FULHAM 3 TOWN 1
Town fell to defeat in the first visit to Craven Cottage for 14 years, with a killer second goal costing the team after they had worked hard to get back on level terms.
After an individual error gave Hugo Rodallega a first-half goal, Town worked hard to get back on level terms through Joel Lynch. However, instead of pushing for a late winner, they allowed the hosts to retake the lead inside 60 seconds before conceding a late third.
Chris Powell made two changes to his starting XI, switching to a 4-3-3 formation and leaving out Nahki Wells to accommodate a third central midfielder in fit-again Jonathan Hogg. The other change was a straight switch at left back; Paul Dixon replacing Jack Robinson.
The Terriers were the first to threaten when Holt headed Butterfield’s fourth minute corner wide of target, but Fulham hit straight back as dangerous winger George Williams’ deflected drive was held by Alex Smithies.
Mark Hudson, who started his career as a trainee at Fulham, then went very close to netting against his old club. He headed Dixon’s deep corner towards goal, only for the man on the post – right back Elsad Zverotic – to hack the ball off the line.
The lively Harry Bunn then had a penalty claim turned down after turning Zverotic and dribbling into the penalty area before Fulham ‘keeper Marcus Bettinelli spilled Jacob Butterfield’s long range drive, only to gather at the second attempt.
A massive chance then fell to the in-form Bunn, but Town’s second top scorer uncharacteristically spurned it. Bunn used his strength to turn and bundle his way past the last defender in the centre of the pitch but as he tried to deceive Bettinelli by opening his body up and reversing a shot inside the near post, he placed the ball just wide of target.
Town were made to pay two minutes later as the hosts opened the scoring. The goal originated from a rare error from Hudson, who tried to chest a ball down with former Leeds man Ross McCormack nearby. McCormack robbed the ball and advanced down the Town right before slipping a pass into the feet of striker Hugo Rodallega inside the area, who calmly placed the ball past Smithies and inside the far post.
Powell’s side continued to enjoy the majority of possession after the setback, but the former Premier League side was very dangerous on the break. Williams almost capitalised on one such speedy counter-attack just after the half hour, but after receiving a pass inside the area he clipped his effort just wide of target.
Town’s final ball was lacking despite some decent passages of play and Bettinelli wasn’t properly worked, whilst at the other end the Terriers had a big let-off in first-half added time as Rodallega headed a cross from Williams over at full stretch.
The visitors came out for the second half in bright fashion, with Butterfield sending a free-kick into the outside of the side netting after being tripped on the edge of the box. At the other end, though, Smithies had to be alert to push away a smart curling effort from Rodallega.
Jonathan Hogg soon flicked Dixon’s low near post cross wide of target before Bunn’s cross-come-shot was cleared from danger by left back Konstantinos Stafylidis.
Grant Holt then missed a great opportunity, volleying over from Dixon’s excellent set-piece delivery into the area.
Eventually Town got the goal their play deserved with 14 minutes to go. Substitute Nahki Wells was fouled down the right and from the resulting free-kick, Dixon’s excellent delivery was met by the head of Joel Lynch. It was the Wales international’s sixth for the Club – but his first on the road.
Unfortunately, Town were behind once again inside a minute. As the ball was sent into the Town area, Danish midfielder Lasse Vigen Christensen wriggled clear and cleverly lifted the ball over the advancing Alex Smithies.
Chris Powell’s side will have been hoping for another equaliser, but the game was effectively put to bed when McCormack took aim from just over 20 yards out and smashed a pile-driver past Smithies’ right side for his first on home soil.
Town’s team (4-3-3):
Alex Smithies; Paul Dixon (Danny Ward, 83), Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson, Tommy Smith; Jacob Butterfield, Conor Coady, Jonathan Hogg (Nahki Wells, 70); Harry Bunn, Grant Holt, Sean Scannell
Joe Murphy, Murray Wallace, Jack Robinson, Lee Peltier, Diego Poyet