Fulham vs Ipswich Town. Sky Bet Championship.
Saturday 8 April 2017 18:25, UK
Floyd Ayite scored his third goal in four days as Fulham beat Ipswich 3-1 to maintain their play-off push.
Ayite opened the scoring for the Cottagers in the 17th minute before Scott Malone doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark and Stefan Johansen made the game safe in the second half. Christophe Berra's injury-time header proved to be only scant consolation for Ipswich.
Manager Slavisa Jokanovic responded to his side losing 4-2 at Derby by replacing much-criticised 'keeper David Button for Marcus Bettinelli, while Tim Ream lost out to Michael Madl.
For Ipswich, Mick McCarthy made one replacement from the side that beat Wigan 3-0 with Tommy Smith replacing the injured Steven Taylor.
The home side started the game on the front foot, with an intent to attack, and they took the lead after 17 minutes. Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski was forced into a fine save from a low Chris Martin shot, before Ayite netted his third goal in four days from the rebound.
Ipswich struggled to get into the game, their first effort being a 28th-minute shot from Freddie Sears which hit the side netting after a break from the halfway line. Fulham doubled the lead two minutes later, when Malone was left unchallenged in the area to curl his effort home past Bialkowski.
The home side were still looking for a third strike, and Bialkowski had to be equal to a 39th-minute curler from the edge of the box by Kevin McDonald. David McGoldrick put his effort wide on the stroke of half-time for the visitors, who toiled in the Craven Cottage sunshine.
After his recovery from a groin injury, Tom Lawrence was put on in the second half for Ipswich, with Tommy Smith making way.
However, it was Fulham who had the first effort of note in the second half, when a free kick by Ayite on 50 minutes rattled the crossbar. Bettinelli was forced into action on 53 minutes with a fantastic point-blank save with his foot, after Sears collected a rolled pass from McGoldrick.
The game was effectively over on the hour mark, although not before the Fulham goalkeeper had to keep out a McGoldrick drive, when Johansen found space in the box, before turning inside and slotting home.
Bialkowski had to hold another curling effort from Ayite on 65 minutes, although the game was to settle into a pattern where the hosts were more than comfortable.
Ayite was substituted to a rousing reception on 86 minutes, with Neeskens Kebano replacing him. However, despite a Berra header in injury time for Ipswich, the west London outfit ran out deserved winners - and kept their play-off hopes alive.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic:
"It is my job. Button is a fantastic man, he did a fantastic job for us. I am always looking for the best for my team, and Bettinelli completed a very good performance. I don't take decisions on what is best for one person, I take decisions for what is best for my team.
"I am always happy when we have won three points. I am happy with the reaction with the defeat against Derby, we were a little bit confused why we lost the game. Today, we showed character and ambition and we played with confidence. We scored three goals and we could have scored more."
Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy:
"It's frustrating really, we made good chances and in the second half we had three great chances. But it's the tale of our season. They didn't defend particularly well either. I didn't think we were bad in the first half, we just gave two soft goals away. But they were good finishes by Fulham.
"Scoring goals was the difference today. Reality is, we should have scored after half-time but their keeper has made good saves and we've not managed to score. It was a much better team we played today, they're a really good side."