Read below, for the match report – written by myself; who was at Craven Cottage personally to watch the action unfold.
Fulham conjured up a spirited display at home on Good Friday, but it was not enough as they capitulated in the dying stages of the second-half, conceding twice in quick succession to sum up a frustrating afternoon in west London. They lost 4-1 against promotion hopefuls Brentford, which was surprising after their encouraging start from the referee’s first whistle.
Swedish winger Alex Kacanklic came close in the first few minutes of the game, using his electric pace to speed past his marker on the flank before his resulting shot at the near post was beaten away by Brentford ‘keeper David Button.
Brentford’s on-loan creative midfielder Alex Pritchard, of Premier League side Tottenham, was pulling the strings in midfield for the visitors, and his silky dribbling and quick footwork were too much to handle for the hosts who struggled to contain him throughout the sixty minutes he played, just days after representing the England U21’s twice in quick succession with victories over Czech Republic and Germany this past week.
For all of Fulham’s pressure in the early going of the game they had nothing to show for it, and after twenty minutes on the clock, the score was still goal-less. However, they’d kept an organised Brentford side at bay, a team desperately fighting for their promotion hopes – something encouraging in itself. A cagey affair which livened up as The Cottagers gained momentum, the first blow was hit in the 24th minute as Stuart Dallas‘ low strike flew beyond the Fulham defenders on the edge of the area and past Marcus Bettinelli into the bottom corner of the net.
Kacanklic had a curling effort on the edge of the box swerve just over the top of the crossbar, with Button attemping to make an acrobatic dive to stop the fierce strike from beating him into the top corner – what a goal it would have been. Brentford’s clinical nature in-front of goal was emphasised early in the second-half, as Dallas combined with Andre Gray before striking a vicious effort which arrowed into the corner of the net from an effective counter attack.
Fulham were handed a lifeline and an unlikely pathway back into the match with just over twenty minutes left to play – James Husband was brought down inside the box under the sliding challenge from Toumani Diagouraga, who was eager to prove his innocence, but the damage was already done. Ross McCormack stood up to the resulting penalty-kick, powerfully slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way in the process. It was 2-1 and certainly game on, just minutes after Gray had a golden chance to all but seal an away victory for Brentford, sending his strike from close range over the bar.
Matt Smith came on as a substitute late on as Kit Symons knew something had to change for his side to get an equaliser, but came agonisingly close with a lofted chip over the ‘keeper on the counter attack, which trickled just wide of the far post – much to the dispair of Fulham fans behind the goal, who could not believe how unlucky they were. Then, he was controversially denied a penalty decision after being tumbled over by the last Brentford defender.
In the dying minutes, with time running out, Fulham kept up the pressure and their home supporters were pushing them forward in hope of getting an equaliser. A well-executed free-kick from 23 yards out by Alan Judge swerved over the wall and dipped in off the crossbar; Bettinelli was left stranded and could simply do nothing to stop the strike. Then, to add salt into the wounds, they made it 4-1 after a well-taken strike rifled into the top corner courtesy of Jota in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
That victory seals Brentford’s first league double over Fulham since 1992, meaning they’ve still got a genuine chance of promotion to the top-flight of English football. They’ve moved up into 5th place, six points behind league leaders Middlesbrough who won 1-0 at home against Wigan Athletic in their game.
As for Fulham, despite their encouraging start to the game, they capitulated towards the end and their lack of a clinical finish cost them dearly. They are only seven points clear of the dreaded relegation drop in 20th place, and will be hoping for an improved response with six matches left to play.
Mark Warburton – Brentford manager: “It’s so, so tight. We cannot worry about other teams, our focus has to be Brentford Football Club. We’ve got six games to go now, eighteen points to play for, so another tough test on Monday against Nottingham Forest; they come thick and fast.”
Kit Symons – Fulham manager: “Obviously the first two goals, need to get out… and close people down, but two good strikes from their point of view, but should have been closed down. It’s taking your chances when you’re on top, first-half I thought we were the better side but, you need to, score goals and take your chances when you are on top in games.“