How did Fulham’s youngsters get on, as they hosted Norwich U21’s at Craven Cottage on Friday night? Read below for the match report, written by myself – who was there personally to watch the action unfold.
A first-half brace from 20-year-old forward Ange-Freddy Plumain secured all three points for the young Whites at home against 6th placed Norwich City, who gave them a tough test especially in the second 45 and almost managed to level the scoring in the dying seconds of stoppage time.
The Canaries were under the knife within the opening minutes of the first-half, as Remi Matthews had to be alert in the Norwich goal to thwart Plumain from close range, with the resulting corner-kick flashing over the crossbar from captain Jonathan Buatu.
After a fast-paced start to the game, the deadlock was broken in the 20th minute as Plumain latched onto a superb through ball pass by Mesca before beating his marker for pace and curling an effort beyond the ‘keeper into the bottom corner of the net. Norwich had a half-chance with a headed effort which flew wide of the mark, before Plumain netted his second in the space of ten minnutes to double Fulham’s lead; an excellent touch-and-go move which was clinically finished on the edge of the area.
On the stroke of the half-time interval, challenges were flying in and referee Simon Knapp was more than happy to go into his pocket and brandish some yellow cards to help enforce his rules. Some harsh, some justified – Norman, Williams and Hall-Johnson all went into the book for respective tackles before the break.
It was safe to say that Fulham were totally in control for the majority of procceedings, and Norwich needed to pass the ball quickly across the ground if they were to fashion any chances of getting back into the game. In the second-half, they did just that, but ultimately left it too late. Midfielder and captain Cameron Norman had a fizzing effort well caught by ‘keeper Marek Rodak in the 55th minute, before Plumain broke on the counter attack with pace down the other end of the pitch and almost completely his hat-trick, if it was not for a good stop from Matthews at the near post.
Plumain was a constant threat to the Norwich backline throughout, as they were unable to keep tabs on him or track his runs, his pace was too much to handle as well as his quick feet and neat dribbling skills.
An un-enforced mistake led to Norwich’s only goal of the game in the 77th minute, as an attempted header was flicked backwards into the path of Conor McGrandles, who weaved past the last defender and cooly slotted his effort beneath the ‘keeper to make it 2-1 and set up an intriguing end to an interesting game in truth.
Questionable decisions and cards were flying everywhere, as Fulham’s game-plan chopped and changed as the clock ticked down. Emerson Hyndman was given his marching orders for a second yellow card with a few minutes left to play, as he cynically kicked the ball away as Norwich were preparing to take a free-kick from a previous offside call – which wasted time but also managed to kill Norwich’s momentum in truh. Fulham themselves had to adapt with ten men for the final few minutes, they were sitting in their own half inviting Norwich pressure, which almost led to a stoppage-time equaliser but for the ball to marginally trickle out of play as a Norwich player whipped it into the box, headed into the back of the net, with the linesman having his flag up on the far side to deny the visitors from taking what would have been a hard-earned point.
After that result, Fulham’s young side are still in 11th place – but eight points off bottom side West Ham, and just five points off fourth placed Tottenham in their respective national group. This was Norwich’s sixth defeat of the season, but they remain in sixth place, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton all with games in hand, below them.