A second half brace from Jay Stansfield helped Fulham’s under 23s cruise past Southampton at Motspur Park and maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
The eighteen year-old forward, deployed in a number ten role tonight, had a hand in all three of Fulham’s goals as Steve Wigley’s first shaded a tight first half and then put clear water between themselves and their visitors after the break. Stansfield, who scored a sensational first senior goal on his full debut for the Whites at Birmingham in the League Cup, supplied the opening goal for Kieron Bowie with a low cross and then scored twice in the space of three second half minutes to put the contest beyond Saints.
Stansfield produced a terrific finish to convert Marlon Fossey’s inviting cross six minutes after the interval and then repeated the trick shortly afterwards as the American full-back galloped forward once again to mark a poignant personal night on what would have been his late father Adam’s 43rd birthday. The teenager’s brilliant start to this campaign has showcased both his predatory instincts and maturity, but this was an excellent all-round performance, slotting seamlessly into an unfamiliar position, and playing several incisive passes.
Fulham were indebted to goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond for keeping the scores level before half-time. The England youth international produced three excellent saves as Saints flexed their muscles. He kept out Kazeem Olagibe’s low free-kick that appeared to be heading for the bottom corner before denying Ramello Mitchell as the forward shot from an acute angle and fielded a long-range effort from Kegs Chauke. The hosts might have been in front well before Bowie’s tap in had Irish midfielder Ollie O’Neill added the finishing touch after rounding Jack Bycroft in the Southampton goal, but he somehow shot wide. Idris Odutayo headed narrowly wide from a corner and Bowie’s fierce drive from distance was too close to Bycroft.
Stansfield’s quickfire double effectively ended the game as a contest. Fulham played some silky football in the second period but couldn’t find a fourth to underline their superiority. Steven Sessegnon, featuring on the left side of the back four, came the closest but his curler from outside the box rattled the post with the keeper grasping at thin air. Odutayo was denied when Bycroft brilliantly stretched to keep out another header. This emphatic victory keeps the Whites on top of the early Premier League 2 Division table, with ten points from four games, a point ahead of Norwich City.
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): T. Ashby-Hammond, Fossey (Larkeche 79), S. Sessegnon, Odutayo, McAvoy; Francois (Harris 45), Pajaziti; O’Neill, Hilton, Stansfield; Bowie. Subs (not used): McNally, McCoy-Splatt.
The Scottish youngster scored fifteen times in 21 league games as Steve Wigley’s young Whites retained their Premier League south title last term and has become a regular in the under 23 side that has made an unbeaten start to the new campaign.
The former Raith Rovers forward told Fulham’s official website:
“It’s definitely a different challenge because the players are a lot more physical as they’re older. I’m making sure I take it in my stride and continue to perform to a high enough level.”
Bowie was pleased with the way the Whites fought back at Southend in midweek to secure a win in their opening Premier League Cup fixture at Roots Hall.
“Southend were a slightly different type of opposition that we’re not really used to coming up against. They played a more long ball game which is to most PL2 teams who get the ball down and play. In the first half we didn’t play our usual game but I’m happy we got the job done.”
Fulham’s under 23s take on Southampton in league action at Motspur Park this evening.
Bowie admitted that he initially struggled with homesickness after making the move from Raith Rovers last summer but went on to have an outstanding first campaign in Fulham’s under 18 side. The teenage forward highlighted McDonald’s influence as a coach with the younger sides as well as his personal input into Bowie’s own development.
“Kevin is always ready to give me advice in terms of my own game, or just if I want to talk about something while we are in the gym. He’s really down-to-earth and I don’t even think of him as a coach — he’s just one of the boys, passing on his experience and leading by example on the training pitch. And he’s not lost a step, either. What a player!
“I’ve got so much respect for him and he can relate to what I’ve been through because he has been on that same journey, coming through in Scotland and then making a big move to England. Kev has been there, done it and when he speaks, you listen. He’s just a really inspirational guy, on and off the pitch. I think he’ll be a top manager if that’s what he wants to do. Sometimes on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, he’ll take our session and his knowledge of the game is unbelievable.”
Bowie revealed that he find elements of the move to London difficult at first, but now feels he has adapted well to life with Fulham.
“I struggled with homesickness a lot at the beginning. Being so far from home was really tough. I had never lived on my own; I had never been without that support from my mum in the same house. That was a big adjustment. I’m still only 18, so that was the biggest factor in the first couple of months. It’s a massive learning curve — especially away from football — and I’ve grown up a lot. When I was playing for Raith, that was my club, in my town and you feel a lot more comfortable in that situation. This was a big leap into the unknown, but I got there in the end.
Around Christmas, I started to feel a little bit more settled and find my rhythm. I was enjoying myself, started to build confidence and I was scoring goals. I kicked on from there. All the boys are top players.”
The Kirkcaldy-born youngster scored fifteen goals in twenty league appearances as Steve Wigley’s side secured a second consecutive Premier League U18 South title.
“Of course, we’ll lose games and have the odd disappointing performance, but we learn from that and the aim is for us all to become better players. But, there’s no denying that winning trophies is a nice bonus when you are trying to develop and get that winning mentality.”
Bowie’s fine first campaign with the Cottagers has been rewarded with a first call up to Scott Gemmill’s Scotland under-21 squad, which came as something as a surprise. The eighteen year-old is in line to make his debut against Northern Ireland in Dumbarton tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m incredibly proud to be in the squad — and a little bit stunned, to be honest. I’ve only been in the Scotland under-19 squad once so I never imagined I would be in the under-21s — a good two years ahead of my age group. I’m just pinching myself.
“Shaun Maloney was the guy I looked up to when I was watching Scotland as a kid. He was the man doing the bits of magic, scoring the goals and I’d watch him thinking: “I’d love that to be one day.” There’s no pressure on me because I’m just one of the younger players in the group. It’s a bonus at the end of the season and I can go, work hard and try to express myself and show what I can do.”
The teenage forward, who joined Fulham last summer after excelling for Raith Rovers’ senior side, made an immediate impact in west London. He quickly became a key fixture in Steve Wigley’s under 18 side, scoring 15 goals in 21 appearances as the young Whites stormed to the U18 Premier League south title earlier this month.
Scottish under-21 boss Scott Gemmill has included Bowie in a 24-man squad for a double header against Northern Ireland in Dumbarton on June 2 and June 5. The two friendlies are the Scottish side’s first fixtures in six months and represent the build-up for their 2023 under-21 European Championship qualifying campaign.
In-form Kieron Bowie grabbed another brace as Fulham’s under 18s thrashed Reading 5-1 yesterday at the LSE to return to the top of the table.
The Scottish striker took his tally to thirteen goals in the last ten games as Steve Wigley’s side eventually brushed aside a spirit challenge from the Royals to move above Crystal Palace on goal difference. Fulham didn’t have to wait long for Bowie to break the deadlock as the former Raith Rovers forward powered into shooting range and fired his finish under Matthew Rowley with just sixteen seconds gone.
Bowie saw an instinctive strike well blocked by Jay Senga after excellent approach play down the left from Idris Odutayo. Reading then were unfortunate not to draw level when, first, Harvey Maudner’s free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar and then Alex Borto produced an outstanding save to prevent Hamid Abdel-Salam scoring from a tight angle.
Irish youth international Ollie O’Neill doubled Fulham’s lead just after the half hour when he latched onto a fine flick from Bowie and poked home. The visitors got a deserved lifeline six minutes before the break when Jahmari Clarke emphatically converted David Nyarko’s pull back. But Fulham restored their two-goal cushion right on half time. O’Neill sent over a devilish free-kick, Ibane Bowat climbed well to meet it and the ball fell invitingly for his compatriot Bowie, who needed no second invitation to sweep it home.
The open nature of the contest continued after the interval. Highly-rated winger Michael Olakigbe was denied by Rowley at one end before Louie Holzman header over after a bout of pinball in the Fulham box. The only blot on Bowie’s copybook during another accomplished performance was when he spurned a glorious opportunity to register a hat-trick, skying his penalty over the bar after O’Neill had been felled in the box.
The miss would not prove too costly as, after Rowley had athletically denied Luke Harris, Wigley’s charges wrapped up the contest. Matt Dibley-Dias’ powerful strike took a deflection that left Rowley helpless before Odutayo rounded Fulham’s sixth straight win with a thumping finish, although there was more than a suspicion of handball in the warm-up. The Whites are top of the table with three games remaining – a tricky trip to Leicester City is up next.