BRING IT ON , SAYS JOY­FUL JOKANOVIC

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Matt Westby

SLAVISA JOKANOVIC said he does not care which team his Ful­ham side face in the play-offs after they all but sealed a top-six fin­ish with a draw against Brent­ford.

Tom Cairney gave Ful­ham an eighth-minute lead but then missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time after Nico Yen­naris had equalised for Brent­ford in the 34th minute.

Sixth-placed Ful­ham will now take a three-point gap over sev­en­th­placed Leeds into the fi­nal day of the league sea­son, but their far su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence – 27 to 14 – means only a freak pair of re­sults can deny them a place in play-offs along­side Read­ing, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day and Hud­der­s­field.

Jokanovic said: “Many strange things hap­pen, but I don’t think it will hap­pen next week­end. I am sure we are in the play-offs.

“I don’t know (if it is bet­ter to face one team over another). I have never played in a play-off. It’s 25 per cent for all the teams. We are go­ing to play against qual­ity teams in this com­pe­ti­tion who­ever it is.

“I am not think­ing it is bet­ter or worse to fin­ish sixth. I re­ally be­lieve we have 25 per cent of a chance to be the pro­moted team and we are go­ing to fight for it.

“We have enough ex­pe­ri­ence to play against all the teams.”

Ful­ham, on the back of a four­match win­ning streak, made a pos­i­tive start against Brent­ford and went ahead when Ryan Sesseg­non latched on to a through-ball from Sone Aluke and cut back for Cairney to stroke home his 12th goal of the sea­son.

Cairney could have dou­bled the ad­van­tage four min­utes later after Ste­fan Jo­hansen found him with another cut­back from the left, but this time he lifted his left-footed shot over the cross­bar.

The hosts spurned an even bet­ter op­por­tu­nity in the 24th minute, Floyd Ayite scoop­ing em­bar­rass­ingly high into the stand after be­ing played through on goal by Scott Malone.

And Ful­ham were pun­ished for their profli­gacy when Yen­naris played a one-two on the edge of the box with Kon­stantin Ker­schbaumer and fired right-footed into the top cor­ner.

Yoann Bar­bet’s foul on Jo­hansen handed Ful­ham the chance re­store their lead from the penalty spot, but Brent­ford goal­keeper Daniel Bent­ley dived low to his left to deny Cairney. And Bent­ley thwarted Cairney once again three min­utes after the restart by pluck­ing his left-footed shot out of the top cor­ner, and Jo­hansen then shot nar­rowly wide as the hosts pushed for a sec­ond.

But then Brent­ford be­gan fight­ing back and Ful­ham goal­keeper Mar­cus Bet­tinelli was forced into three smart saves, twice from Lasse Vibe and once from sub­sti­tute Flo­rian Joze­f­zoon.

Brent­ford man­ager Dean Smith praised his play­ers for adapt­ing to the cir­cum­stances, say­ing: “It was a dif­fer­ent per­for­mance from us. In re­cent weeks it has been fast-flow­ing, at­tack­ing foot­ball. We had to de­fend res­o­lutely.

“We gave away too many chances in the first half. It be­came more end to end in the sec­ond half; they dom­i­nated it more in the first half.

“We didn’t want to come here and al­low Ful­ham to have a party. We didn’t al­low them to have a party – they made the play-offs through other re­sults.

“You only had to look at our bench to see we were down to our bare bones. Credit to the play­ers who came in – they re­ally took their op­por­tu­nity.”

PICTURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

MADE IT: Ful­ham’s Ste­fan Jo­hansen marks the end of a match which all but con­firms the play-offs and, in­set, Daniel Bent­ley saves from Ful­ham’s Tom Cairney

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.