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Bettinelli blunder costs Fulham dear

A terrible goalkeeping error from Marcus Bettinelli cost Fulham the chance of ending West Brom’s unbeaten start to the season as Scott Parker’s side had to settle for a point having dominated the Championship’s early kick off this afternoon.

Bettinelli, who was furious at the award of the goal having felt he had been impeded by Charlie Austin as he tried to reach Matheus Pereira’s corner, only managed the tamest of contacts and allowed Semi Ajayi to head home the simplest of equalisers. The tall centre back was delighted to score his first goal for West Bromwich Albion, who were rewarded with a point for their late pressure on the Fulham goal.

The home side looked likely winners once Anthony Knockaert chipped Sam Johnstone from a tight angle outside the penalty area four minutes after half-time, although the on-loan winger later confessed that he was trying to find a team-mate at the far post. The goal was fitting reward for Fulham’s first-half dominance, but it would have worried Parker that his side are still labouring fruitlessly in front of goal despite enjoying so much possession.

Slaven Bilic’s side were disciplined in defence and set up to try and frustrate Fulham but the home side still fashioned a number of chances as they probed away patiently. Ivan Cavaleiro, who endured a frustrating afternoon out wide as he struggled to find a final ball, had a couple of early shots blocked and then an outstanding tackle from Nathan Ferguson denied Bobby Decordova-Reid as he prepared to pull the trigger.

Fulham should have taken the lead midway through the first half when a brilliant bit of vision by Harrison Reed freed Tom Cairney in behind the Baggies defence. The Fulham skipper opted to go high as he bore down on Sam Johnstone but the West Brom goalkeeper managed to tip his finish onto the bar. The former Aston Villa custodian then produced a couple of excellent reaction saves to deny Knockaert and Decordova-Reid in quick succession.

The pattern persisted into the second period, with a desperate lunge from Ajayi almost ending up in his own net as he tried to deal with a dangerous cross from Joe Bryan. Johnstone gathered a downward header from Mitrovic from a set play but Knockaert’s opportunistic finish appeared to set Fulham on the way towards three points – although Parker’s side failed to find the killer instinct.

The expected surge of Fulham pressure never really materialised with Johnstone turning over a Decordova-Reid shot on the turn and a long-range effort by Bryan was deflected wide. Instead, Albion were rejuvenated by Bilic’s double change midway through the second half when he threw on Kyle Edwards and Filip Krovinovic to inject some life into their attack.

Darnell Furlong flashed a drive into the side netting, but Fulham failed to heed the warning and retreated deeper and deeper. Ajayi nodded in the equaliser and the Baggies might well have nicked a winner as well when Furlong headed agonisingly wide from another Pereira corner. Fulham will need to be much more assertive if they have serious ambitions of joining the automatic promotion race.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon (Odoi 90), Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Reed, Decordova-Reid (Onomah 85), Cairney; Knockaert, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic. Subs (not used); Rodak, Le Marchand, McDonald, Johansen, Kamara.

BOOKED: S. Sessegnon, Odoi.

GOAL: Knockaert (49).

WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-2-3-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Ferguson; Livermore (Krovinovic 59), Sawyers; Phillips (Edwards 59), Pereira, Diangana (Robson-Kanu 69); Austin. Subs (not used): Bond, O’Shea, Brunt, Zohore.

BOOKED: Furlong.

GOAL: Ajayi (80).

REFEREE: David Webb (Lancashire).

ATTENDANCE: 17,770.

Bettinelli looking to bounce back

Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli is looking forward to the new campaign – and wants to put a year of heartache behind him.

A season that started so promisingly, with an England call-up, ended with him being dropped, having knee surgery and suffering relegation. The Fulham academy graduate wants to put all these problems behind him and help the Whites back to the top flight.

Football can be a cruel game. I do not think anyone enjoyed last season and it is sad, really, because we came into the league with a lot of hope and momentum. I never want to experience that again.

It was obviously tough to take when the club signed two goalkeepers last summer. It was hard because I feel like I had done enough to keep my spot and I am sure there were a lot of lads who felt the same as I did after doing well in the Championship.

I got into the team and when I look back now would I have done anything differently? Probably not. I do not feel like I deserved to get pulled out of the team. I got some criticism for the amount of goals we conceded but as the season went on it was plain and clear that you could have had David De Gea and Manuel Neuer, or both of them at the same time, and we still would have conceded goals.

I went and saw Slav. He was a good person. He said he did not think I had been playing that badly but he wanted to try and get a reaction from the team after three or four defeats. Did I feel it was unfair at the time? Yeah, of course I did. Did I feel it was unfair I did not get a chance under Claudio Ranieri? Yeah, of course I did.

But everything happens for a reason and it is in the past now. I am just looking forward to this season and trying to get back to the Premier League where we should be.

Bettinelli has been reinstated as the club’s number one by Scott Parker, whom he played with at Craven Cottage, and he is positively buoyant about being given the new manager’s backing.

I have been crying out for a season like this since 2014-15. This will be the first time I have ever started the first game of the season. It is nice to know Scotty believes in me. As soon as Scotty took over last season you could feel a change at the club. There is a different feeling of pride now and wanting to win games like the year we went up. For a long time this club has had this sloppy mentality and last season it all kind of fell apart. It is a different feeling and a different mentality in the dressing room now.

Bettinelli undergoes knee surgery

Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli has had knee surgery in a bid to be fit for the start of next season.

The 26-year-old had a minor procedure to fix a longstanding problem this week and he is now set to miss the club’s relegation run-in.

Bettinelli has been back-up to Sergio Rico and decided to have surgery to make sure he is fit for August.

Bettinelli, who earned an England call-up last year, last played for Fulham in their shock 2-1 home defeat by Oldham in the FA Cup on January 6. Fulham have Fabri to act as back-up for Rico for the remainder of the season.

The Cottagers are seven points from safety, with 12 games remaining. They play West Ham at the London Stadium next Friday and new signings Lazar Markovic and Havard Nordtveit are expected to be fit for the game.

The deadline-day arrivals have been building up their fitness this week and are set to be available to make their debuts at the London Stadium.

Boss Claudio Ranieri opted not to take his squad abroad this week as the heat builds on the Italian at Craven Cottage.

Ranieri was given a public show of support by owner Shahid Khan last week, but last Saturday’s toothless 3-0 defeat to Manchester United will not have gone down well.

Marus Bettinelli – 100 not out

What a week it’s been for Marcus Bettinelli. The Fulham man saved a crucial penalty against Brighton in his 100 game for Fulham and then got his first call up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the games against Spain and Switzerland. It’s once again proof that persistence and patience pays off as Bettinelli has so often found himself having to fight to regain the first team shirt because of managerial changes and new signings.

The Fulham Academy graduate signed his professional contract back in 2011 and spent much of his first few years as a professional on loan at Dartford and Accrington Stanley. It’s fair to say that he has tasted both the highs and the lows at Fulham, with his debut coming in our first season after relegation. Fulham had lost their first the opening four league games, but Betts was thrown between the sticks for the Capital One Cup win over Brentford- our first victory of the campaign. Bettinelli kept his place for the next game, a draw against Reading, but was dropped for Hungarian Gabor Kiraly the week after. Felix bingo, eh? It wasn’t until Felix Magath was replaced by Kit Symons that Fulham had anything like a structured back line and Bettinelli got his first proper run in the squad. He made a total of 45 appearances that season, conceding 73 goals in a disappointing year for Fulham. We just about avoided being relegated to League One, and his first year playing senior football for Fulham was certainly a learning curve.

In the summer of 2015, Fulham brought in Andy Lonergan from Bolton meaning that once again the role of Fulham’s number one was up for grabs. Lonergan started the season as first choice, but Bettinelli was soon back in the frame. However, early that season Bettinelli faced the first main challenge of his career- coming back after an awful injury. A collision between Bettinelli and Fulham striker Matt Smith resulted in both players having to be replaced, with Betts having sustained a serious knee injury and faced 7 months on the sidelines. It was a testing time for the 23 year-old, but the determination and desire shown to get back is one of the many qualities that I love so much about him.

After fighting his way back as Fulham’s main man, Bettinelli then went through a season of only playing 11 times for Fulham in the 2016-17 campaign. However, he was the man called upon for the Fulham run in that saw us clinch a play-off spot. The 2017-18 season was similar, with David Button being preferred. But no one can doubt that when Bettinelli was eventually recalled to the side in December of last year, Fulham’s results took a turn for the better. He conceded just 21 goals in 30 appearances as Fulham got promoted through the play-offs, and the Fulham man was caught running around Wembley with a flare. Beautiful scenes.

For me Bettinelli has been a shining light for Fulham over the past few years. He has time and time again had to wait for a chance, but every time he has proved that he is worth that chance. His positive attitude throughout those difficult seasons down in the depths of the Championship was what we needed to see as fans, and for that we have to appreciate the character that we have in Marcus Bettinelli.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. There are aspects of his games that he needs to work on, but I feel that some of the criticism of him recently has been unfair. The main criticism of him has been on his distribution, but in the two games that he has played this season he has a higher percentage of successful long passes than 18/22 keepers who have featured in the league so far. With Fulham bringing in two goalkeepers during the summer window, there has been a raging debate about who should be our number one this season in the Premier League. Earlier in the summer I wrote a piece suggesting that as Betts had won the jersey, he should really be given the opportunity to defend it. However, this did become more difficult when we signed a goalkeeper with a calibre of Sergio Rico. I don’t think there is much between Bettinelli and Fabri in terms of ability, but the fact that Bettinelli doesn’t have the communication issues that Fabri has, then for me it’s a no brainer that Betts should be starting ahead of him.

In terms of the England call up, I am thrilled that Betts got the nod. It was Southgate who gave him his U21 England chance, so we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that it is Southgate who has opted for the Fulham player again for the senior side. Along with his positive attitude, one of Bettinelli’s best qualities is his drive to learn and to improve. I have no doubt that he will come back from England training even better having had the opportunity to learn from England’s best. What an honour for the 26 year-old, and I hope that this call-up is the first of many.

Marcus Bettinelli, what a guy!

#COYW

QPR keen on Bettinelli

Queens Park Rangers are eager to sign Marcus Bettinelli should the goalkeeper be allowed to leave Fulham following the arrival of Sergio Rico, according to the Daily Mail.

The former England under-21 international had an excellent second half of the season as Fulham went on a 23-match unbeaten run to win promotion via the Championship play-offs. Bettinelli kept a clean sheet as the Whites beat Aston Villa at Wembley, but he was swiftly usurped in the pecking order at Craven Cottage when Fulham brought in Spanish custodian Fabri from Besiktas.

The Fulham academy graduate looks set to slip further down the list of Slavisa Jokanovic’s goalkeeping options when Rico completes a loan move from Sevilla, which was widely trailed in the Spanish press yesterday. The 26 year-old, who signed a contract extension with the Whites last summer, has made 98 first-team appearances since making his Fulham debut in the League Cup win at Brentford in August 2014.

QPR are looking for an experienced Championship goalkeeper having sold Alex Smithies earlier this summer, although Bettinelli is also rumoured to be interesting Bristol City, who have previously offered him a loan route out of Craven Cottage when he was second choice to Button two years ago. The likeable goalkeeper has twice turned down a possible switch to Chelsea in order to compete for his place at Fulham and recently spoke of his excitement at the chance to play in the Premier League, but could be persuaded to move on for regular first-team football.