REPORT: FULHAM 5-0 TOWNIt was an afternoon to forget for Town at Craven Cottage as hosts Fulham scored five goals without response, with the win largely sealed by a three goal first half.
Like at Preston on the road recently, set piece defending was the early issue, with both of Fulham’s first two goals coming from set plays.
After that, Fulham’s impressive attacking movement undid David Wagner’s side.
Town did create presentable chances on the afternoon, but gave themselves far too much to do.
Piazon should have done better with the first chance of the game, when he ran onto a chip over the top to isolate Mark Hudson. Town’s skipper showed him as wide as he could, but the Chelsea loanee dribbled a tame effort straight at Danny Ward from a presentable position.
Unfortunately, the first goal followed for the team in white inside seven minutes, from a similar position that the Terriers conceded three goals from at Preston North End.
Mooy’s sliding challenge on Tom Cairney gave Norwegian Stefan Johansen the chance to swing the ball in from wide on the Town right and although centre back Ragnar Sigurdsson made a mess of his back-post header, the ball fell kindly to the unmarked Chris Martin, who smashed past Ward.
With the sizeable Town contingent behind Ward’s goal getting audibly frustrated as the referee gave several free kicks, Town struggled to show their playing style against a team that pressed them hard whenever possible.
Despite this, Town still created a couple of very presentable chances in the opening 45. The first came in the 26th minute when good interplay between Palmer and Kachunga on the right freed up space for Aaron Mooy. The Australian’s low delivery across the face of goal was perfect, but right back Ryan Fredericks did excellently to slide the ball dead before Nahki Wells could tap home.
Another decent chance came from the resulting corner. Chris Löwe’s deep delivery found Tommy Smith’s unchecked late run around the back and the right back got a clean header on the ball, only for it to arrow just past the post with goalkeeper David Button motionless.
Piazon tested Ward with a shot from range at the other end just after the half hour before Wells tried his luck from similar range, having dropped deep to collect the ball. His shot was well struck – but straight down Button’s throat.
The Fulham second followed in the 34th minute – from another set piece. This time a mistake in possession from Löwe gifted the home side a corner and although Palmer headed the initial effort clear, left back Scott Malone returned it with interest. Löwe couldn’t sort out his feet to clear at the back post and the ball fell to centre back Tomas Kalas, who gleefully volleyed home from eight yards.
Johansen curled wide from range for Fulham after Bunn failed to properly clear another corner.
The third owed much to great play from Fulham wide man Sone Aluko three minutes from the interval, but from a Town perspective it was all too easy.
The former Hull City man collected a pass on halfway with his back to goal, but cleverly turned past Smith before flicking the ball over Hudson’s outstretched boot to advance down the Fulham left.
That drew Christopher Schindler out and when the German came, Aluko drilled a perfect cross to the back post for Piazon to head past Ward from close range.
Town had a big chance to reduce the arrears in the final minute of normal time. Bunn drove at the heart of the defence from the left before sliding a good pass to Kachunga; ‘Kache’ checked back onto his left before standing a cross up to the penalty spot, where Bunn headed wide of target with the goal at his mercy.
Tom Cairney almost created a Fulham fourth in added time after stepping past Whitehead and Mooy, but his lofted pass over the top for Martin was scrambled clear by Hudson.
Town came out with renewed purpose in the second half and worked ‘keeper Button within 25 seconds; Palmer stinging his palms with an effort from 18 yards out. Wells and Palmer were very lively, with the hosts struggling to escape their half for around seven minutes.
However, a chance came when they did. Fredericks ran clear of Bunn and pulled the ball back to Martin, who sent a side-footed effort over the bar at the near post.
Town kept pressing, with brilliant vocal support in front of them from the Town faithful, and Kalas did very well to head over Kachunga’s volleyed cross from the right under intense pressure from Wells.
Fulham responded, with Cairney collecting Martin’s knockdown before curling just wide on his favoured left foot.
Fulham then won a 62nd minute penalty. Aluko, now on the right, evaded Bunn by playing a sharp one-two and went down under Schindler’s lunging challenge as he entered the penalty area. Ward went the right way, but Martin’s spot-kick was too close to the corner and beat him for the fourth.
The fifth came four minutes later as the home side started to turn on the style. Cairney danced towards the Town area before finding Aluko wide on the right. Löwe’s sliding tackle was in vein as the attacker raced to the dead ball line and his pull back was perfect for midfielder Kevin McDonald to sweep past Ward into the far corner.
Town kept going, with Palmer’s long range blast almost slipping through Button’s hands in the 71st minute, but Aluko looked the most likely to get the game’s sixth goal. He skinned Mark Hudson in the 75th minute before shooting just wide on his right from 25 yards.
Substitute Tim Ream should have scored a sixth with five minutes left after a poor punch from Ward, but the American defender steered his header over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.
Palmer was the unlikely man to get his head on substitute Jack Payne’s final minute corner and his downward header was decent, but too close to the goalkeeper.
The final word must be reserved for the 2,743 Town fans inside Craven Cottage. Even at 5-0 down, it was the Terriers’ contingent that you could hear in South West London; a fact acknowledged by the Town players and technical staff at the final whistle.
Town’s team vs Fulham (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe (Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, 73’), Christopher Schindler, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith (Martin Cranie, 77’); Aaron Mooy, Dean Whitehead (Jack Payne, 61’); Harry Bunn, Kasey Palmer, Elias Kachunga; Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, Rajiv van La Parra, Ivan Paurević, Michael Hefele