Fulham’s Under-18s were still left in a good position to claim the Barclays Under-18 Elite Group title despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Manchester United on Tuesday night.
Steve Wigley's young charges are now three points clear of Reading in second – the Royals play Crystal Palace on Wednesday night when they can close the gap – with one more game left to play next weekend. A win and top spot in the Elite Group, and the number one seeding for the Play-Offs, is theirs as they are currently well ahead on goal difference.
Fulham started on the front foot as a tricky run from Patrick Roberts in the first minute found Muamer Tankovic in the box and the Swede’s powerful shot flew just over the bar.
United started to get into their passing rhythm and a bursting run from James Weir was well cut out by Stephen Arthurworrey as he charged down the right. The centre-back was at it again shortly after as he blocked a long shot from the busy United number 10, Andreas Pereira.
The Whites, though, continued to threaten and, on the counter, Lyle Della Verde’s cross just avoided Cauley Woodrow in the box, before Roberts’ effort from the rebound ended in a similar way.
Pereira continued to cause problems for the Fulham defence and fizzed a long range shot over the bar, but the Whites maintained control and some nice passing outside the box resulted in Tankovic’s near post cross being cleared. A free-kick from Emerson Hyndman then saw Jordan Sutherland tested for the first time as Roberts glanced a header into his hands.
A great burst from Solomon Sambou saw the best chance of the game to date as he linked well with Tankovic before feeding Woodrow down the right. The English striker crashed his shot off the post from a tight angle and Tankovic’s effort from the rebound was brilliantly parried away by Sutherland.
Josh Passley then went on a mazy run but lost control under pressure just before he was able to get his shot off. The right-back again caused issues for the United defence down the wing and a pinpoint cross saw Woodrow volley over the bar. Indeed, the flanks were being worked as Tom Richards then floated one in, but United closed ranks.
Then they were nearly in front. James Weir hammered a low shot which was parried by Marek Rodak and Jack Barmby (son of former England international Nicky) put the rebound home, before being flagged offside by the assistant. Moments later, Pereira almost tricked his way through but found the way to goal blocked and Donald Love’s long range effort was tipped neatly around the post by Rodak.
The Whites changed things during the break as Della Verde made way for Moussa Dembele and were almost in front inside the first five minutes of the restart as Passley was put through down the right and his cross fizzed across the six-yard box, just in front of waiting Woodrow.
Up the other end, Rodak and Arthurworrey closed the door on Pereira as he chased a flicked ball into the box and Daehli brought a sharp save from the goalkeeper shortly after as he was let free to run down the left.
United were well in control and the Norwegian was proving dangerous as his ball in found Barmby, before he then forced a block from Passley after cutting inside. Rodak was then called into action again as a shot from Jack Rudge saw him parry at his near post.
Fulham kept pushing and Richards almost capitalised on an error from Love, but his shot was deflected wide. Liam Donnelly even got his head on the resulting corner, but it flew over the bar. A slick passing move then saw Dembele free in the box, with the ball deflected back to Roberts who drew a save out of Sutherland at his near post.
A good spell of pressure from the Whites drew a reaction from United and Pereira’s flick found Weir who saw his shot blocked by Arthurworrey. But then some silky skills from Tankovic carved an opening and his curling effort dipped just over the bar.
The Swede had another chance as the game entered the final 10 minutes: Woodrow and Dembele linked well and the ball fell to Tankovic who cut inside and forced Sutherland into a fine save. Then good work from Roberts on the left saw a floated ball in to Dembele, but the striker dwelt on the knockdown and was closed down.
Woodrow then did some closing down of his own as he chased down Sutherland’s clearance and it deflected agonisingly wide of the post. In the final minute, a break saw Woodrow get one final chance to seal the win but the striker’s well struck shot cannoned off the bar.
Fulham: Marek Rodak, Josh Passley, Tom Richards, Liam Donnelly, Stephen Arthurworrey; Solomon Sambou, Patrick Roberts, Emerson Hyndman, Muamer Tankovic, Lyle Della Verde (’45), Cauley Woodrow. Subs: Max Oberschmidt, Cameron Burgess, Daniel O’Reilly, Noe Baba, Moussa Dembele (’45).
Man Utd: Jonathan Sutherland, Donald Love (‘78), Nicholas Ioannou, Patrick McNair, Liam Grimshaw, Ben Pearson, James Weir, Jack Rudge, Jack Barmby (’82), Andreas Pereira, Mats Daehli. Subs: Callum Evans, Kieran O’Hara, James Wilson (‘78), Sam Byrne (’82), Louis Rowley.