Fulham 5 : 3 Owls – Eight fails to become nine in topsy-turvy EPL promotion race


The news that Fulham’s promotion rivals Brentford had lost at Stoke galvanised the few people scattered around Craven Cottage.

The Bees had headed to the Potteries with eight straight wins under their belt and few outside Stoke doubted that Thomas Frank’s irrepressible side would make it nine.

Their incentive was massive as as just 18 hours before, promotion rivals West Bromwich Albion had lost 2-1 at Huddersfield. This put second place and automatic promotion in Brentford’s own hands.

But eight didn’t become nine and they handed the whip hand back to Albion who now only have to beat QPR now to ensure automatic promotion. In winning, Huddersfield also confirmed that near neighbours Leeds United would be promoted, their long waited return to the top tier after a 16 year absence.

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Brentford and Albion’s losses kept the door open for Fulham who kicked off at 3pm.

Lurking in fourth place, having almost given up on any hopes of automatic promotion were Scott Parker’s Fulham FC. Since the lockdown, they had met both Brentford and West Brom and failed to score a goal against either, never mind win.

Just before kick off, news of Brentford’s defeat began to permeate the more than socially distanced journalists inside Craven Cottage waiting for the kick off in Fulham’s seemingly processional game against Sheffield Wednesday.

Parker it seemed was not expecting the gifts from the north.


With a play-off place already secured, he had dropped three key players who played so well in the 2-0 win over Cardiff City. Harrison Reed, Joe Bryan and Bobby Decordova-Reid didn’t start, replaced by Neeskens Kebano, Maxime Le Marchand and Stefan Johansen.

From the Albion line up in midweek, he dropped Denis Odoi, Bryan, Reed, Decordova-Reid and Ivan Cavaleiro, Harry Arter and Cyrus Christie starting against the Owls.

Johansen had performed well from the bench against Cardiff, creating Fulham’s only goal from open play, but Kebano had not scored for 959 days.

Fulham started slowly and Wednesday seemed surprised by how much they had of the ball in the first ten minutes. But the home side’s nerves settled in the 11th minute and it was two of their less heralded heroes who created and finished it.


Michael Hector does not look like a Glenn Hoddle or a David Beckham, but his ability to hit long passes with incredible accuracy was a feature of Fulham’s performance. He found Kebano with pin point accuracy from a good 40 yards way and the DR Congo international broke his massive goal drought with a clinical run and finish.

The second goal was of a different variety. Six players and five passes out from the back ended with Mitrovic being released and he netted with a striker’s finish.

The Serb was being mostly bypassed in Fulham’s attacks but soon found himself on a hat trick after converting a penalty. It was the dangerous Kebano again whose quick turn confused Dominic Iorfa and resulted in a trip and an easy decision for referee Darren England.

Fulham now led 3-0 at halftime and were 12 minutes short of nine hours without conceding a goal. Wednesday had barely threatened in the first half.

However, with mid table Sheffield Wednesday barely posing a threat, eight would surely progress to nine. Surely more records were about to be broken, but Owls coach Gary Monk had a plan.

He introduced three new players at half time and decided to post two of them, substitutes Connor Wickham and Jacob Murphy, at the edge of Fulham’s penalty box to prevent them playing the ball out from the back at goal kicks and when Marek Rodak had possession.


Joining them was the gangly Kosovar Atdhe Nuhiu who deprived Fulham of two points with a late equaliser at Hillsborough in their first meeting with a stoppage time goal. For the replaced Alessio Da Cruz, Josh Windass and Massimo Luongo, it would be a 45 minutes to forget.

At that point Fulham’s Slovakian keeper could have just decided “ok, you win. I’ll just punt the ball upfield from now on.”

Had he done so, Fulham’s record without conceding could be approaching nine even ten hours. But he didn’t and four minutes after the interval, the Owls’ high pressure forced the previously faultless Tim Ream and Maxime Le Marchand into a mix up that culminated with Rodak lunging at Murphy and conceding a penalty. Nuhiu converted it and for the second time on the day, eight was not about to become nine.

Fulham’s confidence seemed to fall apart a little, a state of affairs far too fragile for a side who had just seen a comfortable 3-0 lead become 3-1.

They pulled through it and 24 minutes later, Kebano smartly kept a free kick down along the ground. He deserves great credit as he correctly guessed that Nuhiu and Wickham would jump and the African’s intelligent daisy cutter rolled under the wall and into the net to restore Fulham’s three-goal advantage.

Murphy’s drive through a crowded Fulham penalty box bounced off a diving Arter and wrongfooted Rodak to bring the score back to 4-2. Wednesday were not done.

With a minute of normal time to go, Murphy’s excellent half continued when his pin point cross found the Kosovar Nuhiu who headed his third goal against Fulham in the last 45 minutes of on field action.

It was now 4-3 and a full seven minutes remained. Fulham were in real and significant danger of surrendering the three point to Wednesday in injury time for the second match running.

Just when it was needed most, Hector produced another excellent accurate long ball and Mitrovic’s control and deft flick found Decordova-Reid who finished to provide Fulham’s fifth and the eighth and best goal of the game.

Wednesday weren’t finished either. Rodak made some amends for conceding the penalty with a point blank save from Wickham avoiding an inconceivable fourth goal lost inside one half of football, and preventing the game’s eight goals from becoming nine.

There was still time for one more piece of Cottagers’ indiscipline. With time elapsing, Reed fouled his former Norwich team mate Murphy where the half way line meets the touch line. Already on one yellow, Reed doubled it to a red for a pointless foul in a harmless area while two goals up.

He’ll miss the trip to Wigan but with play-offs now more likely than an automatic promotion place, that may have been in Parker’s thoughts anyway.


That was an incredibly odd second-half at Craven cottage. Fulham were leading 3-0 at half-time and seemed to be coasting. They gave away a pointless penalty and the confidence seemed to crumble. Their confidence should not be that fragile.

They regained their three goal lead, surrendered it again then surrendered another goal to lead just 4-3 with minutes left. They’d gone eight hours without conceding a goal up until that penalty. That said, any danger of complacency before the play-offs can now be ruled out.

The 5-3 scoreline reflects Fulham’s dominance of the game. Brentford’s loss at Stoke keeps hopes of automatic promotion but they’d also need WBA to also lose at QPR.

It’s unlikely but as the second half shows, football’s an unpredictable game.

Men of the Match: Michael Hector and Neeskens Kebano

Full Championship Coverage


Starting XI: Rodák, Christie, Hector, Ream, Le Marchand, Arter, (Odoi 90′),  Johansen (Reed 68′), Onomah (Ciarney 79′), Knockaert (Sessegnon 90′), Mitrović, Kebano (De Cordova-Reid 78′)

Subs: Bettinelli, Mawson, Bryan, McDonald

Sheffield Wednesday

Starting XI: Wildsmith, Odubajo (Murphy 46), Iorfa, Lees, Börner, Harris, Bannan, Pelupessy (Hunt 79), Luongo (Reach 75), Da Cruz (Nuhiu 45), Windass (Wickham 45)

Subs: Dawson, Palmer, Rhodes, Reach, Waldock

Referee: Darren England

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