...it’s still eight games un­beaten

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Rob Bai­ley

IF FUL­HAM had shown more of a clin­i­cal streak so far this sea­son they would be din­ing in the play­off zone for Christ­mas – that’s ac­cord­ing to boss Slav­isa Jokanovic.

The hosts had started brightly but it was Derby who took the lead, with in-form Tom Ince net­ting his sev­enth goal in as many games.

The Cot­tagers then lev­elled through Floyd Ayite in first-half stop­page time be­fore mid­fielder Ste­fan Jo­hansen gave them the lead on the hour mark.

But Pearce pow­er­fully headed be­yond David But­ton to set up a tense fi­nale, in­clud­ing Lu­cas Pi­a­zon rat­tling the bar for the hosts with five min­utes re­main­ing.

And though Ful­ham are still un­beaten in De­cem­ber – af­ter end­ing Derby’s seven-game win­ning streak – Jokanovic was left rue­ing what might have been at the sea­son’s mid­way mark.

“I can’t be com­pletely sat­is­fied with the re­sult,” he said. “We’ve paid a big price af­ter mak­ing mis­takes. They didn’t put us un­der stress and they’ve scored two easy goals.

“We played all the foot­ball and we cre­ated many things. We’ve at­tacked from both sides and cre­ated many chances and scored two good goals, but we’ve not done enough to win the game. It’s not the first time this has hap­pened – we

need to fix this prob­lem, try im­prove our­selves and make the steps to be more solid. The first goal we’ve made two er­rors and they’ve scored. We’ve then made two or three er­rors for their sec­ond goal.

“They didn’t put us un­der stress but we need to be more com­pet­i­tive and solid so we can com­pete in the Cham­pi­onship. We of­fered the bet­ter foot­ball but we have to be more clin­i­cal. We should be higher in the league.”

Ful­ham started strongly and Pi­a­zon saw a shot blocked by Pearce fol­low­ing Ayite’s flick.

De­spite their good run of form, Derby had rarely threat­ened with Ince slic­ing his ef­fort wide mid­way through the half in a rare at­tack.

The Rams would then take a shock lead in the 34th minute with Ince col­lect­ing Johnny Rus­sell’s through ball be­fore fir­ing low be­yond But­ton from the edge of the area.

How­ever, Ful­ham re­stored par­ity in first-half stop­page time with Ayite con­vert­ing Ryan Fred­er­icks’ cross from point-blank range to net for the third suc­ces­sive game.

The hosts then nearly got a sec­ond mo­ments af­ter the break with sub­sti­tute Michael Madl’s header flash­ing across the face of the goal.

In the 61st minute the turn­around was com­plete with Jo­hansen, ben­e­fit­ting from Mar­cus Ols­son’s poor clear­ance, struck from 18 yards via a de­flec­tion off Pearce.

The lead was al­most short­lived as McClaren’s team hit back im­me­di­ately with Rus­sell out­muscling Fred­er­icks only for But­ton to tip his ef­fort around the post.

Then, with 15 min­utes re­main­ing, Derby found an equaliser as Pearce cap­i­talised on non-ex­is­tent mark­ing to con­vert Ince’s cor­ner with a bul­let header from six yards.

And though a draw meant the Rams missed the chance to spend Christ­mas in the play-off places, McClaren is a happy man.

“It could have been more than one point but I think a draw is a fair re­sult. I thought we played so well first half and re­stricted them,” he said. “The goal be­fore half-time changed the game and it gave them re­lief. They came out sec­ond half and it was a dif­fer­ent game and we had our backs against the wall.

“I’m pleased with the spirit the team showed af­ter go­ing 2-1 down. I wanted to see them come back and they did that and stayed in the game and we de­served the draw.

“What the boys have done over the last seven games has been in­cred­i­ble and to keep the clean sheets is even harder.

“The run has to end some­time and I’m glad it didn’t end in a de­feat. This is a hard place to come.”

INCE PER­FECT: Tom Ince waves to the crowd af­ter scor­ing for Derby

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

HE CAN’T MISS: Floyd Ayite scores Ful­ham’s first goal and cel­e­brates in style, above, but the Whites couldn’t hold on

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