Saturday, September 24th, 2016
Bristol City made it a hat-trick of wins at Craven Cottage in 2016 with a comprehensive 4-0 victory alongside the River Thames.
Tammy Abraham got the ball rolling with his tenth goal of the season, ironically after ten minutes.
Luke Freeman's first goal in 12 months made it 2-0, before Bobby Reid's stunning strike and Aden Flint's close-range finish completed the rout.
Kevin McDonald's late dismissal only made things worse for Fulham, who have now been beaten twice in the league and once in the EFL Cup by City this calendar year.
Lee Johnson made eight changes from the midweek EFL Cup trip to the same venue, with only Flint, Marlon Pack and Freeman surviving the 2-1 win.
The big news was the absence of Gary O’Neil due to a sickness bug, leaving Pack to skipper the side. Joe Bryan and Hordur Magnusson both recovered from injuries to take their place in the defence.
The first chance of the game fell the hosts’ way as Ryan Sessegnon played a neat one-two with Chris Martin on the edge of the box before sending a low shot through a crowd of bodies.
Frank Fielding looked to be going the wrong way but managed to readjust at the last minute to nudge the ball wide of the post.
Fulham had started brightly but were undone on ten minutes when Pack intercepted home possession and sent Jamie Paterson scampering away down the right wing. The recent signing from Nottingham Forest was left in space to send a driven cross towards the six-yard box and Abraham wasn’t going to miss. His close-range finish found the net off the crossbar, bringing up the milestone tenth goal of the campaign for the Chelsea loan hotshot.
Soon after City almost had a second as Paterson’s low corner kick was flicked on by Pack and just evaded Lee Tomlin yards from the goal-line. As City recycled the ball, Reid’s cross was headed over the top by an unmarked Flint.
Fulham took time to gather themselves after falling behind but around the 25-minute mark they had managed to steady the ship.
Chances came and went for Martin, who headed well wide from Sessegnon’s pinpoint cross, before experienced midfielder Scott Parker lashed a 25-yarder off target in front of the travelling supporters.
Tomlin produced a cheeky flick inside the penalty area to free himself from the shackles of Parker, but slipped as he took aim at goal and the ball drifted wide of the mark.
Both sides were favouring the opportunity to shoot from distance. Parker had another go and saw his swerving effort drift just wide, while Paterson warmed the gloves of David Button with a low left-footed drive.
Parker was cautioned for a late lunge on Pack as the half wore on, and then the 18-cap England international cynically chopped down Tomlin on the stroke of half-time, receiving a final warning rather than a second yellow card for the misdemeanor.
Understandably Fulham opted to replace Parker at the break, clearly worried his skipper would be red-carded for one more foul, as Stefan Johnasen took his place for the start of the second period.
Neeskens Kebano should have done better when well-placed on the edge of the box straight from the restart, instead dragging his left-foot attempt wide.
The home team went closer still when Sone Aluko brought the ball under control 22 yards out and lashed a stunning half-volley towards goal and watched on as it clipped the top of the crossbar.
The scare seem to jolt City into action, and more specifically Tomlin. The attacker scored a last-minute winner at Craven Cottage last season and produced more exquisite skill to tee-up Freeman for the visitors’ second goal. Weaving his way beyond three different Fulham men, Tomlin then coolly rolled the ball into the path of Freeman to slot in, with the help of the far post.
It got better and better for the 2,675 travelling fans as Reid made it three on 68 minutes. Advancing freely towards goal, the young Bristolian picked his spot and found the bottom corner with a stunning strike.
Matt Smith, who enjoyed a dream loan spell at Ashton Gate in the double-winning campaign of 2014/15, almost reduced the deficit with a powerful header just over the top soon after stepping off the substitutes bench.
But by now City were running riot and replacement Callum O’Dowda – on for Tomlin – crossed for Paterson in the area, only for Ragnar Sigurdsson to deflect the ball over the bar.
O’Dowda was on the end of a studs-up tackle from McDonald with ten minutes left, which saw the Fulham man rightly sent off.
To rub salt into the open wounds, Republic of Ireland international O’Dowda threaded a pass into the box for Paterson and his low ball along the six-yard was powered in by Flint from just yards out.
“Can we play you every week?” asked City’s bouncing travelling support. You can understand why they would enquire.