Match report: Fulham 3 Ipswich Town 1 – Slick Cottagers their take chances, while Blues profligate
Ipswich Town were left to rue their profligacy as Fulham beat them 3-1 in a wide open game at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The slick and fluid Cottagers provided a footballing lesson in the first half and led through Floyd Ayite’s rebound finish (17) and Scott Malone’s side-footed effort (30).
Slavisa Jokanovic’s play-off chasing men are easy on the eye, but you can also see why they have one of the leakiest home defences out of those in the top-half of the Championship table as David McGoldrick hit the post and Marcus Bettinelli made smart stops from Freddie Sears and McGoldrick either side of the break.
Stefan Johansen wrapped up the victory by beating Bartosz Bialkkowski with a near post shot (61), the 2,500 travelling fans left with just Christophe Berra’s thumping headed consolation in stoppage-time to cheer.
Mick McCarthy had stuck with the attack-minded team which cruised to a 3-0 midweek home win over Wigan – Tommy Smith for the injured Steven Taylor aside. His substitutions were attack-minded too as Tom Lawrence came on at the break and Dominic Samuel was introduced midway through the second half.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s men, temporarily at least, move up to sixth while Ipswich remain 17th and nine points above the drop zone.
With the sunshine creating a palpable feelgood mood and the clappers left on every seat creating plenty of noise, Fulham burst out the blocks. Within the opening four minutes Bartosz Bialkowski had to turn a low Ayite cross around the post and deal with Johansen’s low long-ranger.
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With both full-backs bombing on, the hosts left gaps at the back. Twice McGoldrick had chances to shoot on the angle – his first effort was held by Bettinelli, while the second was sliced badly wide.
Fulham’s slick passing game stepped up a gear and they should have broken the deadlock in the 15th minute. Tom Cairney’s well-weighted slide pass found marauding right-back Ryan Fredericks and his low cross was inch-perfect. Thankfully, from a Town perspective, Chris Martin couldn’t quite adjust his feet to convert inside the six-yard box.
The home side’s breakthrough came two minutes later. Fredericks once again got to the by-line, his low cut-back found Martin, a side-footed effort was kept out the bottom corner by the diving Bialkowski, but Ayite was first on the scene to smash the rebound high into the net.
Bialkowski’s poor kick could have led to a Fulham second in the 23rd minute, but Johansen’s attempted pass to put Cairney clear was just too strong.
Sears fired into the near post side-netting, with Grant Ward a square pass option, before Fulham doubled their lead on the half hour mark. Malone took a short throw high up the field on the left, got the ball back courtesy of Ayite’s clever flick and drifted inside before caressing a side-footed effort into the far bottom corner.
Bialkowski produced a super save to claw Kevin McDonald’s curling effort out the top corner as the home side began to enjoy themselves.
The Blues could and probably should have reduced the deficit just before half-time though when, after bout of head tennis in the home box, McGoldrick stabbed the loose ball against the outside of the post.
McCarthy replaced Tommy Smith with Lawrence at the break, abandoning his wing-back system and switching to a diamond midfield. Town started the second half on the front foot and, within seconds, Sears flicked a Myles Kenlock cross just across the face of goal.
Sone Aluko’s mis-hit was a let-off for Town, while Bialkowski did well to fingertip Ayite’s wicked free-kick delivery onto the angle of post and bar.
Ipswich continued to be a threat themselves though and created three golden chances in the space of eight minutes.
First, Sears – with time and space in front of goal following some fine work by McGoldrick – shot too close to Bettinelli, who saved with his legs. Moments later, Sears’ cross from the by-line flashed just past McGoldrick at the far post.
The crucial piece of profligacy came in the 60th minute as McGoldrick’s stinging shot, following Emyr Huws’ cut-back, was beaten away by Bettinelli. Fulham countered swiftly, Johansen cut inside Berra and lashed a low shot inside the near post.
McCarthy brought on striker Dominic Samuel for Huws and Town continued to give it a good go as Lawrence fired wide and Ward’s drive was deflected over. Fulham sub Tim Ream was then fortunate to only receive a yellow card after tugging back McGoldrick in the final third.
The Blues got the consolation goal their spirited second half performance deserved when Berra thumped home a header from Lawrence’s free-kick deep into stoppage-time.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Bettinelli; Fredericks, Kalas, Madl (Ream 58), Malone; McDonald, Johansen (Piazon 78); Aluko, Cairney (cpt), Ayite (Kebano 86); Martin.
Unused subs: Button, Sessegnon, Parker, Cyriac.
Booked: McDonald (37), Ream (73), Malone (90).
IPSWICH TOWN (3-5-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith (Lawrence 46), Berra; Spence, Ward, Huws (Samuel 66), Diagouraga, Kenlock; McGoldrick (Pitman 86), Sears.
Unused subs: Gerken, Emmanuel, Bru, Williams.
Booked: Chambers (50).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham