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Under-21s lose out in eventful game at Fulham

Fulham 4-3 Spurs (Premier League 2)

Fri 03 March 2023, 21:10|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-21s' unbeaten run came to an end after a frenetic game at Fulham on Friday night.

Having fallen behind early on and then led twice through goals from Yago Santiago, Jude Soonsup-Bell and Charlie Sayers in a rip-roaring first period, we couldn't convert our 3-2 half-time lead into any points, with the hosts turning the game on its head once more to secure a 4-3 victory.

Three of Fulham's four goals could certainly have been avoided as the Cottagers took full advantage of an enforced early change between the sticks for us, with 17-year-old goalkeeper Luca Gunter enduring a tough night on his debut at this level after replacing the injured Josh Keeley.

We were also without influential defender Brooklyn Lyons-Foster through injury, with the likes of Alfie Devine and Matthew Craig putting in hard-working shifts after a busy five-day spell that saw them play twice at this level in addition to training and travelling with the first team in midweek.

Putting together some nice passages of play on the night, we kept pushing until the end, but getting a result proved a step too far as we suffered our first Premier League 2 defeat of the calendar year.

Martial Godo latched onto a through ball to fire Fulham into the lead inside three minutes at Motspur Park but once we got the ball down and started to play, we caused the hosts real problems, Santiago's great turn in midfield leading to Kallum Cesay's shot being blocked in the box before good work by Devine on the right-hand touchline saw him spring Santiago forward to drive into the area and finish well from the angle for 1-1 with nine minutes gone.

Keeley took a blow to the face in a challenge just inside his box moments after a good one-handed save to deny Terry Ablade and following a period of treatment, Gunter got the call to come on in his place for his first appearance at this level after an ever-present season with the Under-18s. We took the lead soon afterwards, Santiago finding Soonsup-Bell with a clever pass into the box and the striker producing a crisp right-footed finish into the far corner for his second goal in as many games with 25 minutes gone.

Gunter showed good reactions to deny Luke Harris moments later but was left kicking himself in the 32nd minute as his attempted clearance was charged down and diverted straight back into the net by Ablade.

Romaine Mundle fired inches wide after a dazzling solo run as we got straight back on the front foot and we deservedly regained the lead on 44 minutes when Mundle's corner was flicked in at the near post by Sayers, Gunter also making a good stop from Ablade in first-half added time.

We didn't manage to hit the same heights after the restart though and Fulham smelled blood, Devan Tanton's effort from the right-hand corner of the 18-yard box sailing all the way in for 3-3 shortly before the hour mark. Mundle fired wide after another solo run and Santiago had a close-range effort ruled out after the assistant referee deemed the ball to have gone over the byline in the build-up before the Cottagers grabbed the winner nine minutes from time, Charlie Robinson's header from a corner creeping inside the back post. We subsequently had loud appeals for handball in the box waved away and the determined Soonsup-Bell couldn't quite work himself into a shooting position before going to ground in an advanced position but after conceding so cheaply over the course of the game, our efforts went unrewarded.

'If you score three goals away from home, you expect to win'

Under-21s Coach Wayne Burnett was understandably frustrated to see his side come up short: "We conceded goals that could have been avoided," he said. "I thought we played okay in the first half, we knew the second half would be slightly different because we knew they would apply more pressure to us and they did that, but we're disappointed to concede four goals because we've been pretty good defensively of late. As I said, they're goals that could have been avoided. If you score three goals away from home, you expect to win the game and we haven't done that, so we're really disappointed with the manner in which we lost."

Fulham 4-3 Spurs (Premier League 2)

Fulham: Wickens, Tanton, Araujo, Robinson, D'Auria-Henry (c), Williams, Sanderson, Okkas (Sekularac 51), Ablade, Harris, Godo. Substitutes (not used): Allen, McFarlane, M'Coy-Splatt, De Jesus.

Spurs: Keeley (Gunter 18), Abbott, Robson, Sayers, Fagan-Walcott, Craig (c), Santiago, Cesay (Donley 68), Soonsup-Bell, Devine, Mundle (Mathurin 76). Substitutes (not used): Dorrington, Cassanova.

Match data

Goals: Fulham - Araujo 3, Ablade 32, Tanton 58, Robinson 81; Spurs - Santiago 9, Soonsup-Bell 25, Sayers 44.

Yellow cards: Fulham - Sanderson 36, Araujo 63; Spurs - Santiago 86.

Referee: Hiroyuki Kimura.

Venue: Motspur Park, New Malden.

Weather: Cloudy, six degrees.