Where to start? When I contemplated penning some thoughts on the rearranged trip to Reading, I didn’t dare dream Fulham register a 7-0 win, their second of the season – something last achieved on the road more than a hundred years ago by the Liverpool side of 1895-1896. My personal 4-1 pre-match prediction seems tame now, but I felt it was pretty optimistic given Fulham’s recent form and I must admit to not feeling particularly positive about proceedings at half-time – even with the Whites 2-0 up.
Understandably, Marco Silva’s side looked like a team who hadn’t played for a while, lacking a cutting edge in the final third with a frustrating reluctance to pull the trigger. A couple of heavy crosses from good positions by Kenny Tete and poor decisions from Antonee Robinson on the left added to the sense of rustiness. The Royals were in a generous mood, however, putting Wilson’s first goal on a plate for the Welshman with a poor back pass. He needed no second invitation to accept the belated Christmas gift.
Wilson was Fulham’s constant threat in the first half. He appeared unstoppable down the right, finding himself in on goal on a couple of occasions before being felled by Tom Holmes after being threaded through by Tom Cairney. There was no doubting who was going to take the penalty and Aleksandar Mitrovic dispatched it emphatically into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 right on the stroke of half time. That scoreline was much more comfortable than it could have been. A disastrous bit of defending from Robinson provided Mamadi Camara with a chance to equalise but Marek Rodak made a magnificent save from the midfielder’s backheel. Had that crept into the corner, our evening might have been very different.
Andy Carroll rolled the back the years in the first half with a virtuoso performance leading the Reading line. His hold-up play was excellent and he’ll be gutted to have come away without goal after two sublime offside finishes in the space of a minute. The first was a brilliant bicycle kick in the bottom right corner, whilst the second saw him control a cross magnificently on his chest and looping volley into the right hand side of the net – although Rodak was motionless having spotted the flag going up.
I don’t know what words of wisdom Silva dispensed at half time but instantly we looked hungrier after the break. We found ourselves in promising positions but didn’t fashion a clear opening until Robinson’s cut back was met by Harry Wilson for a tap in, his second of the game on the hour mark. What followed was some of the best football I’ve seen Fulham play; something I’ve said a number of times already this season. We had the momentum and kept on pushing, with Cairney and Reed controlling the engine room expertly, Wilson and Kebano stretching the defence out wide, creating chances and winning corners, two of which resulted in goals, not an uncommon sight for the Fulham fans this season.
The first looked like a training ground routine re-adapted. Wilson swung the ball away from goal to Mitrovic, who I’m sure was meant to volley it goalward. Instead, a powerful header from the edge of the box was glanced in by Tete for his first goal in a Fulham shirt. That was four and, at this point, the away end sensed seven might be on the cards again. Next up was Kebano, who fully deserved a goal after another scintillating showing down the left. He was denied by a fine Southwood save a little earlier, but the Congolese winger wasn’t to be denied. Wilson supplied a simple cross after being played in by a brilliant bit of vision and execution from Mitrovic and Kebano couldn’t miss. A second set piece goal arrived when Wilson swung in another corner and a towering header from Tosin found the bottom corner. The Fulham faithful were in full voice again after a dispiriting December.
Six goals to the good, Silva decided to ring the changes. We could easily have left it there and secured a clean sheet – as Scott Parker had tried to do and failed here a couple of years ago when facing ten men. This Fulham side does things differently. It was refreshing to see Silva take the more adventurous route. Rodrigo Muniz is fast becoming a fan favourite and made the most of his cameo bursting away from Holmes in the blink of an eye only to be thwarted by another smart Southwood save. Mitrovic’s sprint to reach the rebound and secure a seventh typified his desire. That takes his tally for 24 this season and 77 in total for Fulham, which lifts him above the late, great Jimmy Conway to become Fulham’s thirteenth highest goalscorer of all-time.
After the disappointments at Reading, a miserable mauling under Felix Magath and the pain of that narrow play-off semi-final defeat, here was a magical night to savour for the travelling Fulham faithful. Reading look utterly rudderless and the less said about their attendance the better, although fair play to the diehards who were still there to see the last rites of their record home defeat. As the away end sung, ‘Manchester City, we’re coming for you!’
The Dutch defender glanced in Aleksandar Mitrovic’s free header from a corner to score Fulham’s fourth goal of seven in a sensational rout of Reading last night. Tete told FFCTV after the final whistle:
“What a night. What a performance. A clean sheet and a win – seven goals, it couldn’t be better. I scored so I’m very happy! I was waiting for it for one and a half years. I had Covid two weeks ago – so I was happy to come back and score straight away. I want to thank the fans for everything – they were amazing tonight.”
Tete admitted that Fulham have been fired up to prove that their underwhelming pre-Christmas form was merely a blip and establish themselves at the top of the Championship once again.
“The way we finished the way wasn’t good enough. We didn’t win for a long time. We were really looking for that win. We started the year good at Bristol [City] and now today as well. We have to build from here, keep our feet on the ground. I know we have a great team and there will be more wins in the future.”
The Welsh winger admitted his team-mates were desperate to get back into league action after losing to Sheffield United before Christmas and were frustrated by three postponements that robbed them off the opportunity to put things right. Wilson told FFCTV:
“We’d waited so long for that game to come around. We knew our form before that wasn’t great, it took a bit of dip, so we were all desperate to get out there tonight and put on a performance to show the rest of the league what we’re capable of. 7-0 is an amazing scoreline, but I feel our performance deserved that.
Wilson was modest in his assessment of his own performance, which included two goals, two assists and winning the penalty that gave Fulham breathing space on the stroke of half time.
“I felt my game was good tonight. I didn’t think I started great to be honest, but we pressed well for the first goal. It was a gift for me and that gave me the confidence to kick on in the game. To have a hand in all six goals whilst you are on the pitch, you can’t ask for much. To round it off with Mitro’s tap in at the end was great to get another 7-0 win.
I think tonight shows why our form before Christmas – where we went five without a win – was so frustrating. We knew we weren’t getting to the levels we know we can play at. Tonight we were very good, we were back to those levels. It’s up to us to put in another performance on Saturday, get another three points and make sure we keep adding up those points.”
Wilson revealed that Marco Silva is key to keeping Fulham level-headed and he reiterated that the real target is reclaiming top spot in the table.
“The gaffer keeps our feet firmly on the ground. He’s always pushing us for more – even though we won 7-0. There’s still a long way to go in the season and he makes sure we are ready for the next game. After our last big win at Blackburn, we went on a big run. After three weeks off, we’re raring to go. We want to show the league that we’re Fulham and we want to be at the top.”
Marco Silva praised his players for providing the perfect response to questions about Fulham’s promotion credentials by thrashing Reading 7-0 tonight.
The Fulham head coach was delighted with his team’s ruthlessness, contrasting this seven-goal showing with the one achieved last year at Blackburn when the home side had been reduced to ten men before half time. Silva told his post-match press conference:
“It is not a normal score. We repeat it. It is not a normal score, but it was a consequence of the game. The last game that we did it, we did it with superiority on the pitch, ten against eleven for sixty minutes and tonight was a little bit different because it was eleven against eleven.
Of course, after the second goal, there was half-time and after with our third goal, things were really difficult for them and we kept the same intensity and same pace, including long periods of the match, which is a good sign for me as a manager after a long break for some of these players without a game in their legs and it was good, it was a good score, a good result for us. The most important thing for us is the three points and of course, after the goals came at the end, it was a consequence from our game.”
Silva played down the goal glut – insisting that he had told the players that this was just another three points and he was most pleased by the quality of Fulham’s display having waited nearly three weeks to respond to their defeat at the hands of Sheffield United.
“I think it an important score, but it is just three points. I told my players that then. We are happy, we need this type of performance, we need goals, we need to boost the confidence for our front line, the defenders. All these situations are important for us but at the end, it is just three points. After the Sheffield United match, we want to play as quick as possible because it was our first defeat in 12 games. We were 11 games unbeaten and that defeat for us was tough and unfortunately for us, we had three games cancelled and we want to play as soon as possible.”
This was an emphatic response to any concerns that Fulham’s flat pre-Christmas form or the spate of coronavirus pandemic postponements might ruin their promotion push. Marco Silva’s scored seven for the second time this season – romping away from a wretched Reading side and sending the beleaguered Veljko Paunovic closer to the exit door. Harry Wilson picked up where he left off at Ashton Gate, profiting from a shocking backpass to prod the Whites ahead, before winning a penalty on the stroke of half time and tapping home from close range to make sure of all three points.
But the visitors weren’t satisfied with merely wrapping up a routine win. Reading, who looked devoid of confident following their FA Cup exit at the hands of Kidderminster on Saturday, probably had an idea it wasn’t going to be their night when veteran striker Andy Carroll saw two sensational strikes disallowed for offside in the space of ninety seconds but they folded alarmingly in the second half when Paunovic eschewed any semblance of damage limitation. Some of the home marking from set plays was shambolic: they left Mitrovic entirely unmarked at a corner, allowing Kenny Tete to glance in his first Fulham goal, and Tosin Adarabioyo got in the act as well when he thumped in a downward header from another flag kick.
Between those headers came further evidence of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s evolution into a more complete striker under Silva. Having thumped home the penalty in first half stoppage time, the Serbian laid on a lovely goal for Kebano by sending Wilson scurrying clear down the right wing and Kebano was on hand to tuck home from inside the six-yard box. Mitrovic rounded off a miserable night for his compatriot Paunovic when he followed up after Luke Southwood had saved Harrison Reed’s piledriver splendidly. It was hard not to feel for the young Royals goalkeeper, outstanding at Craven Cottage in September. As staggering as it sounds, it would have been much worse without him.
Reading are well and truly ensconced in a relegation battle, which they will surely fight within Pauvonic at the helm. His plans to spring a surprise were in tatters as early as the seventh minute when Scott Dann succumbed to a hamstring strain after trying to keep up with Kebano. The introduction of Mamadi Camara meant Josh Laurent had to slot back in at centre back. Six minutes later, he played a pass across his own box with Wilson lurking and the Welshman gleefully accepted the gift.
Wilson should have made it two ten minutes later. A raking pass from Kebano saw him accelerate into the area but drag his wide of goal as Ethan Bristow gamely dived in. Fabio Carvalho then crept away from two defenders but his low cross didn’t reach an unmarked Wilson, before Reading were nearly handed a route back into the contest by some brainless defending from Antonee Robinson. The American full back fluffed a simple clearance from Junior Hoilett’s cross and Camara improvised a backheeled finish only for Marek Rodak to pull off an outstanding stop.
After Carroll, who had earlier thrown himself theatrically to ground in an attempt to win a penalty off Adarabioyo, had seen his two astonishingly finishes chalked off in the blink of an eye, Reading suffered a hammer blow in first half stoppage time. Wilson worked a one-two with Cairney and burst towards goal. Tom Holmes stretched out a panicked leg and referee Tony Harrington pointed to the stop. Mitrovic doubled Fulham’s lead to settle any nerves amongst the away contingent.
The second half began in a similar vein. Mitrovic had a shot blocked and the ball fell kindly for Wilson, but the Welshman scuffed his effort slightly into the side netting. He was celebrating on the hour, though, after finishing a flowing move that saw Robinson rampage down the left and supply the perfect pass after being found by a brilliant ball from Mitrovic. It felt like Silva’s side could score at will now, with substitute Andy Rinomhota arriving in the nick of time to deny Kebano.
The damn broke decisively in the final quarter as Tete, Kebano, Adarabioyo and Mitrovic mercilessly profiting from Reading’s painful predicament. This was the first time an English side had recorded two away wins by a seven goal margin since Liverpool in 1896. The Whites have now inflicted record home defeats on Blackburn and the unfortunate Reading in the space of three months. This demolition job lifts Silva’s side back to second in the table and sends another message to the first of the Championship – Fulham are far from finished.
Fulham’s first league fixture since before Christmas is a tantalising one. On paper, it looks like a very good time to play Reading. Dumped out of the FA Cup at Kidderminster amidst rancour amongst the fan base, the Royals haven’t won in four matches and Veljko Paunovic is under serious pressure. The Serbian has to juggle an injury crisis and coronavirus complications with a couple of key players representing Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations. But Reading were on a similarly dismal run when they turned up to Craven Cottage with a makeshift defence in September to inflict a first home defeat on Marco Silva’s side – so who knows what will happen in Berkshire this evening?
Paunovic will likely rely on a core of old stagers to drag his side away from their precarious position just above the relegation zone – should he get the opportunity to continue (there were strong suggestions that his services would be dispensed with following a shambolic showing at Aggborough). Danny Drinkwater has already displayed his battling characteristics against the Whites this season, coming off the bench to shore up the Royal rearguard as they held on for an unlikely victory, whilst Scott Dann is the sort of uncompromising defender who is always primed for battle. Andy Carroll came in on a short-term deal before Christmas and quickly demonstrated that he still knows where the goal is. The biggest disappointment has to be that the prodigiously talented Alen Halilovic can’t seem to stay fit.
Perhaps the biggest positive for the home side is that it is difficult to judge what sort of Fulham they will come up against this evening. Silva’s side were scratchy at Ashton Gate in the FA Cup on Saturday, understandable when you consider that they hadn’t played in just under three weeks, and only began to dominate when a number of rested first-teamers were introduced as substitutes. The swashbuckling early season football had given way to a more haunted, hesitated air in the weeks prior to the postponements and there is more than a suspicion that Championship sides have now cracked the code and come up with a way to nullify Fulham’s main way of playing. No wins in five league games is relegation rather than promotion form – which is why Harry Wilson’s Westcountry fluke was so important.
Silva’s pre-match press conference yesterday majored on the importance of getting back to the nitty gritty of league action but the precise composition of his starting eleven is difficult to land upon. Ivan Cavaleiro is definitely out and the head coach referred to a couple of other players still dealing with the after-effects of coronavirus. Personnel will be pivotal, as always, but there will be a need to start at a high tempo and move the ball quicker than during Fulham’s previous outing. It is noticeable that Silva has been seething on the touchline at his side’s lack of intensity of late: no surprise when you consider the passivity of recent performances.
Seeing Wilson on the scoresheet again after a barren period will also give the Welshman a real lift – regardless of how the ball hit the net. He was almost talimsanic in the early part of the season and has a habit of drifting out of matches if the passes don’t follow those clever runs inside. Aleksandar Mitrovic remains the major goal threat, but talk that Reading could switch to the sort of 3-4-1-2 system that has flummoxed Fulham since November could both cut off the Serbian’s service and pose problems at the other end of the pitch.
MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed, Cairney; Wilson, Carvalho, Kebano; Mitrovic. Subs: Gazzaniga, Hector, Odoi, Chalobah, Francois, Decordova-Reid, Muniz.
The Scottish under-19 international has made eight appearances for the Stones since initially moving to the National League outfit on a one-month loan in October. McAvoy scored his debut at Weymouth and has helped a new-look defence, that also features fellow Fulham loanee George Wickens in goal, keep three clean sheets in his eight appearances.
McAvoy ensured cult hero status amongst the Wealdstone fans with a terrific last-ditch saving tackle that secured victory in the local derby against Barnet back in November.
Jay Stansfield scored the winner on his return after knee surgery as Fulham’s under 23s beat Nottingham Forest tonight.
The teenage striker turned home Kieron Bowie’s cross to settle a tense contest at Alfreton Town. Stansfield was making his first appearance since November and grabbed his fourth goal of the season to secure a tenth straight league victory after Forest had fought their way back into the match. Steve Wigley handed goalkeeper Alfie McNally an under-23 debut whilst promoting under-18 centre back Charlie Robinson.
Stansfield returned from his period on the sidelines and looked lively from the outset – shooting agonisingly wide of the far post from the edge of the area after just three minutes. Referee Greg Rollason then waved away voicerfous Forest shouts for a penalty when Lewis Salmin tumbled under a challenge from Idris Odutayo and Andy Reid’s side went close again when Will Swan had a low drive bravely blocked by Matt Dibley-Dias.
The visitors went straight up the other end and threatened themselves when Adrion Pajaziti firing an effort just off target from range. Five minutes later and the league leaders hit the front. Kieron Bowie seized upon a mix up between Alex Gibson-Hammond and Swan to win possession and sauntered past Fin Back before finding the bottom corner with a fabulous shot that gave goalkeeper Nicky Hogarth no chance.
Fulham went close to doubling their lead seconds later when Ollie O’Neill headed against the post from Luciano D’Auria-Henry’s cross. The visitors were playing some lovely stuff with the Irish youth international floating a devilish ball just out of the reach of Stansfield and Bowie. By contrast, Forest had been restricted to potshots from range – with McNally called upon to keep out a powerful effort from Julian Larsson. Swan struck a drive wide as Forest finished the first period on the front foot – and the hosts got a leveller five minutes after the interval.
Parity was restored courtesy of a wonderful individual goal from Ateef Konate. There appeared little danger when he picked up possession just outside the area but the French attacking midfielder darted away from his marker and found the top corner with a magnificent curling effort. Ten cagey minutes followed before Stansfield seized his chance from close range after O’Neill had failed to make contact with Bowie’s ball in.
The former Exeter forward was then foiled by Hogarth’s legs when he might well have settled matters before skipper Sonny Hilton almost scored from the acutest of angles with seven minutes to go. Hogarth denied Hilton from twelve yards in stoppage time after bringing down Bowie in the box, but fortunately that miss was to prove academic. Another win sees the young Whites move fourteen points clear of Norwich at the top of the table.
Ivan Cavaleiro will miss Fulham’s rescheduled trip to Reading tomorrow night as he continues to recover from a groin injury.
The Angolan winger, who has been out since limping out of the 4-1 derby win over Queens Park Rangers in October, has returned to full training at Motspur Park and could be in contention to be part of Marco Silva’s matchday squad for Saturday’s meeting with Bristol City at Craven Cottage.
“We have just Ivan Cavaleiro coming back from injury. He’s not 100 per cent fit. He’s been working with the team for the last two weeks. Now it is a matter for him to get more minutes in his legs, training session after training session, to help the team in the future.”