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Decordova-Reid delighted to make difference

Bobby Decordova-Reid was delighted to come off the bench and earn a point in Fulham’s top-of-the-table clash with Bournemouth last Friday and wants to continue their ten match unbeaten run at Luton this weekend.

The former Bristol City forward linked up with fellow substitute Tom Cairney to create a late equaliser for Tosin Adarabioyo against the Cherries and Decordova-Reid told FFC TV this afternoon that Marco Silva’s changes illustrated the importance of Fulham’s strength in depth.

“I think that’s the squad’s there for. When we’re called upon, we’ve got to be ready and to make a difference. We needed a goal and so we kind of had to take that risk to get it.

Decordova-Reid revealed that he is now fully fit after being struck down by the bug that swept through Motspur Park after he returned from international duty with Jamaica and is hoping to make more crucial contributions to Fulham’s promotion push.

“I came back from international duty and wasn’t too well at the time. I know I had to bide my time until I get back into the squad and the minutes I get, I’ve got to be ready to do good for the team. I’m good now. I’m getting back to my full fitness and hopefully I can get on the pitch and show what I can do.”

He feels that Fulham have done very well to put together a ten-match unbeaten run in a division as demanding as the Championship, but won’t be taking Luton lightly.

“Very difficult. I didn’t even notice we were ten matches unbeaten. We take every game as it comes, try and put it in a performance. If we get the three points or a point, we’ll take it and move on.

I don’t think you can take that into consideration in the Championship – every game’s different, every team can bounce back. We’re fully focused, ready for the game and ready to get three points. Listen, we’re ready for whatever any team brings. We respect every team as well and how they play: we’ll go out there to play our football and win the game.”

Fulham sell out Luton allocation

Fulham have sold out their allocation of tickets for December’s trip to Luton Town within two and a half hours.

Tickets for the clash at Kenilworth Road went on sale this morning at 10am and the club tweeted this afternoon that the entire 1,032 allocation had been snapped up.

Decordova-Reid rescues point for flaky Fulham

Scott Parker had Bobby Decordova-Reid to thank as the on-loan Cardiff forward’s double ensured Fulham left Kenilworth Road with a point having come from behind three times against relegation-threatened Luton Town.

The Londoners might have aspirations of automatic promotion, especially after their feisty win over second-placed Leeds United last weekend, but some generous defending gifted the hosts at least two goals as the Fulham back four appeared to extend the season of goodwill a little too far. It took just five minutes for a first gift to arrive. Marek Rodak played Alfie Mawson into the trouble and the lumbering centre half was robbed by James Collins, who teed up Kazenga Lua-Lua for the simplest of finishes.

Fulham fashioned a spirited riposte three minutes later. Ivan Cavaleiro tricked his way towards the byline down the right flank and whipped over a delicious cross that Decordova-Reid nodded home from close range, having been afforded the freedom of Bedfordshire by a sleepy Luton defence. The visitors then put together a serious spell of pressure but Croatian keeper Simon Sluga was equal to powerful efforts from Joe Bryan and Tom Cairney.

Just as it appeared as though Fulham were getting on top, those defensive frailties resurfaced again. Mawson failed to clear a free-kick and Collins slammed home his eighth goal of the season, although it looked suspiciously like he had used his hand to control the ball prior to blasting past a helpless Rodak. In a bid to redeem himself, Mawson went on a sortie upfield but screwed his shot well wide from long-range and Fulham were probably fortunate not be further behind at half-time, after Collins had a second goal ruled out for offside.

Luton were penned back almost from the off after the resumption, battling to hold onto their lead. Inside the first ninety seconds of the second half, Aleksandar Mitrovic, scorer of a hat-trick when these sides met at Craven Cottage earlier in the season, saw a shot blocked before Sonny Bradley bravely threw himself in the way of Josh Onomah’s attempted strike. Decordova-Reid looked Fulham’s mostly likely source of an equaliser, cutting in dangerously from the left flank, but Sluga made one fine save to turn a rising drive over and the former Bristol City forward sent another low strike fractionally wide of the far post.

The hosts’ own attacks were rather sporadic but former Fulham midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe had a glorious chance to put the game beyond his old side with seventeen minutes to go. Played in by a combination of Collins and Harry Cornick, Tunnicliffe opted to try and pull the back across goal instead of shooting from an acute angle and Cyrus Christie was able to block Collins’ attempted finish as Fulham bodies flooded back.

Fulham exploited that let off when Mitrovic, hitherto brilliantly nullified by the Luton defence, nodded home a Knockaert corner at the far post to level matters. Any hopes that the sizable away contingent held of roaring their side onto victory evaporated when Tim Ream and Bryan got themselves into a horrible mess overplaying inside their own half and substitute Cornick rolled a low finish into the unguarded net. Cornick then had a chance to make certain of the points for the Hatters after he breezed away from Ream but dragged his finish wide after latching onto Pelly Ruddock’s punt forward.

Fulham came again and got the most fortuitous of lifelines in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Knockaert sent over a teasing cross from the right, Sluga couldn’t hold substitute Aboubakar Kamara’s header and Decordova-Reid thumped home another equaliser from inside the six-yard box. That sparked euphoria amongst the travelling supporters – but the fact that Fulham couldn’t convert 65% possession into a victory over the Championship’s worst defence should trouble Parker.

LUTON TOWN (4-2-3-1): Sluga; Bolton, Bree, Pearson, Bradley; Tunnicliffe, Ruddock; McManaman (Cornick 65), Lua-Lua (Jones 75), Berry; Collins. Subs (not used): Stech, Sheehan, Shinnie, Moncur, Butterfield.

GOALS: Lua-Lua (5), Collins (28), Cornick (84).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Bryan (Kamara 89), Mawson, Ream; Reed (Knockaert 70), Onomah, Cairney; Cavaleiro (Kebano 76), Decordova-Reid, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, S. Sessegnon, O’Riley, Johansen.

GOALS: Decordova-Reid (9, 90+4), Mitrovic (78).

REFEREE: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).


Luton away and the joys of the Championship

Luton away and the joys of the Championship

On Boxing Day, Fulham travel to Kenilworth Road to play Luton Town. For many, the match will be a great chance to pick up three points against a side in 21st position. But for me, the trip to Luton will hold a greater significance.

As an American Fulham supporter, it is often difficult to explain your loyalties to other football fans who follow the big clubs. Relegation is an alien concept to them. Few fathom why one would support a team in the Championship.

Following Fulham’s relegation last spring, the derisory comments flooded in. Mixed in with the banter was a familiar refrain — “you’ll be playing Luton away next season.” The dig was simple. Instead of mixing it up with Liverpool or Manchester City in the top flight, little old Fulham would be facing off against Luton Town — a team that hadn’t appeared in the top division since the early 1990s.

Group chats were even named ‘Luton Away’ in recognition of the relegation. But far from an insult, the Boxing Day trip to Kenilworth Road will be one of the highlights of the season. What the American fan can’t understand is that the away days to old-fashioned, atmospheric stadiums like Luton’s are priceless experiences. And in modern football, these grounds are rapidly going extinct.

Ask most Whites supporters and they’d tell you they would prefer the Championship over the Premier League. Why? The sanitised Premier League experience, the drastic gap between the top and bottom clubs, and the exorbitant ticket prices all contribute to the top flight losing its luster.

In the Premier League, you could never get a day out at Luton Town. Where else would you walk to the away end through a row of houses?

When I take my seat in the away end (unreserved of course, another Luton specialty), I’ll be buzzing for the festive match. Luton away isn’t an embarrassment — it’s the best away match of the season.

Mitrovic hat-trick floors Hatters

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s first Fulham hat-trick helped Fulham return to winning ways as they clinched a nervy victory over Luton Town in a five goal thriller at Craven Cottage tonight.

Mitrovic handed the Hatters a lesson in finishing to twice help the Whites establish a two-goal cushion – but Fulham’s defensive frailties, brutally exposed at Stoke on Saturday, resurfaced again as Graeme Jones’ side threatened to claim a battling point. The excellent Izzy Brown helped Luton gain a foothold in the second half and a glancing header from Dan Potts was followed by a close-range finish from substitute Kazenga Lua-Lua as the visitors made Scott Parker’s side sweat until the very end.

Parker made two changes after his 3-4-1-2 system slumped at Stoke, with Marek Rodak handed his league debut in goal and Denis Odoi returning at right back as Fulham switched to a back four. The hosts almost made the perfect start but James Shea saved well from Ivan Cavaleiro, but Luton were looking lively on the break. James Collins might feel he should have done better than fire wide after he had seized upon a poor pass from Tim Ream and latched onto Brown’s sumptuous through ball – and Luton were punished almost immediately.

Bobby Decordova-Reid intercepted a wayward pass from Matty Pearson and Cavaleiro drove towards the box before slipping a simple pass into the path of Mitrovic. The Serbian striker shrugged off the attentions of Sonny Bradley and smashed a venomous finish beyond Shea. The Luton keeper then did his best to keep Town in the contest saving bravely from Tom Cairney and Anthony Knockaert in quick succession – before an acrobatic overhead from Mitrovic drifted harmlessly over the bar.

Luton still threatened on the counter-attack with Brown and Collins causing real problems for the Fulham rearguard. The Chelsea loanee looked dangerous every time he ran at the Fulham defence and he delivered another excellent pass that allowed Collins to canter past Odoi only for the forward to lose his composure as he snatched at his shot.

Fulham finished the half strongly but couldn’t find a second. Knockaert curled fractionally wide when he cut inside onto his left foot before Cavaleiro fizzed an effort past the opposite corner and Mitrovic was inches away from connecting with a low cross from Joe Bryan after the full back had robbed James Bree of possession.

Luton emerged for the second half with a fiery team talk from Jones ringing in their ears. They might have been level straight away when Harry Cornick fired into the side netting after being released by Brown, who then saw a deflected shot pushed aside by Rodak. Their enterprising start deserved better than going further behind but Fulham doubled the lead from their first real attack of the second half.

Knockaert slipped a ball down the side of the Luton defence and Decordova-Reid raced beyond Potts before picking out Mitrovic with a low cross – giving the former Newcastle forward the simplest of finishes from close range. But the Hatters deserve immense credit for refusing to fold and they found a route back into the contest on the hour mark.

Brown floated a free-kick into the danger area and Potts ran across Ream to head home his first goal in more than a year. That briefly stunned the hosts but they summoned up a fine riposte seven minutes later when Mitrovic’s diving header from a cleverly worked free-kick between Cairney and Bryan took him to the top of the Championship scoring charts.

Fulham briefly threatened to make the scoreline look much more comfortable with Shea pushing away a powerful Cavaleiro drive, but they were left hanging on for the final minute of stoppage time after Luke Bolton got to the byline and delivered a low cross that Lua-Lua tapped in at the back post. That late setback proved only a consolation – but it was hard to avoid the feeling that Fulham, with all their attacking talent, had made this victory far too difficult for themselves.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Reed (McDonald 85), Decordova-Reid (Johansen 81), Cairney; Knockaert (Onomah 70), Cavaleiro, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, S. Sessegnon, Le Marchand, Kamara.

BOOKED: Cairney.

GOALS: Mitrovic (16, 53, 67).

LUTON TOWN (4-3-3): Shea; Bree (Bolton 70), Potts, Pearson, Bradley; Tunnicliffe, Cranie, Mpanzu; Cornick (Lua-Lua 78), Brown, Collins (McManaman 78). Subs (not used): Sluga, Shinnie, Jones, Butterfield.

GOALS: Potts (60), Lua-Lua (90+3).

REFEREE: John Brooks (Leicestershire).