Fulham 3-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 8th Apr 2017 17:10
Goals from Floyd Ayité, Scott Malone and Stefan Johansen saw Fulham to a 3-1 victory over the Blues at Craven Cottage, Christophe Berra heading a late consolation for the Blues. Ayité netted in the 17th minute and Malone doubled the margin on the half hour before Town missed a number of good chances to pull a goal back prior to Johansen sealing it with the home side’s third on 61.
Tommy Smith replaced the injured Steven Taylor in an otherwise unchanged Town side with 11-goal top scorer Tom Lawrence back on the bench having recovered from his groin injury.
The Blues lined-up in their familiar 3-5-2 system with Smith taking over from Taylor, who is out for the season with a hamstring problem, in the back three.
Fulham dropped their recent regular keeper David Button with Marcus Bettinelli starting between the sticks.
The home side threatened first, winning a second-minute corner which skipper Luke Chambers headed clear, however, the ball subsequently reached Ayité at a tight angle on the right from where he hit a low shot but Bialkowski saved at his near post.
Two minutes later, Johansen hit a low shot from distance which the Blues’ Polish keeper dealt with comfortably.
Following a fifth-minute right-sided corner, McGoldrick brought the ball back in from the left and hit a shot straight at Bettinelli.
On 10 Chris Martin crossed from the Fulham left and Ayité struck a shot which was blocked by any one of a number of Town defenders who were charging him down. The Cottagers continued to press and Ryan Fredericks crossed from the right and Jordan Spence turned behind at the far post.
A minute later at the other end McGoldrick charged down a Bettinelli clearance but screwed his shot well wide.
However, Fulham, so impressive as they won 2-0 at Portman Road on Boxing Day, were starting to get their passing going and were beginning to create chances and on 15 Martin bundled wide at the near post from another Fredericks cross when the former Norwich man will feel he should have scored.
But the Craven Cottage crowd didn’t have to wait too much longer for a goal. Fredericks crossed from the right, Martin hit a low shot which Bialkowski did well to save down to his right but was only able to push into the path of Ayité, who followed up to net from close range.
Town looked to get straight back on terms but Grant Ward was only able to head Freddie Sears’s cross from the left into the arms of Bettinelli.
Sears caused another moment of panic in the Fulham defence in the 21st minute when he out-muscled Michael Madl on the right of the area but the ball ran through to Bettinelli.
There was a bigger scare for the Blues within a minute when Bialkowski’s weak kick fell to a Fulham player but fortunately for the Town keeper the home side were unable to make anything of it and he gratefully pounced on it in his area as Toumani Diagouraga saw the ball back to him.
On 28 McGoldrick - with the use of a hand according to Fulham - sent Sears away down the right but the former West Ham man hit his shot into the side-netting.
Two minutes later the Blues found them two goals behind. Following an interchange of passes on the Fulham left after a throw-in Malone broke into the area and confidently passed a low shot into the corner of the net beyond Bialkowski.
On 37 Kevin McDonald was booked for pulling back McGoldrick as the Town number 10 turned away from him midway inside the Fulham half.
Bialkowski was forced into action again two minutes later when McDonald hit a shot from the edge of the box which the Blues’ keeper pushed away from his top corner. Fredericks subsequently hit a scuffed effort into the Town box which was cleared.
A minute before the break, the Blues should have pulled a goal back. Myles Kenlock crossed from the left and after Spence had challenged in the air the loose ball fell to McGoldrick, who worked himself space before stabbing against the outside of the post. The Irish international clearly knew it was a big chance to have spurned.
After Bialkowski had just about held on to a Johansen shot from distance, referee Geoff Eltringham ended a half in which was even enough in the early stages but by the quarter-hour mark the home side had started to find their flow and had been threatening prior to their goals.
Town threatened fleetingly usually through Sears on the break, while McGoldrick had also caused the Cottagers’ backline problems, most notably the late chance before the break which the Blues will almost certainly rue having passed up.
The Blues switched centre-half Smith for top scorer Lawrence as they moved to 4-4-2 ahead of the second half, the Wales international, who is over his groin injury, starting the half on the left of midfield.
Town almost pulled a goal back within a minute of the restart, Kenlock crossed from the left and Sears was unable to get enough on the ball and it flew the wrong side of the post.
Fulham, however, quickly on 49 Fredericks crossed from the byline on the right and Sone Aluko somehow diverted it out for a Town throw well behind the man who had crossed the ball.
The home side kept up the pressure, Bialkowski superbly tipping a looping Ayité freekick behind, then Christophe Berra blocking from Ayité, before Chambers was booked for dissent.
Town had another great chance to pull a goal back in the 55th minute on the counter-attack. McGoldrick held off a number of defenders and cut to Sears to his left. The ex-Colchester man seemed certain to score but Bettinelli was quickly off his line to save with his foot. Another big chance had gone begging.
Within a minute the Blues went close again. This time Sears broke on the right and crossed towards McGoldrick at the far post, but the Irish international was unable to reach the ball.
Fulham sealed their win with a third goal in the 61st minute but not before McGoldrick had struck a powerful shot from the edge of box which Bettinelli had done well to save to his left.
The Cottagers immediately broke and Johansen was found in space on the right of the area and cut inside before hitting a low shot past Bialkowski.
Town’s second half performance hadn’t deserved them falling further behind but they had failed to take their chances while Fulham had been much more clinical with theirs.
Fulham went looking for a fourth, Ayité forcing Bialkowski into a spectacular catch away to his right, then McDonald hit a shot at a defender then Cairney’s follow-up flew wide.
Sub Lawrence threatened for the first time on 66, cutting in from the left but shooting wide. Moments later, Dominic Samuel replaced Emyr Huws, who had one of his quietest afternoons for the Blues.
Ward was next to go close to scoring for Town, the former Spurs man picking up a loose ball midway inside the Fulham half before smashing a shot which deflected off a defender and over.
Fulham sub Tim Ream was booked for pulling back McGoldrick with the Town striker well placed in the 73rd minute.
Despite the game being lost the Blues kept looking for a goal, Lawrence hitting a shot which was blocked, then Sears an effort which was deflected over.
With the Town fans behind the goal calling for manager Mick McCarthy’s exit, having early expressed their frustrations with owner Marcus Evans, Brett Pitman replaced McGoldrick.
As the match moved into three minutes of injury time Malone was booked for a trip on Lawrence.
And from the freekick the Blues finally hit the net, Berra rising highest to nod home the on-loan Leicester man’s ball into the box.
But there was to be no shock late comeback and, after Martin had screwed a shot wide for the home side, referee Eltringham’s whistle confirmed Town’s first defeat at Craven Cottage since Boxing Day 1963.
While Fulham were much the better side over the 90 minutes and thoroughly deserved their victory, the Blues will look back ruefully on a succession missed chances, most notably McGoldrick’s just before half-time and Sears’s second-half chances also at 2-0.
Had one of those opportunities been taken then the game could have been very different with the Blues having improved after the break following the change of system.
Equally, Fulham could have scored more and the Cottagers' third on the break sealed the game as a contest and Berra’s late goal was nothing more than a consolation on another miserable afternoon for Town's travelling support of around 2,500, who again made their frustrations heard during the second half.
Despite the defeat the Blues remain 17th, nine points off the relegation zone with only five left to play. Town visit 20th-placed Burton Albion, who drew 1-1 at home to Aston Villa today, for the first time in a competitive fixture on Friday.
Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Malone, McDonald, Cairney (c), Ayité (Kebano 86), Johansen (Piazon 78), Madl (Ream 57), Aluko, Martin, Kalas. Unused: Button, Parker, Cyriac, Sessegnon.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers (c), Berra, Smith (Lawrence 46), Kenlock, Diagouraga, Ward, Huws (Samuel 66), Sears, McGoldrick (Pitman 86). Unused: Gerken, Emmanuel, Bru, Williams. Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham).
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