Arter strike keeps Ful­ham in the hunt for au­to­matic pro­mo­tion

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Cham­pi­onship By John Percy

The cheers of cel­e­bra­tion echoed around an empty City Ground at the fi­nal whis­tle, and this could prove a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory for Ful­ham and man­ager Scott Parker.

Ful­ham’s at­tempt to make an in­stant re­turn to the Pre­mier League re­mains on course af­ter a third suc­ces­sive vic­tory main­tained their slim hopes of au­to­matic pro­mo­tion. It is all about mo­men­tum at this stage of the sea­son and Ful­ham ap­pear to be tim­ing their run per­fectly, with a dis­ci­plined, pro­fes­sional per­for­mance at one of their near­est ri­vals in the play-off po­si­tions.

Parker’s brother-in-law, Harry Arter, pro­duced the one mo­ment of true qual­ity last night with the 25yard goal which keeps Ful­ham fourth and four points be­hind sec­ond-placed West Bromwich, who face Derby at home tonight.

Parker said: “There will be many twists and turns left this sea­son and all we can do is keep putting the pres­sure on.

“It’s a big time to get wins to­gether be­cause we’re two weeks away from the fin­ish and we’ve shown a dif­fer­ent side to us here.

“I’m ab­so­lutely de­lighted with the way we’ve re­sponded since we’ve come back from lock­down.”

Ful­ham’s hopes of gate­crash­ing the top two will be fur­ther boosted by the re­turn of lead­ing scorer Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic for Fri­day’s home game against Cardiff. They then face West Bromwich in a po­ten­tially piv­otal game at the Hawthorns next Tues­day.

Mitro­vic has served a three­match sus­pen­sion af­ter a ret­ro­spec­tive ban by the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, while cap­tain Tom Cair­ney was also ab­sent here with an in­jury.

This was a first de­feat for Not­ting­ham For­est since the restart and a per­for­mance head coach Sabri Lamouchi can­not have seen com­ing. For­est never looked likely to score, but stay fifth and se­cur­ing a play-off place for the first time since 2011 re­mains in their hands.

In a scrappy, stodgy match of few op­por­tu­ni­ties, Ful­ham took the lead in added time of the first half with their first shot on tar­get.

Arter had ap­peared to lose pos­ses­sion on the edge of the area to Ben Wat­son, but the ball squirmed free and the mid­fielder sent a su­perb shot into the top-right cor­ner.

For­est were con­vinced the ball had struck Arter’s arm af­ter Wat­son’s chal­lenge, and tele­vi­sion re­plays will have only height­ened their frus­tra­tion.

Lamouchi utilised all of his five avail­able sub­sti­tu­tions in an at­tempt to give the home team more im­pe­tus, but there was a lack of con­vic­tion in front of goal for much of the game.

Alfa Semedo’s tame 68th-minute shot at Marek Ro­dak, the Ful­ham goal­keeper, was their only snarl of de­fi­ance from an un­der­whelm­ing per­for­mance. Lamouchi said: “We are not ma­chines and we need rest. We stopped play­ing for three months and then have four games in 10 days.”

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