Fulham’s Under-21s continued their good form on Monday night – stretching their unbeaten run to 11 games following a 2-1 victory over Everton.
Rene Meulensteen looked on, as Kit Symons’ side secured a late win courtesy of a composed Muamer Tankovic strike, after Jack Grimmer had cancelled out Jonjoe Kenny’s opener.
On a bitterly cold evening at Motspur Park, it was the Whites that started brightest, dominating the early play with Lasse Vigen Christensen and Ronny Minkwitz looking to dictate the momentum from the middle of the park.
George Williams saw a determined run snuffed out by the impressive Kenny, before Ange-Freddy Plumain went close when curling an ambitious effort narrowly over. Williams then saw a strike charged down, while Christensen fired wide with a left-footed shot.
Everton gradually began to settle with Chris Long looking menacing leading the Toffees’ forward line. Matthew Kennedy tried his luck with a powerful free-kick, while Ben McLoughlin almost picked out Long with a teasing delivery.
The visitors finished the half on top, with Jesse Joronen denying Everton the lead on the stroke of half-time, with the Finnish stopper making a stunning stop to deny Kenny.
After the break, Williams went close to breaking the deadlock when he got in behind the opposing defence. But Mason Springthorpe was alert to the Welshman’s low shot.
Fulham went close again moments later, but Stephen Arthurworrey saw his close range effort blocked by Matthew Pennington.
The visitors responded well, and on the hour mark it was Alan Stubbs’ side that made the breakthrough when Kenny rose highest to power in a well-timed header.
Symons introduced talented winger Patrick Roberts, and the 16-year-old’s impact was almost instant when he showed great skill to fire off a stinging drive at the Everton goal. Again, though, Springthorpe was on hand to keep the Whites at bay.
Tankovic fired over a free-kick, while Chris David created half a chance as Fulham continued to press. Their determination was rewarded when Josh Passley whipped in a cross from the right with Grimmer sweeping the ball home with a cool half-volley on 86 minutes.
For all their impressive attacking football and intelligent use of the ball, Symons’ charges have shown character beyond their tender years this term. Evident at the death, with Tankovic holding his nerve to grab a 93rd-minute winner – as Fulham extended their unbeaten run to 11 games in all competitions.
“After the game, I saw how much this result meant to the boys,” explained Under-21 Manager Kit Symons to fulhamfc.com. “They’re a proud group and they wanted to keep their good run going.
“It probably wasn’t a game for the purist, but what they showed was a great desire and determination to do well. We set specific targets at the start of the season and we really wanted to instil a winning mentality – and I think we’re seeing that now.
“They’ve gone 11 games without defeat if you include last week’s Barclays Under-21 Premier League Cup win against Aston Villa and tonight they continued where they left off.
“We conceded an awful goal on the hour, but we stuck to our game and the boys knew what they had to do. Everton were very dogged, and they were difficult to break down at times, but I think we got the result we deserved.
“I’m very pleased for the team because everyone played their part tonight. But we turn our focus to the next game now, because we’re not a team that rests on its laurels. The players are developing every day, and I can’t speak highly enough of them – they’re a fantastic group.”
Fulham Under-21s: Joronen; Passley, Arthurworrey, Grimmer, Richards; Della Verde (David 45), Minkwitz, Christensen, Plumain (Roberts 65); Tankovic; G.Williams (Sambou 65). (Subs not used): Rodak and Buatu.