Fulham returned to winning ways with a complete 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic on Friday night.
A Joe Bryan goal just after the start of the second set us on our way before Tom Cairney rifled home to seal the victory in the 82nd minute.
Scott Parker made one change from the side that was denied victory late on a week ago in Sheffield. Stefan Johansen, returned to the starting XI in place of Bobby Decordova Reid to play alongside Tom Cairney & Harrison Reed in the middle of the Fulham midfield.
It had been a putrid few days in the capital weather wise but as the referee got the match up and running under the Cottage lights the skies were clear, albeit with a stiff breeze whipping off the Thames.
It was the visitors who started the brightest. Confident in possession and looking to exploit the flanks the first chance fell to the feet of Nathan Byrne. A clever run in behind the Fulham back line saw him unmarked in the box. After taking a touch he tried to fire home at the near post with a left-footed effort. However, Marcus Bettinelli was on hand to snuff out the danger.
After the positive start from the visitors it was Fulham who began enjoying the lion’s share of possession and in 19th minute after some slick build-up we earned a corner. From the resulting set piece Joe Bryan swung in a dangerous ball to the near post which Alfie Mawson looked to direct on target. However, his effort went over the bar.
The momentum continued to shift and in the 28th minute a lovely flick from Johansen in the middle of the park initiated a Fulham counter attack. With bodies surging forward Cairney slipped a neat pass into the path of Reed who unleashed a strong right-footed effort. Despite it possessing plenty of power the shot lacked precision and the keeper gathered with ease.
With time ticking down in the first half with very little incision from either side the next clear chance fell to Mitro. After some dangerous balls into the box a poor clearance was latched upon by Johansen. Seeing the Serbian striker making a run to the front post he swung in a nice ball to the chest of the powerful striker. After controlling he put an effort on target which again lacked power and was saved.
Minutes later the deadlock was almost broken once again. Cairney, dictating the play far more than in the opening quarter slipped a neat ball into the box and directly into the path of Anthony Knockaert. With David Marshall rushing off his line the winger looked to power one past the keeper, but the experienced Scot stood tall and parried the effort behind.
With five minutes remaining in the half Knockaert turned provider and sent a teasing ball into the box, behind the flat-footed Wigan back line. Stealing a march on the opposition Mitro looked to hook it in with his left foot. His effort went agonisingly over the bar as Marshall watched on.
It wasn’t to be and the first half played out without any further events.
The second half in the perfect fashion to put the frustrations of the first half behind us. A lofted free kick was swung into the area by Knockaert. A clearance fell to the feet of Bryan just inside the area. Without hesitation he looked to fire home with his favoured left foot. His shot was blocked but once again fell kindly for him. This time he looked to rifle home with his right foot and the ball flew into the bottom corner. A just reward for a player who had been in fine form in recent weeks.
Fulham sensed blood in the water and looked to build on their lead. However, the next major incident occurred in the 57th minute. A rush of blood to the head from Reed after a sturdy challenge on Bettinelli in the box saw the tidy midfielder push over a Wigan player following the foul. Thankfully he only received a yellow card and Betts carried on unscathed.
After the fracas it was another clinical Fulham counter which almost saw the lead doubled. Johansen again produced a superb flick to free Cavaleiro in the middle of the pitch. Without hesitation the Portuguese winger fired a quick ball to the feet of Bryan. In turn the goal scorer played a free Kncoakert in down the left wing. The tricky winger beat his man with ease and lashed an effort on target. Marshall once again stood tall and parried it clear.
The tired legs of the visitors began to show and in the 82nd minute the match was put beyond doubt. Another flowing counter led by Knockaert resulted in the skipper Cairney producing another sensational goal. Receiving the ball just outside the Wigan box, TC picked out the top right hand corner with a sublime left-footed strike.
With victory assured both teams sat back and the math ran its course. We are back in action Tuesday night away at Reading.