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Johansen poised for QPR loan switch

Fulham midfielder Stefan Johansen is poised to join west London rivals Queens Park Rangers on loan for the remainder of the season.

The experienced Norwegian international, who was part of Fulham’s two promotion winning sides, is set to make the move to Shepherd’s Bush after Rangers moved quickly to recruit cover for Tom Carroll, who will be sidelinded for up to three months after undergoing knee surgery. Johansen, who was left out of Fulham’s 25-man Premier League squad, has not made a first-team appearance at Craven Cottage this term following the signings of Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina in the summer.

The tigerish midfielder has made 136 appearances and scored 21 goals since joining Fulham from Celtic for £2.5m in 2016. He has slipped down the pecking order despite making 33 league appearances as the Whites went up via the play-offs last year and has been vocal about his need to play regular football in order to extend his international career. He previously had a successful loan spell with West Brom, whom he helped to the Championship play-offs, after being left out of the Fulham side once they were promoted to the top flight in 2018.

Fulham make £10.5m Nzola offer

Fulham have tabled a £10.5m offer for Spezia striker M’Bala Nzola, according to reports this afternoon in Italy.

The Whites are desperate to bring in a striker to fire their survival bid after Scott Parker has been forced to field Ivan Cavaleiro as a makeshift forward following Aleksandar Mitrovic’s loss of form and fitness. The French forward has scored nine goals in 13 games for Vincenzo Italiano’s side this season after a successful loan spell in Ligura last season.

The 24 year-old scored seven times in 21 league appearances as Spezia were promoted from Serie B via the play-offs last season and made his move from Trapani, who had helped gain promotion from Serie C in 2018, permanent. Nzola has impressed during Spezia’s first season in the Italian top flight, although the club are reportedly willing to hold for an offer that matches their £13.35m valuation with other suitors apparently monitoring developments.

Nzola, who can also operate on the left wing, came through the Academia de Coimbra academy in Portugal and after a year with Virtus Francavilla, whom he helped reach the promotion play-offs, he made the move to Italy, joining Carpi. The 6ft 1in speedy forward has been previously linked with a possible move to West Ham in December after making a strong impression in Serie A.

Juventus eyeing Adarabioyo swoop

Juventus are watching Fulham centre back Tosin Adarabioyo with a view to a summer move for the defender, according to reports from Italy.

Tuttosport claims that the Italian giants have been impressed with the former Manchester City defender’s start at Craven Cottage and have earmarked him as a potential addition as they plan to revamp their defence during the close season. The newspaper suggests that Juventus would be open to offering around €13m and that the situation will depend on whether Fulham can successfully fight off relegation from the Premier League.

Adarabioyo, who joined Fulham for less than £2m in October, has made an excellent start to life at Craven Cottage helping stabalise a creaky defence as Scott Parker switched from a back four to three centre halves. The 23 year-old has made fourteen appearances in the Premier League forging an excellent understanding with Joachim Andersen at the heart of the Fulham defence. It remains highly unlikely that Fulham would consider selling the England youth international, who signed a three-year contract last year.

Stansfield scores on U18s return as Fulham hit six

Jay Stansfield scored his return to competitive football as Fulham’s under 18s won a pulsating nine-goal thriller against Brighton and Hove Albion this morning.

The teenage striker, fast tracked into Scott Parker’s first team last year after an incredible first season after signing from Exeter last summer, hasn’t played since October after fracturing his ankle in training. Stansfield made his mark a matter of minutes after coming on as a second half substitute – heading home an excellent cross from Tyler Caton to ensure that Steve Wigley’s side returned to the top of the table.

The young Whites got off to the perfect start when Matt Dibley-Dias curled a delightful free-kick into the top corner from 20 yards and Luciano D’Auria-Henry hit the base of the post after a flowing move down the right a few minutes later. In an incredibly open start, Brighton were dangerous as well with Cameron Peupion crowded out as he let fly from just inside the box.

Albion did find a leveller on eighteen minutes when Zak Emerson finished clinically past Dermot Mee from close range – but Fulham were quick to respond. Scottish forward Kieron Bowie put the home side back in front when he raced onto a through ball and fired home just two minutes later.

Fulham’s lead only lasted for a further two minutes, however. Andy Moran equalised for the south coast side with a well-taken finish from an acute angle after he had worked a clever one-two on the edge of the box. Mee, a recent arrival from Manchester United, had to save smartly from Marcus Ifill to prevent Brighton from taking the lead.

The Whites went ahead ten minutes before the break when highly-rated defender Stefan Parkes stole in at a free-kick and volleyed home at the far post. The extraordinary end-to-end nature of this absorbing contest continued after the interval with Albion unfortunate not to level matters for a third time. Xavier Benjamin did superbly to prevent a dangerous cross from reaching Emerson and Moran could only find the side netting having latched onto the loose ball.

Mika Biereth was denied a Fulham fourth from the penalty spot thanks to a fine save from the Brighton goalkeeper but the teenage forward didn’t allow that miss to dent his confidence. Biereth was not to be denied his seventh goal of the season – gleefully thumping home a rebound after Bowie had seen a goalbound shot bravely blocked.

Bowie then gave Fulham some much-needed breathing space, calmly converting a one-on-one by rounding the goalkeeper, before Stansfield stole the show after his introduction from the bench. Peupion did poke home a consolation with three minutes to play, but Whites ran out comfortable winners in the end.

FULHAM U18s: Mee; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes, Bowat, Araujo; Benjamin, Dibley-Dias; Olakigbe, Lanquedoc; Bowie, Biereth. Subs: Glover, Antonsson, Caton, Wildbore, Stansfield.

Reed in fine form, says Parker

Fulham manager Scott Parker feels midfielder Harrison Reed is in the best form of his career.

The 25 year-old completed a long-awaited permanent move to Craven Cottage this summer after a successful loan spell from Southampton concluded with victory in the Championship play-off final. Reed was not an automatic selection at the start of the season, but has been outstanding having forged an impressive partnership with Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa at the base of the Fulham midfield and his tireless energy gives crucial protection to Parker’s reshaped back line.

The Fulham manager feels Reed’s recent displays against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United are particularly worthy of praise.

I think Harrison’s played the best three games of his Fulham career, to be honest. The last three have been tremendous and he was a vital part of what we did last year. I thought he could make the step up and he’s proved that over the last few games. I’m pleased he’s progressing and he’s been given the opportunity and a platform in the Premier League to do that.

Parker concurs with Reed’s own assessment that having a former central midfielder as his manager has helped him grow into the Fulham shirt.

Maybe there’s an easier connection for me because of how I see that position because I have 20 years of it and it’s ingrained. I have vast (number of) photographs (of the position) in my mind, so it’s probably a little bit easier.

It remains to be seen whether Reed will start Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round clash with Burnley as Parker considers rotating his side ahead of the pivotal trips to relegation rivals Brighton and West Brom next week.

When Simon Morgan and Steve Hayward knocked Aston Villa out of the FA Cup

Twenty two years ago today, little old Fulham made the football world sit up and take notice. They had been the moneybags of the lower leagues for a little while, with Mohamed Al Fayed’s takeover at Craven Cottage and a sprinkling of star dust of big names sparking a push for promotion from the Second Division, after the harsh dismissal of cult hero Micky Adams made way for Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan – but a January trip to Premier League leaders Aston Villa in the FA Cup had the Whites firmly in the footballing spotlight.

A visit to Villa Park was particularly special for two Fulham stalwarts. Simon Morgan, who had toiled away as a tenacious utility man for more than a decade in the club’s darkest days, grew up as a massive Birmingham City supporter. He was inconsolable as a youngster when John Mitchell’s late winner settled the 1975 FA Cup semi-final replay in Fulham’s favour and was never going to miss the chance to take on Villa, even if he hadn’t played since December having injured his calf. There was something written in the stars about how he soared effortlessly to head home Steve Hayward’s corner after just eight minutes.

Hayward, a star of the Carlisle side that had earned promotion alongside the Londoners from the Third Division, became a regular fixture in the Whites’ midfield for a few years – an understated but classy performer alongside far more prominent names – was a boyhood Villa fan, who trained with the club as a youngster before beginning his professional career with Derby County. He had spent the week organising tickets for an assorted cast of friends and family and there’s a story, possibly apocryphal, that you can see some of them celebrating his deflected free-kick in the Holte End, where Hayward stood as a youngster, that doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.

The whole day was had a dream-like quality about it. The masses of Fulham fans heading to the Midlands by train, car and coach then staring disbelievingly as their yellow-shirted heroes completely outplayed John Gregory’s league leaders. It was the day that you felt the Whites were finally going places. Keegan’s tactical masterstroke – switching to a back three to mirror Villa’s own system – worked so flawlessly that Maik Taylor was only seriously troubled once, when Julian Joachim raced clear but couldn’t convert. Morgan slotted in alongside Chris Coleman and Kit Symons, whilst the likes of Hayward, Wayne Collins and veteran Paul Bracewell swarmed all over Villa from first whistle to last and kept the ball with the poise of a Premier League outfit themselves.

It was also an afternoon where several Fulham stars proved they could play at the highest level. We weren’t in ‘Horsfield for England’ territory just yet, but the big ex-bricklayer posed all sorts of problems for Gareth Southgate in the air and dovetailed brilliantly with Paul Peschisolido up front – in the typical little and large partnership. Both had chances to add an even more convincing look to the scoreline only for the now-England manager to produce last-ditch tackles. Steve Finnan, not long previously who had been a forward with Notts County, and Rufus Brevett shone as wing-backs long before the positions were in vogue and it was no exaggeration to reflect afterwards that the Whites controlled proceedings throughout.

The post-match headlines were dominated by the fact that Stan Collymore, soon to have his own underwhelming loan sepll at the Cottage, had been a no-show for the Villains. Gregory could still pick most of the side that had carried Villa to the top of the table that season and there was no tarnishing this triumph for the delirious travelling support. Fulham’s Cup run, almost improbably ended by Leigh RMI in round one, would finish agonisingly at Old Trafford in round five as speculation about Keegan’s departure for national service gathered pace but this was one of the finest away afternoons in the club’s unique history.

ASTON VILLA (3-5-2): Oakes; Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry; Watson, Hendrie, I. Taylor, Scimeca, Wright (Vassell 59); Merson, Joachim. Subs (not used): Rachel, Grayson, Ferraresi, Hughes.

BOOKED: Ehiogu, Hendrie, Watson. 

FULHAM (3-5-2): M. Taylor; Symons, Morgan, Coleman; Finnan, Collins, Bracewell, Hayward, Brevett; Peschisolido (Smith 82), Horsfield. Subs (not used): Arendse, Trollope, Salako, Hayles.

BOOKED: Finnan, Smith.

GOALS: Morgan (8), Hayward (45).

REFEREE: David Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).