Town fail to make chances count as Fulham claim the victory at Craven Cottage
Goals from Floyd Ayite, Scott Malone and Stefan Johansen were enough to give Fulham all three points against Town at Craven Cottage.
Christophe Berra headed a late consolation, but that was all it was as the Blues failed to take their chances at crucial points in the game.
Tommy Smith was the only change to the starting XI that defeated Wigan 3-0 on Tuesday, as he came in for Steven Taylor who has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with a hamstring injury.
Bartosz Bialkowski was called into an early save, with Stefan Johansen’s shot from the edge of the box held low by the Pole, although the Blues did create an opportunity of their own soon after, but it was the same result as David McGoldrick’s curled effort was comfortably held by Bettinelli, who was making his first Championship appearance of the season.
It certainly was Fulham that carried more of a threat in the early stages, and could well have taken the lead with a quarter of an hour played.
Whites’ top scorer, Chris Martin had the chance as he nipped in ahead of his marker to get on the end of Ryan Fredericks’ cross, but the former Norwich man poked wide of the target from close range.
Fredericks was causing problems for Town down the right-hand side, and another one of his driving runs led to the opener.
His low cross went all the way through to Martin at the edge of the box and, although his effort was well saved by Bialkowski, Ayite was on hand to slam home the rebound from six yards.
The tireless Freddie Sears looked to level the scores soon after having been released by McGoldrick, but it never troubled Bettinelli despite rippling his side-netting.
With Town having come close, Fulham doubled their lead with the next attack. Johansen played the ball into Ayite whose superb back-heel gave the marauding Malone an opportunity to score which he duly accepted, rolling the ball into the far corner.
Jokanovic’s side were firmly in command now, and it took a superb stop from Bialkowski to stop Kevin McDonald’s 20-yard strike from making it three.
The game plateaued in the ten minutes before the break, with neither managing to gain total control, but Town almost reduced the deficit as McGoldrick struck the outside of the post with the final clear-cut chance of the half having wriggled free of the Fulham defence.
Mick McCarthy brought Tom Lawrence on at the break to try and give his side a route back into the game, and he immediately fed Myles Kenlock whose cross was flicked across the face of goal by Sears, although it just went the wrong side of the post and out for a goal-kick.
In the week, the Town boss described his goalkeeper, Bialkowski as his Player of the Season, and he certainly did his case no harm as he denied Fulham a third.
Ayite’s looping free-kick looked to be nestling in the far corner, but the stopper managed to push the ball onto the bar and behind for a corner.
In an end-to-end start to the second period, Town should have had at least one goal back having spurned two glorious opportunities.
A minute later, the roles reversed, as the Blues number 20 flashed the ball across the box, and it looked as if McGoldrick would get the decisive touch, but he turned it wide.
Firstly, McGoldrick rolled the ball across the face of goal into the path of Sears, and with the goal at his mercy, he was somehow denied with a point-blank save from Bettinelli.
The chances were flowing for Town, but Bettinelli was keeping everything that was thrown at him out as he again parried away a powerful McGoldrick shot after the Irishman had been teed up by Emyr Huws.
The home side had no such frustrations in front of goal, though, and extended their lead just past the hour mark with Norwegian midfielder, Johansen scoring his eighth league goal of the campaign. The former Celtic man twisted and turned past Berra and squeezed the ball home at the near post to give his side a comfortable lead at the Cottage.
Berra made amends as he headed a stoppage time consolation, meeting a Tom Lawrence free-kick to score, but that’s all it was as Fulham claimed all three points.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers, Berra, Smith (Lawrence, 45), Kenlock, Diagouraga, Huws (Samuel, 66), Ward, Sears, McGoldrick (Pitman, 86). Not Used: Gerken, Emmanuel, Bru, Williams.
Goals: Booked: Chambers (52)
Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Malone, Madl (Ream, 57), Kalas, McDonald, Johansen (Piazon, 78), Ayite (Kebano,85), Cairney, Aluko, Martin. Not Used: Button, Sessegnon, Parker, Cyriac.
Goals: Ayite (17) Malone (30) Johansen(61) Booked: McDonald (37) Ream(73) Malone (90)
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