RAMS PEARCE SLAV’S HEART AS THEIR RUN IS STOPPED
...it’s still eight games unbeaten
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
HE CAN’T MISS: Floyd Ayite scores Fulham’s first goal and celebrates in style, above, but the Whites couldn’t hold on