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Parker absolves Sessegnon of blame

Scott Parker took responsibility for Fulham’s defeat by Nottingham Forest yesterday – refusing to blame young full back Steven Sessegnon after his mistake left the Whites 2-0 down.

Sessegnon’s lapse in judgement allowed Sammy Ameobi to set up Lewis Grabban for his second of the afternoon to leave Fulham facing an uphill task to get something of the game. But Parker told the press that the mistake resulted from his own instructions to his defenders to play the ball out of the back and that no blame should be attached to the teenage full back on only his third league start for the club.

Parker felt Fulham were good value for a point against Forest, despite being punished for a sloppy start, when Grabban opened the scoring inside five minutes.

I felt like we controlled the game and were in control. But we started slow. I was disappointed with how we started the game to be honest. The first 10 to 15 minutes were on the back foot a little bit. On another day we control the game as much as we did there today and the chances would come. The chances didn’t come our way today.

I always felt comfortable in the way in which we were playing. In the first and second half we played well but for the second goal the mistake came from us. I take responsibility for that, because it’s the way I want us to play and that can happen sometimes. Steven has been top since the day he’s walked in pre-season. It’s his third game and mistakes happen. But, like I said, it’s not Steven Sessegnon’s fault. It’s my fault, if anything. I take full responsibility for that.

Aleksandar Mitrovic did pull a goal back with eight minutes to play, but despite concerted Fulham pressure, the home side couldn’t find an equaliser.

The longer the game went on nobody was leaving the stadium. I don’t think there were any Fulham fans in there who would think we would come away with nothing. We went to a back three and tried to push more bodies further up the field. But nothing came.

Arise, Sir Steven

I’m sure many of you had a brother or sister growing up- but if you didn’t, let me describe it to you. I was one of four, and EVERYTHING was a competition in my house. Particularly with my younger brother as we were only 18 months apart, everything from tying shoe laces to eating dinner was completed with a highly competitive edge. It was carnage at times! I’d imagine that the rivalry between siblings is only intensified when you are a twin, so I’m sure there were some battles inside the Sessegnon house when Ryan and Steven were growing up. I reckon the twins loved getting one over on the other in a friendly way, but I also reckon that both boys spurred each other on, encouraged each other and essentially made each other better players.

However, while I think that the twin dynamic has benefitted the boys, I’d imagine that sometimes it must have been tough for Steven when he was watching Ryan take steps in his career at a quicker pace. What we have seen in public has been a real mutual respect and love between the boys, but I’m sure it wasn’t always easy, even if Steven has never shown it! He maybe felt in his twin’s shadow at times, but now it’s time for him to step out and make his own mark in the footballing world.

Many of us have been calling for Steven’s inclusion in the team for a year or so but apart from a few cup appearances, we were left frustrated. But finally, on a cold and windy night in the North West, exactly two years on from Ryan’s debut in the same league, we got to see Steven in action- and what a league debut he had. I was massively impressed with what I saw from him, particularly in aiding the attack. He maybe drifted to the left a bit more than we would want from a right back, but I don’t think that’s the position he has played most in so it’s OK to take some time to adapt. Like Ryan, he is a very hard worker, and also had to confidence to pass the ball around with pace. In attack he had the Huddersfield defence worried on several occasions and was very unfortunate not to come away from the match with an assist. Without his endeavour to get the ball into the box, we wouldn’t have clinched our second goal so he had a rea;;y positive impact on the result. He looks much more able in that position than Denis Odoi and Cyrus Christie so he should soon cement his place there.

It may have came two years after Ryan, but we all take our own routes in life and there is absolutely no shame in that. This is Steven’s time, and I’m buzzing to see what he has in store for us.


Cavaleiro’s cracker clinches Fulham win

A moment of magic from Ivan Cavaleiro clinched back to back wins for Scott Parker as Fulham recorded an impressive 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town tonight.

The Portuguese winger settled the contest with a stunning curler from the edge of the box that left the outstanding Kamil Grabara clutching at thin air with ten minutes to play. Cavaleiro’s first goal for the Whites was enough to secure an encouraging away win from a contest that Fulham had dominated, but were pegged back when Karlan Grant’s second half header threatened to punish the Londoners for their profligacy.

Parker had made one change from the side that had recorded their first win of the season last weekend against Blackburn, handing teenage defender Steven Sessegnon his first league start at right back. The visitors were indebted to the youngster’s quick thinking when he bravely blocked a venomous drive from from Lewis O’Brien. Huddersfield were after a quick start, but instead they grew gradually into a contest that began with patient Fulham probing.

Parker’s side spurned several good openings in the first half. The lively Anthony Knockaert posed Huddersfield problems throughout and when Grabara clawed away a dangerous low cross, Stefan Johansen teed up Cavaleiro, who steered a shot disappointingly wide of the far post. A lovely one-two between Johansen and Joe Bryan sent the left back surging into the Huddersfield area but he opted to try and beat Grabara at his near post when the better option might have been a pull back for the unmarked Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Huddersfield had ended the first period the stronger with a number of threatening raids down the right from full back Florent Hadergjonaj but, after a stern half-time talking to from Parker, Fulham emerged full of intent. Both Mitrovic and Knockaert spurned decent chances before the Serbian striker was denied by a smart block from Christopher Schlinder and drove the rebound over the crossbar.

Fulham’s pressure was building, but when the breakthrough came it owed much to a mistake from Juninho Bacuna. The Huddersfield midfielder was trying to prevent a through ball from reaching Cavaleiro by the byline but he ended up hooking the ball inviting across his own goal, allowing Mitrovic to outjump Tommy Elphick and head home from three yards out.

But Fulham contrived to throw away their advantage just six minutes later. Hadergjonaj powered down the right and sent over a dangerous cross which former Charlton forward Grant met with a powerful header from eight yards. The ball ricocheted off the post and over the line via Marcus Bettinelli’s body – and belief suddenly surged through the John Smith’s Stadium.

Parker has built his side to attack and Fulham went straight back to it. A beautifully weighted pass through the heart of the Huddersfield defence sent Knockaert scampering clear but Grabara surged his line to block the French winger’s finish and preserve parity. The Fulham manager certainly wasn’t settling for a point – sending on Bobby Decordova-Reid to add to his side’s attacking arsenal and the red shirts began to swarm around the Huddersfield box.

It needed a moment of real quality to beat the inspired Grabara and Cavaleiro, who had been largely anonymous in a diffident first half, provided it. Taking advantage of the extra yard provided by Bryan’s decoy run on his outside, the on-loan Wolves winger bent a beautiful finish around Grabara and into the top corner to restore Fulham’s lead. They might have stretched their advantage when Decordova-Reid found some space in the penalty area, but the Huddersfield goalkeeper pulled off another smart save.

Town piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but the only moment of real alarm came in stoppage time when Terence Kongolo muscled his way onto a long ball from O’Brien at the back post but his attempted cross lacked the power to reach Grant and was gratefully smothered by Bettinelli. This defeat meant a brittle Huddersfield side have managed just four wins in 51 competitive games, but an early sacking would be exceptionally harsh on the likeable Jan Siewert, who inherited a thankless task in the second half of last season.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-3-3): Grabara; Hadergjonaj, Kongolo, Elphick, Schindler; Bacuna (Chalobah 54), Hogg, O’Brien; Kachunga (Mounie 83), Pritchard (van La Parra 84), Grant. Subs (not used): Schofield, Bockhorn, Diakhaby, Quaner.

BOOKED: Kachunga, Hogg.

GOAL: Grant (57).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Arter, Johansen (Decordova-Reid 76), Cairney; Knockaert (Le Marchand 90), Cavaleiro (Reed 84), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Christie, McDonald, Kamara.

BOOKED: S. Sessegnon, Mawson.

GOALS: Mitrovic (51), Cavaleiro (80).

REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).


‘Fulham trust young players,’ say Ryan and Steven Sessegnon

Ryan and Steven Sessegnon have told tonight’s Evening Standard that they feel so comfortable at Craven Cottage because ‘Fulham trust young players‘.

The teenage twins gave a wide-ranging first senior interview to the London evening paper and downplayed both their meteoric rise from being stars of junior football to have an international impact. Ryan has just collected the PFA’s Championship player of the month award for January – after scoring six league goals in the space of a month – whilst Steven has followed up his World Cup winning exploits with England’s Under 20s by making his senior debut for Fulham and helping the club’s under 18 side reach the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.

Ryan told the Standard’s Vai Bhardwaj that he and his twin brother had always aimed to make it in the professional game:

I wouldn’t say it’s weird because this is what we’ve set out to do. Some people may think it’s a surprise what we’ve achieved since we left school. But we’ve been aiming for things like that.

Both brothers believed their progression owes much to the pathway put in place by Fulham’s academy director Huw Jennings and patient nurturing from the club’s head coach Slavisa Jokanovic. Ryan said:

Obviously it’s harder now for young players in the Premier League to go up from the academies into the first teams. But for us to be at Fulham — we’re not in the Premier League — it’s a bit of an easier step. It’s harder, too, because the Championship is such a demanding league. Fulham trust young players.

He insists he’s happy to play wherever Jokanovic puts him, but admitted he has enjoyed his spell on the left wing since Matt Targett joined from Southampton on loan.

It’s harder, too, because the Championship is such a demanding league. Fulham trust young players. I’m enjoying my position on the left wing because I think I’m affecting the game more in terms of goals and assists. But I’m happy to play wherever I’m told.

He also reiterated that, despite constant transfer speculation linking him with a move away from the Whites, his focus has solely been on furthering Fulham’s promotion push over the last few weeks. His continued inclusion in the senior side is a key factor in his happiness at the Cottage.

It was flattering to be linked with other clubs but my main focus was on Fulham. My aim has always been to try and help the club get back into the Premier League. I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I’m always focused on my job at Fulham. As you can see in every league game I’ve started, each game I try to be better than the last. I’m enjoying having this good season. That is down to the game time I’m getting.

Steven, who turned in a composed performance at centre back as Fulham’s under 18s came from behind to beat Plymouth and reach the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup at Home Park last night, says he is hoping to emulate Ryan’s progress with the senior side in due course.

It’s great to see Ryan doing so well. I just want to be up there with him. I keep working hard and soon I’ll be up there, too. It’s not a big thing for us to stay at the same club. We managed to do it and it’s great because we can push each other on and be around each other and do well. It just happened. We try to give each other a lot of advice from another person’s perspective. Advice is welcome.

Sessegnon lifts U17 World Cup

Steven Sessegnon lifted the Under 17 World Cup this evening after helping England come from two goals down to defeat Spain 5-2 in a thrilling final in Kolkata.

The stunning victory represented England’s first ever global success at this age group level and capped a remarkable month for the Fulham full-back, who wasn’t even in coach Steve Cooper’s first eleven at the start of the tournament. Sessegnon impressed in the final group victory over Iraq and retained his place for the rest of the championships – and he certainly made his mark in an end-to-end final.

Sessegnon supplied two assists as the Young Lions roared back from 2-0 down, including a crucial intervention on the stroke of half-time that turned the tide of the contest after Sergi Gomez had put the Spaniards firmly in control. The teenager showed plenty of confidence to skin Gomez down the right and deliver a low cross which Rhian Brewster clinically converted. He was at it again thirteen minutes after the interval producing a fine centre for Morgan Gibbs-White to score following a trademark overlapping run.

Manchester City’s Phil Foden put England ahead for the first time with 19 minutes remaining but the Young Lions were indebted to Sessegnon for a superb goal-line clearance just afterwards when goalkeeper Curtis Anderson completely missed a cross. England sealed their famous victory in the final six minutes as, first, Marc Guehi stabbed home from a set-play, and then Foden fired home the fifth to spark wild celebrations.

The victory was fitting reward for Sessegnon’s own tenacity in getting his development firmly back on track after two serious injuries during his formative years at Fulham’s Motspur Park academy, when he has had to watch his twin brother Ryan explode on the professional scene. Sessegnon, already handed his senior debut by Slavisa Jokanovic earlier this season, will now turn his attention to gaining a regular spot in the Fulham first team.