After a positive showing for the majority of the first half in which we explored all different avenues in search of a breakthrough, the Cottagers took the lead just before the interval when Jayden Harris’ shot from the left angle somehow crept beyond defender Jaden Brown and goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman at the near post.
We came back with further attacking intent after the break but when Matt O’Riley lofted a speculative dipping shot all the way in from out on the right flank after an initial good save from Whiteman, we struggled to get going again.
Samuel Shashoua looked a threat as he twisted and turned with the ball at his feet but was twice denied by Fulham stopper Taye Ashby-Hammond with low saves.
And with our players piling forward in the latter stages in search of a way back into the game, substitute Cameron Thompson was sent racing clear to round the advancing Whiteman and complete the scoring.
We had the better of the first half in the main, Shashoua being denied by the off-side flag after a dazzling run, exchange with Reo Griffiths and eventual shot after 18 minutes, with Keanan Bennetts dragging just wide shortly afterwards.
Five minutes later, Ashby-Hammond got a slight touch to steer Bennetts’ deflected cross away from Griffiths while Jon Dinzeyi was forced into making a goal-line clearance at the other end to deny Isaac Pearce as the Cottagers pushed forward with purpose.
Whiteman kept out Michael Elstone on 33 minutes but we went closest to breaking the deadlock four minutes later when Jack Roles’ free-kick struck the inside of the post. Unfortunately, the rebound wouldn’t quite fall for Bennetts, who was then left cursing in frustration as Ashby-Hammond intervened to prevent him from converting Griffiths’ low drive across the six-yard box.
For all our good work, we couldn’t find the clear opening required and on 44 minutes we fell behind when Harris sent the ball in low from the left and it crept beyond Brown and Whiteman at the near post, trickling over the line.
Above: Keanan Bennetts on the ball.
Roles tested Ashby-Hammond with a snap-shot as we made a lively start to the second half while Shashoua’s deflected shot was saved by the keeper, sprawling down to his right.
However, it was 2-0 on 52 minutes when, after Whiteman made a fine save to beat away Jose Garrido’s header, O’Riley sent the ball back over from a wide position some 30 yards out and it dropped in at the back post.
As we seemingly struggled to deal with long aerial balls into the area, O’Riley almost repeated the trick five minutes later when his free-kick from a similar position cannoned off the far upright and although Griffiths forced a save from Ashby-Hammond, it was the visitors who had the better chances thereafter as Steven Sessegnon put one over the bar from close range, Whiteman made himself big to block Nicolas Santos-Clase’s shot and Pearce glanced a header wide.
The visitors grabbed their third goal two minutes from time when Ashby-Hammond hurled the ball forward quickly to send Thompson racing clear and he carried it around the advancing Whiteman to fire into the empty net.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“It’s very disappointing that we didn’t seize the initiative in the first half when we should have done. We had ample opportunities to score goals and then just shot ourselves in the foot with the goals conceded. Fulham were excellent, they made themselves very compact and hard to break down, we tried to force the game and left ourselves vulnerable to the counter-attack, which they exploited.
“Fulham have got to take some credit but at the same time there’s been a downturn in results in the last couple of weeks so we’ve got to find a way to flip that around and gain some positive momentum again. If you strip the game down to the essence of what we’re here for – to produce players – Oliver Skipp was terrific today and showed that he could handle the situation and George Marsh really stood out. He reads the game really well and whatever job you give him, he does it diligently, aggressively and I also think he did it with a lot of football intelligence today. What we’re looking for is those who can play and do well in the good times but also those who can work hard and stand out when things aren’t necessarily going so well.
“We also threw in Jamie Bowden (a midfielder from the Under-16s). The expectation was quite high, he’s trained really well in half-term this week and deserved his chance to make his debut. It’s a disappointing result, the staff and players are very down but there were two or three positives in terms of individual performances and when the dust settles, that’s the main thing that we’ll have to concentrate on.”
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Lock, Brown, Skipp, Dinzeyi, Marsh (c), Shashoua, Oakley-Boothe (Duncan 46), Griffiths, Roles (Bowden 57), Bennetts. Substitutes (not used): Hinds, Reynolds, Freeman (GK).
We’re back in Under-18 Premier League action at the Training Centre on Tuesday (February 21) as Swansea City visit us for a 1pm kick-off. We also now know that the winners of the following week’s FA Youth Cup tie at Newcastle United will meet Chelsea in the semi-finals of that competition.