Fulham show their top six credentials as Town's winning run comes to an end
Town’s winning start to the Championship ended at the hands of an impressive Fulham side that looked capable of at least repeating their top six finish from last season come May.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side, led by the midfield trio of Tom Cairney, Stefan Johansen and Kevin McDonald, dictated the play for long periods and only the brilliance of Bart Bialkowski prevented a bigger margin of victory.
The Town ‘keeper had already saved well twice before Neeskens Kebano headed the visitors in front just after the half hour.
David McGoldrick threatened an equaliser before the break but the Cottagers extended their lead six minutes into the second-half, Rui Fonte finishing superbly with a vicious strike.
McGoldrick went close again but Fulham never really looked like relinquishing their grip on the three points.
Town stayed with the same side that beat Brentford last week but it was Fulham who dictated the early play, skipper Cairney fired over, then Fonte had a shot deflected over in the first five minutes.
Blues continued to be pushed back and Sheyi Ojo looked odds on to convert the dangerous Ryan Sessegnon’s cross until Myles Kenlock stuck out a boot and deflected the effort wide.
Martyn Waghorn responded for Town with a volley from the edge of the box that took a big deflection but drifted just wide of the post with ‘keeper David Button going in the opposite direction.
Bart Bialkowski, making his 100th League appearance for Town, denied Ojo at full stretch, Ryan Fredericks’ 25 yarder skimming the outside of the post as the Cottagers looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
McGoldrick provided a reprieve for Town, dancing around on the edge of the Fulham box before chipping just wide but at the other end, it needed a brilliant save from Bialkowski from Stefan
Johansen 10 yards out in the clearest opening of the first half-hour as Fulham continued to look a real threat.
It was no real surprise when Kebano headed the visitors in front on 35 minutes after Fredericks stood a cross up for him and it could have been two soon after, Fonte forcing the ball against the post from close range.
Mick McCarthy’s team enjoyed the best spell of the first-half over the final stages of the 45, McGoldrick bringing a save out of Button, then Waghorn’s shot blocked superbly by Tomas Kalas 10 yards out.
Joe Garner got on the end of Grant Ward’s corner and his header tested Button as Blues started the second-half on a positive note but it was Fulham that struck, Bialkowski denied Kebano with a fantastic save but Fonte finished brilliantly from a sharp angle to put the Cottagers in command.
McGoldrick forced a save from Button after a driving run as Town looked for a way back into the game, Blues then changing it up with Flynn Downes and Bersant Celina on for Waghorn and Freddie Sears.
Celina weaved his way into the box, the Manchester City loanee making his home debut for Town, but he was crowded out.
Blues continued to search for a lifeline, Garner couldn’t get enough on a header from a corner, Celina again running into a white brick wall on the edge of the box.
McGoldrick won a free-kick 30 yards out but McDonald - not for the first time - was in the right place to cancel the threat as Fulham kept Town at arm’s length until the final whistle.
Town: Bialkowski, Iorfa, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock. Skuse, Ward (Nydam 90), Sears (Celina 59), McGoldrick, Garner, Waghorn (Downes 59). Subs not used: Gerken, Rowe, Folami, Woolfenden. Booked: Iorfa.
Fulham: Button, Fredericks, Sessegnon, McDonald, Kebano (Norwood 82), Johansen (Odoi 88), Fonte (Kamara 76), Cairney, Ream, Ojo, Kalas. Subs not used: Bettinelli, Djalo, Edun, Cisse.