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Larkeche nets another PL2 nomination

Fulham full back Ziyad Larkeche has been nominated for the Premier League 2 player of the month award for the second month in succession.

The French left-back was in the running for the October gong after a series of superb performances and his consistency has impressed the judging panel once again. Larkeche made two goals for Steve Wigley’s side, who are currently eight games unbeaten and have an eleven point lead at the top of the second division table, and has been part of a miserly back four that conceded just one goal in the course of the month.

The French under-20 international is joined on the shortlist by Arsenal striker Folarin Balogan, West Ham playmaker Sonny Perkins, Derby’s Luke Plange, Jesuran Rak-Sakyi of Crystal Palace, the Norwich City left winger Jon Rowe, Southampton’s Thierry Small and Spurs midfielder Harvey White.

Fulham U23s beat Wolves for eighth straight win

Fulham’s under 23s showed great character to come from behind and beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to extend their winning run to eight league games in a gripping contest at Motspur Park on Friday night.

Steve Wigley’s side, which saw Steven Sessegnon line up at left back and promising teenage midfielder Luke Harris start again in the engine room, begin brightly with Adrion Pazajiti having an early sighter scrambled away by the Wolves defence but the visitors went ahead after ten minutes. A terrific move culminated in a fine cross from Dexter Lembikisa finding Harvey Griffiths, who curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.

Fulham were briefly perturbed by going a goal down, but Matt Dibley-Dias fashioned a good chance ten minutes later. The classy midfielder’s clipped ball over the top released Terry Ablade but Louie Moulden smothered the striker’s attempted dink over the goalkeeper. Sessegnon then let fly from long range but the Wolves stopper easily fielded that effort as well.

The hosts were back on level terms just before the half hour mark. A patient Fulham move involved both full backs with Sessegnon finding Marlon Fossey and the American teed up Sonny Hilton, who fired in his fifth goal of the season. The winger made the goal that put Fulham in front just before the break when his corner came off a Wolves defender and fell nicely for Harris to head home at the back post.

Fulham went in search of a third and Moulden denied Ablade with a stunning save from the forward’s fierce volley, but was beaten from another set piece. Hilton again supplied the delivery with Dibley-Dias adding a flick on at the near post before an unmarked Charlie Robinson nodded in at the far post to give the Whites a commanding cushion at the interval.

The young Whites nearly extended their advantage early in the second half but Ablade was denied the chance of finishing Ollie O’Neill’s excellent cross by a terrific piece of defending by Ollie TIpton. The visitors came close to getting right back into the contest when Damien Las was forced into a smart save from Griffiths’ header and Wolves did make a game of it with ten minutes left when Lee Harkin prodded over the line from Harry Birtwhistle’s cross.

Fulham nearly restored their two-goal lead immediately but the lively Ablade saw his header tipped over by Moulden. Wolves then almost equalised with a cleverly-worked free-kick but Las showed his agility to keep out Owen Hesketh’s effort. The home side made sure of all three points two minutes from time when Sessegnon cut in from the left flank and fired in a fourth off his stronger right foot.

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): Las; Fossey, S. Sessegnon, C. Robinson, Odutayo; Pajaziti (Bowie 83), Dibley-Dias; Hilton, O’Neill, Harris; Ablade. Subs (not used): McNally, Araujo, Tiehi.

BOOKED: O’Neill, Odutayo.

GOALS: Hilton (29), Harris (38), C. Robinson (43), S. Sessegnon (88).

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS UNDER 23s (5-4-1): Moulden; Scott (Fraser 69), Lembikisa, Tipton, Estrada, Richards; Griffiths (Hubner 78), Jordao (Hodnett 32), Birtwistle, Hesketh; Harkin. Subs (not used): Bugarin, Roberts.

GOALS: Griffiths (10), Harkin (79).

Wigley delighted with ‘good win’

Steve Wigley saluted Fulham’s patience after the under 23s saw off Stoke with a flurry of late goals to move ten points clear at the top of the PL2 Second Division table.

The young Whites had to wait for the breakthrough against a stubborn Stoke side, who battled hard despite being reduced to ten men in the first half. But, after Idris Odutayo broke the deadlock with an excellent far post header, further strikes from Terry Ablade and Luke Harris allowed the hosts to record a seventh successive victory at Motspur Park.

Wigley told FFCTV:

“We had to be patient. They were a bit unfortunate, obviously, they went down to ten men before half time and it was just a case of keep moving the ball quickly and eventually I felt we’d wear them down. To be fair to them, they competed well but we scored some goals.

Wigley was worried that his side could have been set for a second straight stalemate after being held to a draw at Colchester in the PL Cup in midweek, but praised the quality of the team’s finishing in the final twenty minutes.

“It was very similar to the other night, where we should have scored, we had a plethora of chances and didn’t take them. You start to think, we missed a couple of a good chances and think, ‘Oh no, it’s not going to be another one of them nights’. But to be fair, we scored good goals, put some good balls into the box and it was a good win in the end.”

The under 23 head coach revealed that Fulham might look to allow three or four of his side to go out on loan in January – giving some of the club’s under 18 stars an opportunity to move up a level.

“It’s my job to keep reminding them that all you do is play the next game. You don’t look into the future, you move on from the past and you just play the present. That’s what we’ll do. We’ve got quite a bit of interest in some of the boys to go out on loan in January. We’ll look to take that opportunity – if we could get three or four of them out on loan, because when you’re playing well, people seem to like your players a bit more and then it will be up to other people to step up like Charlie Robinson has done tonight. That’s the plan if I’m honest – and then we’ve still got to try and win games.”

He has been delighted with the continual improvement amongst his group of players, which remains the academy’s mantra.

“I mean the most important thing is that players are getting better. I keep saying to them, ‘As long as you’re improving and developing your talent, the game takes care of itself’. I believe that strongly, that’s what we’ll work towards. If I felt anybody wasn’t improving, I’d be really worried but as a collective, they’re improving as players.”

Fulham U23s put three past Stoke

Fulham’s under 23s were made to wait for their seventh successive win – but three late goals for Steve Wigley’s side secured victory over Stoke City at Motspur Park tonight.

The young Potters side battled valiantly having had Daniel Malone sent off for a horrid lunge at Adrion Pajaziti but were eventually beaten as Fulham made their numerical advantage count in the final quarter of an intriguing contest. Idris Odutayo broke the deadlock with seventeen minutes to play – heading home his first goal of the season from a fine Marlon Fossey cross. Terry Ablade doubled the lead five minutes later with a splendid volley before substitute Luke Harris added a third in stoppage time.

Wigley rung the changes after the international break with Damien Las making his first under-23 start of the campaign and bringing back Ablade and Ollie O’Neill, who scored a dramatic winner on his debut for the Republic of Ireland’s under 21s on his international debut. Fulham began patiently with Kieron Bowie going close with a rasping drive before Ibrahima Sy headed straight at Las after a lovely Stoke counter-attack.

But Stoke’s hopes of troubling the league leaders further were seriously diminished when Malone received his marching orders ten minutes before half time for a rash challenge on Pajaziti. England youth international Emre Tezgel almost gave the visitors a shock lead when he slotted wide of goal after bursting clear of the Fulham back line. Bowie almost gave the young Whites a half-time advantage but his audacious long-range effort crashed against the crossbar.

Fulham were in the ascendancy early in the second half with a speculative Pajaziti drive flying off target and O’Neill was denied by a brave block from Lewis Macari. The lively Ablade, preferred to Jean-Pierre Tiehi in the starting line-up, then drove wide after racing away from the Stoke defence as the hosts still toiled for the breakthrough. Just when it looked like being a frustrating evening, centre half Odutayo popped up at the far post to power home Fossey’s floated ball in and give Fulham a priceless advantage.

That seemed to sap the spirit from the Stoke side. Ablade volleyed majestically past Nathan Broome after excellent work down the left from Ziyad Larkeche and Harris, who replaced Bowie midway through the second half, rounded off the scoring in added time by emphatically firing home. The victory means that Wigley’s in-form side are now ten points clear at the top of the table.

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): Las; Fossey, Larkeche, C. Robinson, Odutayo; Sessegnon, Pajaziti (Dibley-Dias 86); Hilton, Bowie (Harris 66), O’Neill; Ablade (Tiehi 82). Subs (not used): Allen, Araujo.

GOALS: Odutayo (73), Ablade (78), Harris (90+2).

STOKE CITY UNDER 23s (4-4-1-1): Broome; Jones, Coates, Okagbue, Macari; Malone, Jarrett, Goodwin, James-Taylor; Sy; Tezgel (McCarthy 77). Subs (not used): Hemfrey, Roney, Baker, Cargill.

REFEREE: Tom Bishop.

SENT OFF: Malone (35).

D’Auria-Henry delivers as Fulham U23s beat Burnley

The returning Luciano D’Auria-Henry poached a close-range winner as Fulham’s under 23s secured a sixth successive victory by beating Burnley 2-1 at Leyland this evening. Substitute D’Auria-Henry, making just his second appearance of an injury-ravaged season, popped up at the back post to fire Marlon Fossey’s fine cross home and settle a very even contest.

Teenage attacking midfielder Matt Dibley-Dias, the star of the show throughout, had given the visitors the lead three minutes into the second period with a looping header over Burnley keeper Sam Waller from a floated ball in by Sonny Hilton. But seventeen year-old striker Michael Mellon nodded home his fifteen goal of a prolific campaign from Owen Dodgson’s corner and at that stage the young Clarets look well-placed to extend their own unbeaten run to eight matches.

D’Auria-Henry, restored to a midfield role he had occupied when playing for Fulham’s junior sides, showed serious predatory instincts to profit from a dangerous Fossey cross as the visitors regained the lead. They had a glorious opportunity to further their advantage moments later when Kieron Bowie was brought down by Bobby Thomas, but Waller made a splendid reaction save from Connor McAvoy’s penalty. The Whites braved a late Burnley onslaught – with Fabri saving well from Mellon and punching away a late free-kick – to lengthen their lead at the top of the Second Division to seven points.

Wigley made a number of changes with international call-ups depriving him of his usual line-up. Jay Williams partnered McAvoy in central defence, with Idris Odutayo lining up at left back. Steven Sessegnon, who enjoyed a quietly efficient evening in the engine room, and Adrion Pajaziti were again paired together in the middle of the park. In the absence of Jay Stansfield and Terry Ablade, Jean-Pierre Tiehi led the line with Dibley-Dias operating as the number ten and the classy midfielder took his opportunity to step up impressively. Referee David Richardson ruled out an early Williams header for an infringement at a corner and Tiehi was booked for querying the decision.

Burnley arguably edged the opening twenty minutes with Dale Stephens curling a free-kick fractionally over the bar from 23 yards with Fabri grasping at thin air. Jacob Bedau then produced a brave block to deny Dibley-Dias as the teenager drove into the home penalty area. The hosts had another lucky escape when a Hilton corner produced an almighty goalmouth scramble but neither Tiehi nor Bowie could turn the ball home. Hilton, a lively presence on the left flank, almost broke the deadlock a minute before the interval but was denied by a stretching Waller save after cutting inside.

The young Whites didn’t have to wait long for the opener after the resumption, though. Hilton, now popping up on the right wing, clipped in a cross that Dibley-Dias directed over Waller and into the top corner with his head. It was quite a way for the elegant midfielder to cap an accomplished under-23 debut. He nearly added a second seven minutes later but his snapshot was deflected behind by Thomas.

Burnley still posed a threat going forward with Joe McGlynn unfortunate not to be able to turn home Dodgson’s cross after bringing the ball under control beautifully. After Finn Armstrong had surged down the right flank to win a corner, Mellon rose highest to glance Dogson’s set piece into the far corner and bring Steve Stone’s side level.

But Fulham showed great character to go back in front with D’Auria-Henry making a dream return just seven minutes after stepping off the bench to replace Tiehi. He found himself free at the far post to meet Fossey’s low ball in and produced an emphatic finish. Waller then prevented the visitors from making it 3-1 when he dived to his left to claw away McAvoy’s penalty after Bowie had been brought down in the box.

Hilton screwed a shot wide at the far post in the closing stages before Burnley roused themselves for a concerted assault on the Fulham goal. Mellon shot straight at Fabri from just outside the area after space opened up in front of him and the Spanish keeper charged off his line to fist away a late free-kick as Fulham saw out five minutes of added time.

BURNLEY UNDER 23s (4-4-2): Waller; Armstrong, Glennon, Thomas, Bedeau; Helm, Stephens (Woods 45), Dodgson, Tucker (Thompson 72); Mellon, McGlynn (Costelloe 81). Subs: Allen, Rooney.

GOAL: Mellon (64).

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): Fabri; Fossey, Odutayo, Williams, McAvoy; S. Sessegnon, Pajaziti; Bowie (Sanderson 80), Hilton, Dibley-Dias (C. Robinson 88); Tiehi (D’Auria-Henry 62). Subs: McNally, C. Robinson.

BOOKED: Tiehi.

GOALS: Dibley-Dias (48), D’Auria-Henry (69).

REFEREE: David Richardson.