Match report by Mark Harrison
George Williams scored twice for Fulham’s under 23s as Peter Grant’s side drew an absorbing PL2 game with Reading tonight at Craven Cottage and extended their unbeaten run to eight games.
The Welsh under-21 international opened the scoring just before half-time, driving in a cross from Jordan Graham to give the home side the lead. Romanian winger Adrian Popa levelled matters in the 61st minute with a magnificent long-range strike and, although Williams grabbed his second when he finished off a fine Fulham counter-attack with an expertly taken finish four minutes later, the points were shared when Popa popped up again to guide a finish under Magnus Norman after excellent approach play with twenty minutes to play.
The result leaves the Royals top of the Premier League 2 Divison Two by a single point, although they have played two more games than second-placed Middlesbrough. Fulham could consider themselves unfortunate not to have claimed all three points having created the clearer chances throughout but Grant will have to be satisfied after his side more than matched opponents who have promotion ambitions of their own in a game that swung from end to end as it went on.
Fulham began brightly at the Cottage and saw two early penalty shouts waved away by the referee before a couple of precise Graham crosses were scrambled away by the visiting defence. The Whites had two decent chances in the space of sixty seconds midway through the first half when Williams threaded a lovely through ball for Djed Spence but the full back was denied by an excellent save from George Legg and the Reading goalkeeper than clawed away Graham’s strike from the bottom right hand corner.
The lively Ben House then saw a shot drift just wide of goal after taking a deflection off Moritz Jenz and the Reading striker thought he had opened the scoring from close range three minutes before the break but Spence cleared his effort off the line. Fulham made the most of that reprieve to go in front in the last minute of normal time when Graham’s dangerous cross was fired in by Williams – and, on the balance of play, it was a lead the home side deserved.
The Royals came close to equalising seven minutes into the second half when defender Gabriel Osho almost found the net with an audacious curling effort from distance after Fulham had only half cleared a corner and Djed Spence blocked a speculative shot. The visitors began to pile the pressure on the Fulham goal with Norman making an excellent reaction save to prevent an own goal from Aron Davies, but Popa eventually got their merited equaliser with an unstoppable effort from distance.
Fulham went back in front four minutes later after Mattias Kait led a quick counter attack and carried the ball deep into Reading territory. The Estonian international used Graham’s intelligent run as a decoy, creating the space for Williams to collect the pass and fire in his second through two Royals defenders and in off the far post to restore Fulham’s lead.
The Whites couldn’t hold on for the victory, however, as a flowing Reading move saw Popa played in following a succession of patient passes and Popa, who like Williams appeared at Euro 2016 for his country, kept his cool to slip a finish under Norman and equalise for a second time. The visitors mounted a late bid to snatch all three points with the Fulham keeper doing well to dart off his line and deny House before Icelandic defender Axel Andresson headed over the bar from a corner in the fourth minute of added time.
FULHAM U23s: Norman, Nabay, Spence, Davies, Jenz, Francois, Kait (Elstone 82), Francois, Kwietniewski (Andrason 83), Williams, Thorsteinsson (Pearce 53), Graham. Subs (not used): Wickens, Elstone.
GOALS: Williams (45, 65).
READING U23s: Legg, Watson (Howe 45), Osho, Andrésson, Medford-Smith, East, Rollinson, Frost (Coleman 67), House, Shokunbi, Popa (Green 87). Subs (not used): Driscoll, Nditi.
GOALS: Popa (61, 70).
A surfeit of potential suitors are plotting summer moves for Fulham winger George Williams, according to a report on Here Is The City this afternoon. Burton Albion, Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle are believed to among the leading contenders to sign the Welsh international winger.
HITC cites sources close to Fulham as suggesting that Williams, who enjoyed a promising initial run in the Fulham first team under Kit Symons back in 2014, may move on loan again next season as, despite being highly rated by the Motspur Park coaching staff, he has fallen quite a way down Slavisa Jokanovic’s pecking order as the Serbian head coach plans the club’s play-off bid. The 21 year-old will hope that any further loan will be more successful than this season’s experience at one of his former clubs – with his deal at MK Dons terminated early due to a lack of first team football.
Williams, who has been in startling form for Fulham’s under 23s since returning to Craven Cottage in January, might well consider a permanent exit from west London as he begins the final year of his contract with the Championship club. The left winger, who has won seven caps for Wales, has made 15 league appearances for the Whites and started very impressively in Fulham colours when he was promoted to the first team squad once Kit Symons had taken over from Felix Magath. Williams has found his first-team opportunities limited since Jokanovic began to revamp the squad last January and will likely conclude that he will need to move on soon if he wishes to prolong a burgeoning international career that has already seen him be part of the Welsh Euro 2016 squad.
Sheffield United are in pole position to take Welsh international winger George Williams on loan from Fulham for the second half of the season, according to a report from Here Is The City this afternoon.
The Championship club have already cut short Williams’ loan spell at MK Dons after the League One outfit had decided not to utilise the 21 year-old in recent weeks. Williams has started just seven games since joining MK Dons earlier in the season and made only seven further appearances off the bench – and the club, who had initially nurtured his talent before selling Williams to Fulham in 2012. were reportedly in conflict with the player about his decision to join up with Chris Coleman’s squad for international duty in November.
Fulham are eager to give a player they still rate highly regular game time and were always planning to find a more appropriate place for Williams to gain further first-team experience in January. Sheffield United had shown an interest in the winger earlier in the season and Blades boss Chris Wilder views the Welsh wide man as a key acquisition as United look to sustain their promotion push that saw them climb to the top of League One yesterday afternoon.
The 5ft 10in winger was part of the Fulham Under 18 side that reached the FA Youth Cup final in 2014 and made his senior debut for the Whites against Millwall in August 2014, before breaking into the first team under Kit Symons. Williams has made 17 senior appearances for Fulham and also enjoyed a successful loan spell with Gillingham last year.
MK Dons have resigned Wales international and former academy star George Williams on a season-long loan deal from Fulham.
This will be the attacker’s third spell with the Milton Keynes club, having also spent time on loan at stadiummk from his parent club during the 2014/15 promotion-winning campaign.
Williams, 20, arrives on a high after being part of the Wales squad that made history by reaching the final four of Euro 2016 this summer.
He is fondly remembered for scoring on his Dons debut in the 6-0 FA Cup victory over Nantwich Town in November 2011 which, at the age of 16 and two months, made him the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer – a title he still holds to this day.
Williams said: “I’m really excited to be back and I just can’t wait to get started again now.
“I want to push on, have a really good season and I’m pleased to be doing that at MK Dons. When I found out I was going to be out on loan, MK Dons was the place I wanted to be – it was an easy decision.”
Dons boss Karl Robinson, who handed Williams that debut four years ago, added: “We’ve been following George’s progress, like we always have, since he left the club at 16.
“He’s our youngest ever goalscorer and he was very good in the games he played in during his last loan spell two seasons ago.
“Unfortunately that was cut short by injury – something which hit me very hard and was one of my toughest days as a manager. He returns, though, on the back of a really positive summer with Wales – he’s on a high, he’s from here and we all know what he’ll bring.
“The only problem now is we’ve got two George Williams’! I’m going to have to call them ‘Welsh George’ and ‘English George’!
“Joking aside, we are thrilled to bring him back – he’ll add a lot of quality and can play in a variety of positions. I’m really looking forward to working with him again, as is everyone else at the football club.
“This is an important time in his career and he knows that – I’ll back him as I have tremendous faith in him.”
Fulham winger George Williams has joined Gillingham on loan for the rest of the season.
The Welsh international enjoyed an excellent breakthrough campaign under Kit Symons last year but has made a single substitute appearance this term. He won his sixth cap for his country against Holland last November but, after suffering injuries that disrupted his attempts to force his way into the Fulham side, Slavisa Jokanovic allowed him to leave on loan to build up his match sharpness.
Gills manager Justin Edinburgh said: “We have been looking to add to our attacking options for a while and he fits the bill perfectly. He has experience of league and international football and I have no doubt he will offer our forward line something different between now and the end of the season.”
Williams has been with Championship side Fulham since the summer of 2012, when he moved from hometown club MK Dons. His goal for the Dons in the FA Cup, at the age of 16 years, two months and five days, made him the youngest goalscorer in the competition beyond the qualifying rounds.
Williams – who qualifies for Welsh international football through his mother – helped Fulham to the FA Youth Cup final in 2013, losing out to Chelsea on aggregate. He became a regular in the Fulham first team squad last season, making his debut against Millwall in August 2014, before spending a brief spell back on loan at MK Dons but a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament put him out of action for six months.