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Fulham U18s held to draw at West Ham

Fulham’s under 18s were held to a goalless draw by West Ham in a dour London derby at Little Heath this morning.

Kevin Keen’s young Hammers made the stronger start with the referee waving away penalty appeals for handball against Charlie Robinson. A brilliant set-piece delivery from Lewis Orford whistled right across the area before George Earthy was denied an opening goal by an offside flag. Earthy followed up after the recalled Alex Borto had saved Divin Mubama’s free-kick, but was contentiously adjudged offside.

Borto thwarted Earthy again after an hour and centre back Kaelan Casey might have felt he should have done better than send a diving header wide when he had been left unattended at a corner. The Hammers were well on top and Gideon Kodua drove over after being found by a good Junior Robinson cross.

Fulham were grateful to remain level at the interval, but they almost went behind early in the second half when Kodua somehow fired over from close range after latching onto a low centre from Mubama. Ali Melloul’s side, which was virtually full strength apart from George Okkas who has already travelled to join up with Cyprus on international duty, gradually got a foothold in the game but it took until midway through the second period for them to create a clear chance. Luke Harris peeled away to reach Delano McCoy-Splatt’s ball in but headed wide at the back post.

Harris looked the most likely source of a Fulham goal but the Welsh midfielder was denied a winner by a brilliant save from Jacob Knightbridge after taking aim from 25 yards. Winger Michael Olakigbe nearly benefitted from the blustery wind in the closing stages when his cross almost caught out the West Ham goalkeeper – but both sides had to settle for a point despite the late excitement.

WEST HAM UNITED UNDER 18s (3-5-2): Knightbridge; Tarima, Forbes (Falase 56), Casey; Robinson, Clayton, Earthy (Soglo 74), Orford, Scarles; Mubama, Kodua. Subs (not used): Evans.

BOOKED: Mubama.

FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-2-3-1): Borto; Tanton, de Fougerolles, Araujo, C. Robinson; McCoy-Splatt, Lanquedoc; Wildbore (Works 76), Olakigbe, Harris; Sanderson. Subs (not used): McNally, Antonsson, Caton, Parker.

BOOKED: McCoy-Splatt, Lanquedoc.

Fulham U18s clinch consecutive titles

Fulham’s under 18s secured back-to-back Premier League south titles with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Chelsea this morning. Steve Wigley’s youngsters ended a thrilling battle with Crystal Palace by claiming the championship on goal difference after goals from Jay Stansfield, Mika Biereth and Luke Harris saw the young Whites claim the local bragging rights in fine style.

Young striker Stansfield, who has seen his season interrupted by a troublesome ankle injury, settled any nerves at Cobham by firing into the roof of the net from an acute angle after Biereth had helped on Adrion Pajaziti’s header. The visitors then soaked up a spell of prolonged Chelsea pressure before strikes from distance by the impressive Ollie O’Neill and Pajaziti ensured that Fulham ended the half on the front foot.

Joe Haigh came close to levelling matters just after the break but Fulham responded with some fluent football of their own and Pajaziti hammered an effort against the woodwork from twelve yards out after excellent work from Biereth. Kieron Bowie’s near post drive was kept out by Lucas Bergstrom, before Chelsea ramped up the pressure again and Alex Borto produced an excellent save from Haigh to preserve Fulham’s lead.

Biereth almost fashioned a second for the away side after some more silky skills took him away from a couple of Chelsea tacklers. His cross was smuggled away from the onrushing Pajaziti but the clearance fell kindly from Stansfield, who was disappointed not to hit the target. Fortunately, that miss was not to prove too costly. Biereth breezed through the middle of the Chelsea defence and kept his cool as he went through on goal, rolling home his 21st league goal of the campaign to give the young Whites real breathing space.

Any doubt about the destination of the title was extinguished when Biereth burst away on the break again and supplied a low cross for substitute Luke Harris to drive home at the near post. Winning back-to-back league titles in such an impressive manner speaks volumes about the quality of Fulham’s academy under Huw Jennings and several of these young starlets should stand a great chance of progressing into the senior set-up when the Championship campaign gets underway in August.

FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-3-3): Borto; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes (Williams 83), Bowat, Odutayo; Dibley-Dias, O’Neill, Pajaziti; Bowie (Harris 62), Biereth, Stansfield (Lanquedoc 76). Subs (not used): Trialist, Sanderson.

GOALS: Stansfield (21), Biereth (66), Harris (73).

Fulham U18s hit Foxes for eight

A brilliant hat-trick from Mika Biereth fired Fulham’s under 18s to an astonishing 8-0 win at Leicester City and kept the youngsters’ hopes of defending their Premier League title alive.

Steve Wigley’s side had the chance to go ahead inside the very first minute for the second week running. Where Kieron Bowie converted after just sixteen seconds against Reading, the Scottish forward was foiled by an excellent reaction save by Leicester goalkeeper Chituru Odunze after an incisive through ball from Mika Biereth.

The visitors made the breakthrough in the twelve minute thanks to a fine solo striker from skipper Ollie O’Neill. The Irish youth international slalomed away from several Foxes defenders before sliding a measured under Odunze from an acute angle. It was almost two shortly afterwards when Biereth rounded the goalkeeper and saw his shot scrambled off the goalline, with the referee waving away Fulham appeals for handball.

Luke Harris went close to doubling the lead when he headed Luciano D’Auria-Henry’s cross against the woodwork, but any frustration was shortlived. Wigley’s charges earned some further breathing space when Adrion Pajziti picked out Biereth and the eighteen year-old fired his tenth league goal of the campaign into the bottom corner. Biereth turned provider for Fulham’s third nine minutes before the break – supplying an inch-perfect cross that left Bowie with the simplest of finishes from close range.

It might have been worse for Leicester but for a couple of outstanding saves from Odunze, who punched away a drive from Biereth and tipping away another Bowie effort before half-time. Biereth doubled his tally after skipping away from the goalkeeper five minutes after the interval before laying another one for Bowie shortly afterwards.

Harris got himself on the scoresheet, poaching the Fulham’s sixth from a yard out after Odunze had kept out Bowie’s initial attempt. Substitute Olly Sandersen added a seventh shortly after being introduced from the bench forcing home after Biereth had headed a ball back across the face of goal. Fittingly, Biereth finished off the scoring by completing his hat-trick, rounding the goalkeeper and beating a covering defender to score after being released by a brilliant through pass from Matt Dibley-Dias.

Crystal Palace remain top of the table after recording their own emphatic win on the south coast – beating Brighton 5-1. But Fulham are three points behind the Eagles with a game in hand, and a far superior goal difference. The young Whites finish their season with two away games – at Norwich next Saturday afternoon and then against Chelsea on May 15th.

FULHAM U18s: Borto; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes, Bowat (Williams 66), Odutayo; Dibley-Dias, Harris, O’Neill; Bowie (Sanderson 71), Pajaziti (Okkas 77), Biereth. Subs (not used): Roberts, Lanquedoc.

Bowie brace fires five-star Fulham U18s back to summit

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.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Borto; Parkes, Bowat, Williams, Odutayo; Dibley-Dias, Harris (Sanderson 85’), O’Neill; Olakigbe (Lanquedoc 66), Stansfield, Bowie. Subs (not used): Antonsson, Okkas, Caton.