been sent out early, Philip Billing lifted a bill over Tim Ream and Denis Odoi for Solanke, who outmuscled the latter, and finished majestically past Marek Rodak. The goal briefly discombobulated Fulham but rather than go for the kill, Bournemouth were content to sit on their narrow lead – and that negativity proved costly.

Fulham’s brightest spark throughout was the lively Neeskens Kebano, another player overlooked by Parker during his time at Craven Cottage. The Congolese winger ran Bournemouth ragged down the left flank, with Lewis Cook and Jack Stacey both booked for cutting him down. Kebano twice drew excellent stops from Travers inside the first fifteen minutes before being denied by a brave block from Stacey as he sought to turn home Fabio Carvalho’s cross. The visitors’ goal was living a charmed life – as illustrated by the way Steve Cook somehow blocked twice in quick succession from Mitrovic and Carvalho after Kebano had cut open the away defence.

The home side were incensed that there were not awarded a penalty when Wilson was tripped inside the area by Solanke and Tim Robinson also only opted to book Lewis Cook for his wild, knee-high lunge on Kebano. Bournemouth operated mostly on the counter attack with Rodak saving smartly from Adam Smith before Solanke sent a free header wide and drove a low effort past the far post after accelerating away from Adarabioyo.

But Solanke grabbed his goal in eye-catching fashion seconds after the interval, firing clinically into the top corner after Fulham’s defence had been caught out by Billing’s brilliant vision. Kebano quickly tested Travers again at his near post and Wilson’s rising drive whistled just past the angle of post and bar as Bournemouth dropped deeper and deeper. Aleksandar Mitrovic, well marshalled for the most part by the visiting defence, skimmed the crossbar with a header from a Jean Michael Seri free-kick before heading a short corner into Travers’ arms.

Cairney immediately perked up Fulham’s attack after arriving off the bench, with one lovely pass sending Kebano clean through on goal – only for Travers to successfully narrow the angle at his near post. The Scottish midfielder then delivered a free-kick right on Mitrovic’s head only for Travers to palm away again before Kebano somehow screwed the follow-up into the side netting from four yards out. Just when it looked like it wasn’t going to be Fulham’s night, Adarabioyo flicked home another fabulous Cairney delivery to the delight of a roaring Craven Cottage – and an ecstatic Marco Silva on the touchline. The delightful defender mocked Solanke’s bow and arrow celebration, even if he was more interested in getting back to the centre circle.

Fulham pushed for a winner during four minutes of added time, but they had to settle for a point that preserved their position at the top of the Championship table. Kebano summed up their disappointed, sat on the turf after the final whistle, reflecting on a pulsating contest. Perhaps more pertinently, he was clutching his hamstring. Silva will hope his lively winger isn’t seriously injured as he begins to contemplate the Christmas programme.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri (Cairney 70), Reed; Wilson, Kebano, Carvalho (Decordova-Reid 70), Wilson; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Hector, Onomah, Muniz.

BOOKED: Carvalho, Bryan, Decordova-Reid.

GOAL: Adarabioyo (84).

AFC BOURNEMOUTH (4-1-2-3): Travers; Stacey, Smith (Mepham 89), Cahill, S. Cook,; L. Cook; Marcondes (Pearson 56), Billing; Christie, Solanke, Anthony (Brady 89). Subs (not used): Nyland, Kilkenny, Rogers, Lowe.

BOOKED: L. Cook, Stacey, Smith, Travers, R. Christie, Billing.

GOAL: Solanke (46).

REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).

ATTENDANCE: 19,020.

Fulham linked with Roos raid

Fulham are one of several clubs interested in signing Derby County goalkeeper Kelle Roos, according to reports this morning.

The Football Insider suggests that the Whites, Norwich City and Bournemouth are all considering making a move for the Dutch goalkeeper in January to capitalise on the Rams’ financial difficulties. The 29 year-old is out of contract at the end of the current season – and, therefore, may be available for a cut-price fee with Derby, who have been hit by two points deductions for financial irregularities this season, in administration.

Roos has been in superb form for Derby during a difficult campaign, with one of his five clean sheets coming in last week’s goalless draw at Craven Cottage. Wayne Rooney’s men have conceded just seventeen goals in sixteen matches. The former PSV Eindhoven youngster has spent most of his career with Derby and has extensive experience of English football through a number of loan spells. Roos has made 87 appearances for the Rams and is now firmly established as the number one at Pride Park.

Whether Fulham would seriously be tempted to bring in another goalkeeper in January remains to be seen. Spanish goalkeeper Fabri, who has only made two first-team appearances for the club, remains on the books whilst summer signing Paulo Gazzaniga has been relegated to the bench by the brilliant recent form of Slovakian international Marek Rodak.

Wilson looking forward to Bournemouth test

Fulham winger Harry Wilson can’t wait to test himself against familiar opposition when the Whites take on Bournemouth in the top-of-the-table clash at Craven Cottage this evening.

The Welsh international, who has a superb start to life in SW6 since signing from Liverpool this summer, spent a season on loan at Bournemouth in 2019/20 and knows that they will be difficult opponents. He told Fulham’s official website:

“There’s still a lot of the staff and a lot of the players are still the same. I know the manager’s changed and there’s a few new faces, but I think the core of that squad are players that I played there with. So I know the quality of them, and a lot of the boys here who played under Scott Parker know what he’s like as well, so there’s two teams who are going to know a lot about each other, and come Friday night it’s up to us to make sure we’re the better team.

When you play against a Bournemouth team, especially in the Championship, you know what a good and strong outfit they’re going to be, and they’ve shown that this season. And for me to play against a few of my friends and people I’ve shared the pitch with is going to be good.”

Wilson warns that any friendships, such as his particularly close bond with Bournemouth and Welsh centre back Chris Mepham, will be on hold tonight.

“I class Meps as one of my best mates so it’s going to be good to play against him. As soon as that whistle goes, obviously we won’t be friends, but before the game I’m sure we’ll have a little catch up and take the mick out of each other, and then afterwards it will be the same. But for that 90 or 95 minutes, our friendship will be put to one side because I’ll be doing all I can to win the game for Fulham.

Seri: ‘I want to pay Fulham back’

Jean-Michael Seri wants to repay Fulham for the faith they showed in him by leading the Whites back to the Premier League – and he hopes to prove a point to former manager Scott Parker tomorrow night.

Marco Silva’s side face Bournemouth in a clash of the Championship’s top two at Craven Cottage and the Ivorian playmaker is keen to display his talent after Parker denied him the opportunity of a second chance in a Fulham shirt. Seri was frustrated to be left out of Fulham’s 25-man Premier League squad after returning from loan last season, but is making up for lost time under new boss Marco Silva.

The former Nice midfielder told the Sun that it took a while for him to adjust to English football and that he was bitterly disappointed with his performances in his first season in London:

“I felt a lot of expectation when I joined. The Fulham fans had heard about me almost joining Barcelona so thought I would help them stay in the Premier League. Unfortunately things didn’t go as we all wanted. The club spent a lot of money for me and expected better from me. I didn’t give back something.. I must give the club something back for that investment so I’m glad to be doing so now.

When you first come to England, it can be difficult. We can see this with a lot of players who come from different countries because it’s very different here to other leagues. What I learned, reflecting on that season, is that you must have a winning mentality every day, not just on matchdays. If you have a game on Saturday, you can’t start preparing on Thursday. You must be preparing from Monday to the matchday.”

He also detailed his disappointment at being left out of Parker’s Premier League plans when he felt he would be able to contribute to Fulham’s fight to establish themselves in the top flight.

“I had a positive season in Turkey so it was frustrating to not play. I was thinking, ‘Why does the manager not realise that I can help the team?’ because I was in very good form and very confident. I had learned from my past experience in the Premier League. If he gave me one chance, I could’ve helped the team. It was a big frustration and not what I expected when I returned.

“I spoke to Scott Parker before we started the season and that conversation must remain private. But he decided what he had to decide and it was a difficult situation for me.”

Seri is relishing the opportunity to express himself under Silva after swiftly establishing himself as a key part of Fulham’s midfield.

“When the gaffer arrived, he said, ‘I want you to help us go up together into the Premier League.’ I knew Marco from when he was in Portugal and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I wanted to stay here and my family like London too. The Championship is actually better than a lot of the leagues in Europe.

“I’m here for the whole season. I want to celebrate when we get promoted. I want to enjoy this moment with the club. Fulham deserves it because they’ve spent a lot of money on me. They deserve to be in the Premier League for many years and I believe Marco is building something good. And I want to pay the club back.”

Up next: AFC Bournemouth (h)

The mouthwatering prospect of a meeting between the Championship’s top two, separated by just a single point, awaits at Craven Cottage on Friday night. Both Fulham and Bournemouth were threatening to build a sizeable advantage over the chasing pack until a couple of setbacks over the past week or so, but you would be hard pressed to find a bookmaker who wasn’t packing the pair to both be automatically promoted come May. The return of Scott Parker to SW6 offers this clash an extra edge – and should generate plenty of column inches in the morning papers – however much sides seek to downplay the significance of his presence in the visiting dugout.

Parker’s departure after an underwhelming return to the top flight wasn’t without rancour. The Fulham board were disappointed in the lacklustre way the club went down, especially after giving themselves a fighting chance of survival with back-to-back wins on Merseyside. The suspicion remains that Parker, an astute manager of his own media profile, was engineering his exit having isolated a number of key players and his plan to offload the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney as part of a radical reshaping of the playing squad ahead of another tilt at the Championship now looks laughable. Fulham might well consider themselves fortunate to have dodged that particular bullet – as well as Parker’s particularly sterile football.

Contrary to Parker’s rather curious assertion yesterday that little has changed at Craven Cottage after he decamped to the south coast, Marco Silva has introduced a much more adventurous style of play, reinvigorated Mitrovic and successfully reintegrated Jean Michael Seri. Fulham’s approach is now designed around attacking the opposition and giving creative players the platform to shine – rather than simply seeking to stay in matches. It is, of course, much easier to play this way in the Championship than in the pressure-cooker of the Premier League but few could argue that Parker’s Fulham sides stretched pragmatism to the extreme. Other than the mullering of Millwall at Craven Cottage, there were few flowing performances under his stewardship and the Whites underwhelmed when expected to be one of the leading contenders for automatic promotion in 2019/20.

That is not to say that Parker has not put together a strong Bournemouth side. They are well drilled, look after the ball impressively and difficult to beat. Marrying Lloyd Kelly’s promise with the experience of Gary Cahill makes for a miserly central defensive partnership and in, Phillip Billing, the Cherries have one of the division’s most complete midfielders. Jaidon Anthony’s emergence as a lively winger, who weighs in with crucial goals, has been one of the stories of the season alongside the goalscoring exploits of Dominic Solanke and the canny acquisition of the dangerous Ryan Christie. Make no mistake about it – Bournemouth will represent the toughest test of Fulham’s season to date.

Parker will have to navigate his way around a significant injury crisis as he prepares for this fixture. Bournemouth might be without as many as nine first-team players for the trip to the capital. Kelly, Cahill, Adam Smith, Robbie Brady, Jordan Zemura, Ben Pearson, Junior Stanislas and David Brooks all missed Saturday’s dramatic draw with Coventry City, in which Jefferson Lerma was sent off meaning the midfielder – who had lined in central defence – will be suspended tomorrow night. Parker cast doubt over whether any of his injured eight would be available tomorrow night, although there may be a degree of smoke and mirrors in operation when recalling how tightly he keeps his cards close to his chest.

Fulham’s own selection will once again be dictated by how well key members of the squad have recovered from the norovirus bug that badly disrupted Silva’s preparations for the draws against Derby and Preston. The Fulham head coach did suggest earlier today that Cairney will be available, having missed those two fixtures, although whether the playmaker will come straight back into the starting line-up remains to be seen. You’d feel that Fulham will need Harrison Reed’s tenacity from the outset in what is likely to be a high octane clash and it would be strange to drop Seri given both his form and the opportunity to prove a point to his former boss. That motivation will be uppermost in Mitrovic’s mind too – given how he and Parker clearly didn’t see eye-to-eye in the last twelve months.

Fulham have passed most of the tests put in front of Silva’s side this season. They easily dispatched West Brom at the end of October, sparking the Baggies poor run of form, and will need to perform at a similar level if they are not to surrender top spot. Parker will undoubtedly get a hot reception from a hostile home crowd, but the Whites can’t afford to take their eye off the ball. Retaining focus, possession and putting an impressive Bournemouth defence under pressure from the first whistle will be essential.

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