Fulham’s young charges were denied a win in their final game of the Barclays U-21 Premier League season as they were held 2-2 by Sunderland at Craven Cottage on Friday night.
The Whites, unable to win the title and place in the Play-Offs that ended up in Everton’s hands, can still finish second in the Group One table – with Aston Villa playing the Toffees on Monday – as an own goal and a Chris David penalty were pegged back by Ryan Noble’s effort and a wonder strike in the last minute by Alex Gorrin.
Fulham started brightly and had a good chance early on as David chipped the ball back in to Jack Grimmer after an Omri Altman free-kick had hit the wall. The cross was good, but Dino Islamovic strayed just offside as it arrived.
Sunderland almost broke through after a flowing move ended with Gorrin sneaking in from a tight angle, but goalkeeper Jesse Joronen did just enough to put him off when diving at his feet to force a corner.
Up the other end, Altman released Williams down the right and his cross found Islamovic in the box. The Sweden striker was surrounded by defenders but did well to chest the ball down and hammer in a shot that was deflected over the bar. The Altman/Williams combination was at it again a few minutes later, but Williams’ shot was straight at Jordan Pickford in the Sunderland net.
Billy Knott forced a good save from Joronen as Sunderland continued to find their best attacks on the counter, but it was Fulham who had the better of the first half and they broke the deadlock on 18 minutes as a fine cross from Kavanagh was turned into his own net by defender Tom Beadling.
Fulham then had a great chance to double their lead after a great passing move between Kavanagh and Charles Banya ended with Altman being tripped as he burst into the box, but the Israeli’s 21st-minute penalty was turned around the post well by Pickford.
Hearts were in Fulham mouths just seconds later as a long heave up the pitch saw Noble beat Joronen to the ball just outside the box. The Finland goalkeeper escaped with a yellow card as he took out the striker just outside the box and the resulting free-kick was wasted by the opposition.
Sunderland wasted another couple of chances to go level before the half as Liam Marrs slotted a ball through to Noble who beat the offside trap, but saw his tame shot easily held by Joronen. Then Knott found himself through on goal again, only to fire well over the bar.
After the break, a wonderful crossfield effort found Kavanagh free again on the left but the ball in just evaded Islamovic before he could get his head to it. Then Fulham found themselves on the backfoot and a cross in found Noble in the box – the Sunderland striker turned and curled it over Joronen and into the net for a 62n-minute equaliser.
Sunderland piled on the pressure and Jordan Laidler fizzed a shot past the post from 25 yards; then it was Fulham’s turn to get forward as David then Grimmer had shots blocked.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Fulham snatched the lead. A ball in from the corner was cleared high into the air and as Pickford raced out to chase it he clattered into Williams. David stepped up to place the penalty into the left corner and the Whites were in front again.
But they had Joronen to thank for keeping them there. A ball in found Mikael Mandron free in the area on 80 minutes and his header was tipped expertly onto the bar. Fulham held firm and Noble’s shot was well held at the near post by Joronen. David had one more chance to add to the Fulham lead as his curled effort flew just wide, but there was nothing that the boys could do as Gorrin hammered an effort from 35 yards into the top corner to snatch a last-minute draw.