Assist by Mesca
Assist by Solomon Sambou
Ange-Freddy Plumain provided a pair of lethal finishes to lead Fulham Under-21s to a hard-earned win over Norwich Under-21s.
A constant threat in the first-half, Plumain gave the Canaries an early scare before opening the scoring on 20 minutes with a composed finish.
The French forward doubled his tally on the half hour to give the Whites a well-deserved lead at half-time, and only a second-half reflex save from goalkeeper Remi Matthews denied him a hat-trick.
Conor McGrandles gave the visitors hope, scoring from close range on 79 minutes to set up a tense finish, but Peter Grant's youngsters hung on despite Emerson Hyndman's late red card to inflict Norwich's first Barclays U21 Premier League defeat in four months.
Following a cagey opening five minutes, Ryan Williams carved out the first opportunity of the match for Plumain, but the Frenchman’s low 18-yard strike was stopped by the legs of Matthews.
The resulting corner was headed over the crossbar by Captain Jonathan Buatu, who was quickly involved at the other end, dispossessing McGrandles as Norwich penalty appeals were waved away by referee Simon Knapp.
The Whites were moving the ball across their midfield diamond well, with Plumain’s diagonal runs from wide areas causing Norwich problems. Solomon Sambou almost threaded the 20-year-old through, and it was the same outlet which eventually provided the opener.
Mesca Na Bangna drifted infield this time and played a pass through the Canaries’ centre-back pairing, with Plumain timing his burst to perfection and adding a calm finish with his right foot.
Norwich were posing problems in wide areas and, on 27 minutes, Noe Baba had to be alert to shut down the intentions of burly forward Carlton Morris, who had turned well in the left-hand channel.
Minutes later, the Whites doubled the score. Dean O’Halloran’s intelligent twist and flick found Sambou on the edge of the area and, although he delayed his pass to Plumain, the forward pivoted to fire a daisy-cutter past Matthews into the corner of the net.
With Fulham in full flow as the clock ticked past the half hour, Ryheem Sheckleford showed lightning-quick pace to get to the byline but his cut-back was toed away as Na Bangna sought to pull the trigger.
The visitors put together their best passage of the game in the lead up to half-time but the Whites’ back-line held firm, with Williams picking up a 42nd-minute yellow card. Cameron Norman and Reece Hall-Johnson had already gone into the referee’s book for the Canaries.
The Whites were forced to soak up some pressure in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, with Norman shooting straight at Marek Rodak and Morris skewing a strike off target, before Plumain again sparked into life.
Breaking down the left, the Frenchman cut inside in search of his hat-trick but Matthews was equal to the 15-yard drive, parrying it wide. Plumain was first to the corner and saw his header held by the keeper on 56 minutes.
As Norwich pushed forward, their midfield became more open and Na Banga exploited the space on the break. His tame shot was comfortably saved, before Williams dragged an effort across goal.
Hyndman went into the referee's book and, after an energetic display, Williams was replaced for Lyle Della Verde on 69 minutes. After the Whites had survived a spell of pressure, a deflected pass allowed McGrandles through on goal and he slotted the ball past Rodak.
Rodak was relieved to see Michee Efete's stinging long-range strike fly a fraction wide, before Aaron Redford replaced the tiring Plumain on 82 minutes. Hyndman picked up a second yellow card in stoppage time on his return from a six-week absence from a broken collarbone, with Fulham under pressure in the closing stages.
Sam Kelly drilled an effort narrowly wide of Rodak's goal with time running out and a Norwich goal was ruled out after the ball had crossed the byline before it was centred, with the Whites holding on to secure three valuable points.
Competition: Barclays U21 Premier League
Date: Friday 20 March 2015
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Line-up: Rodak; Sheckleford, Buatu, Baba, Evans; Hyndman; Williams, Mesca; Sambou; Plumain, O'Halloran
Unused substitutes: Barnes, Casasola, De La Torre, Redford, Della Verde
Line-up: Matthews; Hall-Johnson, Peter, Bennett, Efete; Grant, McGrandles; Norman, Ramsey, Kelly; Morris
Unused substitutes: Oxborough, McFadden, Black, Couzens