Report: Fulham 2-1 Dons
In an important Sky Bet Championship clash, the Cottagers struck first through Ross McCormack but Josh Murphy levelled things up soon after with a delightful lob over Marcus Bettinelli.
Fulham, though, snatched the points late on through Moussa Dembele, meaning the Dons are now four points behind the West Londoners in the table.
The men from MK1 were dealt a double injury blow in the build-up to this important Sky Bet Championship clash, losing David Martin to a fractured hand and Rob Hall to a knee injury.
Cody Cropper, fresh from represented USA Under-23s, replaced Martin between the sticks and he watched two early chances from the hosts fall off target – first Tom Cairney dragged a left-footed shot and then Moussa Dembele volleyed over from much closer range.
Cairney then tried his luck again on six minutes with a snapshot from 20-yards which forced Cropper into action for the first time and the American was more than equal to the effort.
From that chance, the Dons earned their first opportunity on goal from a Murphy corner. Joe Walsh met the winger’s delivery at the far post but he couldn’t direct his header on target.
The goalmouth action subsided until Bowditch threatened with a shot from the edge of the D which rose over the bar on 16 minutes – the Dons’ number nine had done well to work his way inside from the right flank.
Alex Revell, too, cleared the crossbar after a collecting a loose ball from Cropper’s long kick up-field, as the Dons continued to threaten Marcus Bettinelli in the Cottagers’ goal.
However, it was Fulham who would register the first real shot on target just past the half-way point in the first period when talisman McCormack struck the upright with a fierce effort from distance.
His teammate Rohan Ince followed that chance up with another effort on goal – this one a half-volley which Cropper saved comfortably.
While the Cottagers were looking dangerous on the attack, the Dons defence was withstanding the pressure well with Walsh, in particular, looking sharp on his return to the side following a hamstring injury.
Alongside Walsh in the heart of defence was Antony Kay, who was in search of his third goal in as many games and he may have found it 34 minutes in if not for a terrific block from his half-volley.
As the first half drew to a close, Cropper was called upon twice in quick succession to keep the scores level. After getting fingertips to Cairney’s curling effort, the keeper then denied Dembele at his near post with another terrific stop.
Fulham were in the ascendancy as the opening 45 ended and they remained on the front foot after the restart.
Ince lifted a shot over the bar within the first minute of the second half before Bowditch was called upon to make an important interception soon after.
The Dons then began to grow once again, with Josh Murphy, in particular, threatening down the left, but just as looked as though they would be the team to open the scoring, they were hit with a sucker punch at the other end.
Dembele got free of his man and raced down to the by-line before cutting back for his strike partner McCormack to bundle home inside the six-yard box. 0-1.
Fulham’s goal awoke the home crowd at Craven Cottage, who had been kept relatively quiet by the Dons and if it wasn’t for Cropper close on the hour mark, they could have been celebrating a second goal.
First Cropper got two strong hands to McCormack’s powerful effort but the US Under-23 international tipped over a curling shot from Dembele.
The Dons needed a moment of magic to get back into the game and in the 63rd minute they found it courtesy of Murphy, who timed his run perfectly to latch onto Revell’s flick-on.
The winger composed himself and then executed a perfect lob over Bettinelli, before running off to celebrate with the travelling supporters. 1-1.
The visiting Dons fans had made the journey down to West London in their numbers and were vocal all afternoon. They almost had a second goal to celebrate in the 71st minute when Revell managed to poke a shot past Bettinelli but his effort was ruled out for offside.
However, it was the home crowd who were on their feet with a quarter of an hour to go when McCormack managed to keep a long ball from the right in play and head back for Dembele to slot in a second for his side. 1-2.
Robinson’s men had chances late on to snatch what would have been a valuable point and the introduction of Maynard had an impact but they couldn’t find that much-needed goal and slipped to only their second defeat in six away games.
Starting XI: Cropper; Baldock, Walsh, Kay, Lewington (c); Potter, Forster-Caskey (Powell 88); Bowditch (Maynard 72), Williams (Baker 56), Murphy; Revell.
Unused subs: Burns, Spence, Long, Carruthers.