A Pelly Ruddock own goal following a deflected strike from Lyle Della Verde earned Fulham Under-21s a 1-0 win over West Ham United at Motspur Park on Monday evening.
After Muamer Tanković had squandered a decent opening, the home side went ahead in the 37th minute when Ruddock sent the ball over the line as he attempted to block Della Verde’s effort.
Tanković then missed another golden opportunity, before Chris David hit the crossbar as Fulham attempted to put the game to bed.
It looked as though they might have been made to pay for the missed chances as West Ham put the Whites under plenty of pressure late on, but Kit Symons’ troops held firm to go a 12th game unbeaten in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
“It was a decent game of football, competitive from both sides,” Symons told fulhamfc.com. “There was some good football played by us and we created a few chances. We should have scored more than the one goal we did, to be honest, which would have made life a little bit easier for ourselves.
“We were a little bit wasteful in front of goal but then defended very, very well second half for 40 minutes, but then for the last five minutes people lost their minds and we could have very easily conceded an equaliser. So we were a little bit disappointed with the last five minutes but obviously pleased in the end to hold on.
“The lads are still unbeaten in the league halfway through January which is a really great achievement from them so as much as I’ll always be critical and think of things that we could do better, they’ve done fantastically well overall.”
Tanković – who was operating as Fulham’s central striker – will be frustrated that he wasn’t able to add his name to the scoresheet with several good chances falling his way, but Kit is pleased that he can call on the Swede’s services in that position when necessary.
“His best position is more as a 10 but he played as a nine because Moussa Dembélé got injured yesterday,” he explained. “Moussa went over on his ankle which was unfortunate for him, but Tank can do that nine role now – he’s working hard and he's the fittest and quickest he’s ever been, which makes a huge difference to his game. I still think he’s better as that second striker or number 10, but he can do that nine role now.”
With regular centre-backs Jack Grimmer and Stephen Arthurworrey out on loan at Port Vale and Tranmere Rovers, respectively, Liam Donnelly was handed another start, with the 17-year-old playing his part in the Whites’ clean sheet.
“Liam’s doing well,” Kit said. “He’s a good player who we’ve got high hopes for. He played as a right-back against Arsenal [in the Premier League Cup] and he played centre-back today – he can play either position – and had a steady game. I was pleased with his performance.”
Fulham: Stockdale; Zverotić, Donnelly, Buatu, Richards; Na Bangna (Evans 77), Christensen, Pritchard, Della Verde (Williams 69); David (Hyndman 81); Tanković
Subs (not used): Norman, Banya.