REPORT: TOWN 1-4 FULHAMHaving taken the lead, a lack of concentration from Town’s players was severely punished by a rampant Fulham side as David Wagner’s side was comprehensively beaten at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The search for an elusive win over the Cottagers continued for the Terriers, despite an excellent start being capped by Chris Löwe’s second goal in England; an excellently taken penalty.
After that, Fulham hit back hard and scored four goals without reply to effectively put the game to bed by half-time.
The half started so well for the Terriers, who won the penalty inside four minutes.
A superb cross-field pass from Michael Hefele found the head of Rajiv van La Parra, who nodded the ball into the path of the charging Löwe. The German took a touch to enter the penalty area before being tripped from behind by winger Floyd Ayité, with referee Andy Davies showing no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
As Aaron Mooy had missed Town’s most recent spot-kick against Fulham, responsibility fell to Löwe – and he made no mistake in smashing the ball past Marcus Bettinelli’s dive and into the corner to give his side the lead.
The away side responded well to Town’s high-energy start, passing the ball calmly and with purpose in the face of an aggressive Town press. The away side’s left-hand combination of Scott Malone and Ryan Sessegnon was particularly potent, with Joe Lolley struggling to contain left back Malone’s runs forward.
The Terriers received a warning of what was to come in the 14th minute. Schindler did excellently to clear Malone’s dangerous cross, but Fulham kept the attack alive and midfielder Stefan Johansen skipped past Lolley before pulling back to Sessegnon, who swept a good first-time effort just over the crossbar.
Fulham took charge as soon as the 16th minute equaliser went in, although the Terriers uncharacteristically contributed through some careless errors.
The first Fulham goal stemmed from a Schindler slip; gifting the away side possession on the Town left. Although Hefele made an interception as the ball was played into the middle, the ball ricocheted into the path of Malone and he finished well from a very narrow angle.
Town had the next chance as Schindler flicked a header wide from Mooy’s free-kick into the penalty area, but the Cottagers were soon ahead through a penalty of their own.
When van La Parra and Löwe left a defensive header to each other, Ayité took the ball and drive towards the penalty area. As he slowed, Jonathan Hogg tried to nick the ball from behind and only succeeded in tripping the winger.
Tom Cairney stepped up and made no mistake, sending Danny Ward the wrong way from 12 yards to put his side ahead.
Town still carried an attacking threat, with Sessegnon getting back to make a vital interception as Smith latched onto a superb Mooy pass inside the Fulham area, but it was the away side making the advances at this stage. Right back Ryan Fredericks soon got forward to find Ayité with a cross that was volleyed into Ward’s waiting eyes.
Cairney curled wide soon after before Fulham netted a 36th minute goal to extend the lead. The pitch opened up after Aluko beat Hefele on the far right; his combined with Cairney to find Sessegnon on the edge of the box and when his shot was blocked, the ball ran to Johansen who controlled and finished.
Van La Parra spurned a very presentable chance with five minutes of the half remaining, volleying high into the crowd from 15 yards out after Billing headed a deep Löwe cross back into his path.
Chelsea loanee Tomáš Kalas then did excellently to get in front of Quaner to divert Smith’s dangerous low cross dead.
Sadly, the game was settled in the final minute when Fulham’s fourth followed. Schindler supplied a poor pass to Hogg, who gave up possession to Johansen under pressure. The Norwegian raced clear into the area and comprehensively beat the advancing Ward to net his second of the game.
Town regrouped in the interval and kept a clean sheet in the second-half, but equally couldn’t find a goal to make the tie interesting.
Chances were created. As early as the 53rd minute, Mooy won the ball back off McDonald and a combination of Billing’s subsequent blocked shot and Lolley’s pass found van La Parra in space 20 yards out. The Dutchman was unlucky to see his excellent curling effort fly inches wide of the far post.
Equally, Fulham still carried a big threat, getting great numbers forward when attacking. Cairney’s through ball soon bewildered Hefele and put Sessegnon clear, but on this occasion Ward sprang from his line sharply and produced an excellent low save.
One of the few positives for Wagner was time on the pitch for Izzy Brown and Sean Scannell after injury lay-offs; both were introduced before the hour mark.
Brown in particular was lively; his 63rd minute run and pass gave Mooy a chance to shoot, but the Australian pulled his effort wide from outside the area.
The game petered out as Town enjoyed the majority of possession without seriously testing Betinnelli, barring two efforts from Man of the Match Quaner. He collected an errant bit of chest control from Kalas before entering the area and being denied by an excellent save before seeing an injury time effort blocked wide after an excellent, athletic run.
At the other end, the impressive Malone – left back in the Sky Bet Championship Team of the Year – pulled a shot wide on his weaker right foot.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith (c); Philip Billing (Isaiah Brown, 54’), Jonathan Hogg; Rajiv van La Parra, Aaron Mooy, Joe Lolley (Sean Scannell, 54’); Collin Quaner
Joel Coleman, Dean Whitehead, Mark Hudson, Martin Cranie, Nahki Wells
Philip Billing (27’)