Kostas Mitroglou played 90 minutes in a Fulham shirt for the first time but it was a disappointing evening on the whole for Kit Symons’ troops as Leicester City Under-21s emerged 3-1 victors at Motspur Park on Monday.
The Whites had fallen behind to Jacob Blyth’s first-half finish, although Mananga Jonathan Buatu restored parity shortly after the restart.
But a close-range effort from George Taft following a corner put the Foxes back in front, with a late strike from Michael Cain ensuring Leicester returned to the Midlands with all three points.
Fulham put out a strong side for the fixture, with Mitroglou once again leading the line, while fellow new arrivals Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole were also handed starting berths. Another notable inclusion was Matthew Briggs, who made a welcome return following a prolonged spell on the sidelines.
The Whites fashioned the game’s first opening after three minutes when Buatu broke with the ball and fed Chris David who sent Buomesca Tué Na Bangna into space with a deft flick. The winger then dinked over a cross in Mitroglou’s direction, but the Leicester defence was able to smuggle clear for a corner.
A hopeful ball up from the back by Taft was miscontrolled by Briggs on 11 minutes, allowing Joe Dodoo to burst beyond him and towards goal, but Tom Richards was covering well and put the forward off enough to see him drag his shot wide of the far post.
It was clearly a tactic by the visitors for Taft to pump long balls into the Fulham box and it almost paid dividends on 14 minutes when a punt was nodded down to Cain who turned and fired in a quick strike, but Magnus Norman reacted smartly to beat the ball away.
Cole and Mitroglou combined well to launch a counter attack with 20 minutes on the clock, but it culminated in the young winger firing some way over when he elected to shoot from distance.
Brilliant perseverance by Josh Passley on 29 minutes saw him rob Callum Elder of the ball before sliding Na Bangna into space in the box. He managed to work the ball to Mitroglou who, with his back to goal, was immediately closed down by a swarm of blue shirts and unable to get a strike away.
The best chance of the game so far fell the Greece international’s way on 34 minutes when a wonderful cross by Richards looked set to land perfectly for him, but he was stretching as he went to make contact and could only find the side-netting with his effort.
The Whites were enjoying the better of the play but fell behind on 38 minutes when Blyth stole possession and finished coolly beyond Norman.
Symons made a double change in defence at half-time, with Josh Pritchard and Alex Brister coming on for Briggs and Passley.
Quick thinking by Tunnicliffe on 52 minutes saw him send a free-kick over the top for Richards to meet by the corner flag. The left-back whipped over a dangerous cross but Foxes stopper Adam Smith claimed confidently before Na Bangna could meet the delivery.
Mitroglou then saw his glancing header from Brister’s cross deflect wide for a corner as the Whites tried to turn the screw, with their pressure then rewarded when the danger wasn’t cleared and Buatu powered home a header from close range.
Fulham then made their final alteration of the evening as Lyle Della Verde came on for Na Bangna.
Leicester went back in front in the 68th minute after the Whites failed to clear their lines from a corner and Taft was on hand to poke beyond Norman from a yard out.
Lasse Vigen Christensen immediately sought a response with an ambitious effort from 25 yards, but his low drive flew marginally wide of the post.
Adam Dawson then advanced on Norman’s goal in the 73rd minute before unleashing a wicked strike that moved in the air. Fulham’s keeper watched it all the way, though, and did well to hold the powerful effort.
A fine run by Brister was crudely ended on the edge of the box with 10 minutes remaining, allowing Della Verde a shooting opportunity but his whipped free-kick was deflected over the bar by a Leicester head.
And the game was put to bed when Cain was sent in on goal and had the pace to gallop away from the attentions of Pritchard before firing a low strike back across Norman and inside the far post.
Fulham: Norman; Passley (Brister), Buatu, Briggs (Pritchard), Richards; Na Bangna (Della Verde), Christensen (c), Tunnicliffe, Cole; David; Mitroglou. Subs (not used): Oberschmidt, Plumain