Fulham's Reserves recorded a comfortable victory over Stoke City at Motspur Park on Tuesday night with goals from Giles Barnes (2) and Erik Nevland.
It was another impressive run-out from Billy McKinlay’s team of experienced First Team squad players and promising Academy hopefuls and was the Whites’ sixth win in seven games; form that should cement a top three league finish come the season’s end.
Both teams started brightly with Fulham moving the ball well, while City’s power and aggression looked to upset the early balance.
Chris Smalling did well to deny Jimmy Phillips from crossing from the left with Stoke on the attack, while Barnes drew a fabulous stop from Tom Harrison with a stinging 25-yard free-kick for the best of the early chances.
And it was the on-loan Derby schemer who broke the deadlock after 13 minutes when he found himself on the end of Julian Gray’s teasing through ball and in holding off both Ashley Page and Andy Davies, the 20-year-old poked the ball over a committed Harrison.
Barnes returned the favour moments later following a flowing move down the right, but Gray’s back post header could unfortunately only find the arms of Harrison.
Nevland then drew a smart stop from the City ‘keeper with the Norwegian striker ghosting onto Chris Baird’s quick-thinking free-kick, but his clever angled effort was somehow stopped from crossing the line.
As the Whites’ confidence grew further, Barnes threatened with a second following another powerful drive, but he again found Harrison more than a match in the City goal.
It was Barnes who doubled Fulham's lead just after the half hour mark, pouncing on another well-placed pass and rolling the ball home with a confident finish.
Louis Moult gave the visitors hope five minutes into the second-half, showing cultured assurance to get the ball down and beat Pascal Zuberbuhler from a tight angle.
But Fulham responded almost immediately with a good Nevland volley working Harrison’s goalmouth awareness. However, it was Stoke that had the momentum with Nathaniel Wedderburn and Tom Soares imposing themselves on the Whites’ midfield, while Mourt looked to add to his tally with a couple of intelligent touches.
Fulham did well to weather the storm, with Baird and Alex Smith both making a number of timely interventions while Italian youngster Karim Laribi added some much needed composure.
And the Whites were rewarded on 64 minutes when Nevland robbed McDonald on the edge of the box, and made no mistake with an ice-cool side-footed finish.
With the visitors running out of steam, Fulham saw out the remainder of the half with relative ease. Laribi almost added a fourth following a surging run and strike, while Matthew Saunders fired over with a minute left on the clock.
Unbeaten in their last 10 matches, McKinlay’s side now play their final game of the season next Monday, when they travel to league leaders and current Barclays Premier Reserve League South champions, Aston Villa (kick-off 7pm).
Fulham Reserves: Zuberbühler; Stoor, Smith, Baird, Smalling; Saunders, Gray, Harris, Gera (Laribi 33); Barnes (Hoesen 84); Nevland (Uwezu 64).
Subs not used: Foderingham, Moscatiello.
Stoke City Reserves: Harrison; Griffin, Vauls, Page (McDonald 45), Davies; Soares, Phillips, Wedderburn, Grocutt; Urwin, Moult (Connor 80).
Subs not used: Parton, Nicholls.