Sat 27 Sep 14
at 17:12 PM
The Report: Blues 1 Fulham 2
David Cotterill’s first club goal was not enough to stop Blues from slipping to a frustrating home defeat to Fulham at St. Andrew’s this afternoon.
Lee Clark’s men were good value for their half-time lead given to them by Cotterill’s terrific curling effort and had other gilt-edged chances to extend their advantage. But two goals in the space of eight minutes midway through the second period from Tim Hoogland and Hugo Rodallega saw the visitors claim a victory that had seemed highly unlikely after the first hour of the contest which Blues had largely dominated.
Clark made just one change to the side that held high-flying Norwich City last weekend with Mark Duffy replacing Paul Caddis.
Darren Randolph was called into action within the opening moments as he sprung to his left to parry away Ross McCormack’s ambitious 40-yard free-kick. Blues’ first chance of note fell to Cotterill after he latched onto Duffy’s through ball inside the area but the winger side-footed his effort just wide.
Randolph had to be alert to tip Lasse Vigen Christensen’s deflected cross over his bar as the ball threatened to spiral into the top corner. The Danish winger put another dangerous centre into the box which evaded the Blues defence and reached Rodallega just six yards put, but he attempted an elaborate over-headed bicycle kick and got it horribly wrong as the ball bounced away to safety.
Back at the opposite end of the pitch, Donaldson was presented with an equally good chance to open the deadlock from Cotterill’s excellent in-swinging cross. Unfortunately the unmarked Blues striker misjudged the flight of the ball and was unable to get any contact.
Donaldson was certainly giving the Fulham defence, which had former St. Andrew’s loanee Dan Burn at the heart of it, plenty of problems. The big striker went down in the area after a challenge from Burn and his half-hearted appeals for a penalty were ignored. But from the resultant corner another opportunity went begging; this time it was Jonathan Grounds who was left with his head in his hands as his glancing header from Cotterill’s kick drifted wide of the target.
Blues’ pressure was finally made to count on 38 minutes. Reilly did very well to win the ball back in the centre of the park and spray a pass out to Cotterill on the left wing. The former Doncaster Rovers man cut inside and unleashed a measured dipping shot that floated deliciously over the outstretched arms of Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli into the top right corner of the net.
The hosts were naturally buoyed by the goal and came close to doubling their advantage before the break. Grounds won the ball in determined fashion just inside the Fulham half and embarked on a storming run, playing a neat one-two with Demarai Gray, and suddenly the Blues left-back found himself on the edge of the visitors’ area. The ex-Oldham defender crashed in a shot that was heading for the corner until it was beaten away by Bettinelli.
Both sides made changes at the break with Duffy’s first league start for the club lasting only 45 minutes as he was replaced by Brek Shea, while for the visitors Konstantinous Stafylidis came on for Emerson Hyndman. The American was the focal point of the first notable action of the second-half as Blues caught their visitors on the break. Gray carried the ball towards the Fulham area before teeing up Shea but he was denied by Bettinelli, the young Cottagers keeper doing well to parry away the Stoke City loanee’s fierce drive.
Fulham had hardly troubled the Blues goal during the opening two-thirds of the contest but dragged themselves level against the run of play on 64 minutes. Nikolay Bodurov’s mishit effort somehow found its way to Hoogland who swung his right foot and sent in a shot that seemed to take a deflection on its way into the bottom corner of the net.
Lifted by the equaliser, Fulham visibly grew in confidence and could have completed a very quick turnaround. McCormack jinked his way into the area and fired in a low shot that Randolph did well to block with his legs. If the St. Andrew’s faithful were left stunned by seeing their side let yet another lead slip, worse was to follow on 71 minutes as Fulham did indeed grasp the initiative with a second goal. It came from a mix-up in the Blues defence between Jonathan Spector and Randolph and Rodallega swept the ball home from the narrowest of angles.
Blues huffed and puffed in the closing stages but never really looked like getting back into the game and it was Fulham who came closest to adding to the scoresheet with Rodallega sent clear inside the area but seeing his shot saved by Randolph’s feet.
This was a bitter blow for Blues who are yet again left to ponder what might have been had they took their chances, but they must now lift themselves for a tricky Tuesday night trip to Millwall.