Fulham advanced into the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup with a 4-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Wednesday.
It was a comfortable win for the Whites over their local rivals and the scoreline could, in truth, have been even more substantially in their favour had it not been for missed chances and good goalkeeping.
A David Beckham-esque free-kick from Emerson Hyndman got things going for Fulham, before Dean O’Halloran doubled the lead with a neat finish.
Rangers then pulled one back but the Whites went into the break 3-1 up courtesy of a George Williams strike, with Jordan Evans adding some gloss to the score in the second half.
Pat Roberts had the game’s first opportunity four minutes in when a drop of the shoulder left a Rangers defender on his backside, but his left-footed drive from range was well blocked. Williams then showed good skill and strength to burst into the box but nobody could meet his pass as he pulled the ball back once he reached the byline. Fulham were enjoying all the early possession and O’Halloran managed to flick Williams’ volley back towards goal only to see it drop a yard wide of the far post.
A sublime cross from Darnell Furlong in the 10th minute looked to have the Whites defence worried, but Captain Liam Donnelly read the danger well and nodded behind for a corner. There was a scare moments later, though, when Marek Rodak failed to hold a deep cross from the left but, thankfully, the Fulham backline was able to clear to safety. But QPR were growing into the tie and, having won another corner, Furlong saw his diving header deflect wide.
Good link-up play between Josh Smile and Cameron Burgess in the 14th minute resulted in the former breaking forward into an advanced position. He found Hyndman in space but the American was closed down well and his effort deflected comfortably into the grateful arms of Mark Smith.
The opening goal arrived when a marauding run by Williams in the 19th minute was crudely halted on the edge of the box by Cole Kpekawa, who was unsurprisingly booked. Hyndman was charged with taking the set-piece and bent a quite exquisite effort into the top left-hand corner that left Smith with no chance whatsoever.
And it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled as O’Halloran put the finishing touch to a slick team move. Roberts worked some magic 30 yards from goal before playing in Smile who had made a clever run into the area. He then fed O’Halloran 12 yards from goal and the Republic of Ireland youth international shimmied some space for himself before lashing a low left-footed effort into the corner of the net.
An elegant back-flick by Williams just after the half-hour mark sent Evans galloping into space down the left flank. His square pass found Roberts but the forward was off balance and his speculative shot bent wide of the far post.
Rangers had gone a fair while without threatening and so it was all the more disappointing when they reduced the deficit in the 35th minute. Fulham failed to clear their lines from a corner and after something of a scramble in the area, Harly Wise was there to rifle beyond Rodak at his near post.
But the two-goal lead was restored four minutes later when the dangerous Williams got the goal his positive play deserved. Admirable perseverance from Solomon Sambou in the middle of the park resulted in him winning the ball which fell kindly to the Welshman who cut inside and crashed an effort inside the far post which may have taken a deflection on its way in.
Hyndman came agonisingly close to making it four shortly before half-time when the ball broke to him inside the six-yard box, but a covering defender got just enough on it to smuggle it behind for a corner.
Aaron Mitchell looked to capitalise on a loose Burgess pass a minute later and although Rodak could only parry his powerful drive from 25 yards, Donnelly was on hand to hook away the ball before a lurking striker could pounce.
On the stroke of half-time, Ryan Young became the second Rangers player to enter the referee’s notebook following a late, and high, challenge on Sambou who had beaten him to a loose ball.
The first major incident of the second period saw Donnelly lose possession in a dangerous area which presented Ben Beckles with a shooting chance, but the striker shot too close to Rodak who saved well.
An O’Halloran corner in the 48th minute had the home defence at sixes and sevens, with both Roberts and Williams just an inch away from turning the ball into the back of the net. And Williams was causing problems again in the Whites’ next attack when he fired against a post following some neat footwork by Hyndman in the area.
In his half-time team-talk Steve Wigley had clearly told his troops not to take their foot off the gas as Fulham continued to press as Roberts played an inch-perfect throughball into the diagonal run of Evans who rifled a rising effort into the side-netting.
And it was the same two who combined to score in the 54th minute as a great Roberts pass found his teammate who smashed a low effort beyond the keeper from a tight angle.
The double act of Roberts and Evans had become the story of the half as the Rangers defence couldn’t handle their imagination and movement. The latest opening came in the 63rd minute when a dinked ball over the top from Roberts was poked marginally wide by Evans – again from a very tight angle.
Smith then kept the score respectable when he showed good reflexes to turn the ball over the top as it arrived at him with pace after O’Halloran’s cross had smashed against a Hoops shirt. And the keeper demonstrated his agility once again from the subsequent corner when he kept out Donnelly’s header.
The R’s stopper was fast becoming the game’s busiest player as he was called into action once again in the 72nd minute when he repelled a vicious Williams strike at the expense of another corner, before he batted away a well-struck shot by Roberts.
Wigley then made his first change of the evening on 81 minutes as Elijah Adebayo – who had enjoyed a solid game at centre-back – made way for Ryheem Sheckleford. The substitute slotted in at right-back, with Donnelly taking Adebayo’s place in the middle. And five minutes later Fulham made another alteration, with Noe Baba replacing the excellent Hyndman.
A scuffle in the Fulham area almost earned QPR a second goal, but the loose ball skimmed a post before being cleared to safety.
Baba was involved in the action soon after coming on as he did well to win the ball in a wide position when it looked like a lost cause. Smile was the beneficiary of his determination and he found Roberts who drove an effort into Smith’s arms. Smile was then withdrawn to make way for Adetayo Edun as Fulham saw the game out to ease into the next round.
Fulham: Rodak, Donnelly, Adebayo (Sheckleford 81), Burgess, Evans, Smile (Edun 90), Sambou, Hyndman (Baba 86), Roberts, Williams, O’Halloran. Subs (not used): Norman, Elworthy.