Historical Transfer News and Team Gossip has been archived below:
There has been wide speculation this summer over the future of Fulham striker Clint Dempsey as the striker has been a top target for many of the leading clubs in the division. The cottagers have been doing everything they can to keep their prized asset but he now looks set to be leaving the club sometime during the closed season which will be extremely disheartening for fans of the cottagers. The club have been trying to distance themselves from the interest of the other clubs which include Liverpool as they have recently stated that they have received no offers for their player so as far as they are concerned he will remain at the club next season as the American still has two years left to run on his current contract.
A firm target for manager Martin Jol this summer is Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku who has found limited chances with the first team ever since singing for Chelsea from Anderlect last summer for a fee believed to be around the thirteen million pound mark. Jol feels the striker would be the perfect replacement for Clint Dempsey if the striker does decide to move to Liverpool as is expected and would fit right in the squad for next year. Chelsea are thought to be wishing to offload the forward due to the manager bringing in many new players so Fulham are in with a great chance to land the player they are after.
Striker Andy Johnson has recently moved to QPR after a long running rift with manager Martin Jol and as the player was without contract the London club let the player move without any fuss. Johnson has played down the talk of a major rift between himself and Jol but it is believed the two fell out on many occasions and thus Johnson chose to look elsewhere to ply his trade.
Martin Jol is extremely happy with the capture of former Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega who he has just managed to sign on a three year contract free due to the Bosman ruling. The Colombia international says he was extremely sad to leave the Lactics but he felt his future lied in London and this has now given a massive boost to Jol ahead of the new season.
Republic of Ireland winger Damian Duff has spoken out amid rumours the player may decide to hang up his boots and call it a day as he states he does not know where these rumours are coming from. The player has confirmed to Fulham fans that he will not be quitting this summer and will continue to play football until he drops which is a great result for Martin Jol and his team as Duff has been extremely influential since arriving at Craven Cottage.
Fulham are 90 minutes from returning to the Premier League after goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi took them to Wembley
I’ll leave you with that thought. Fulham are deservedly through to the Championship final after beating Derby 2-1 on aggregate and will play either Aston Villa or Middlesbrough at Wembley. Paul Macinnes was at Craven Cottage to report on a night to remember for Fulham. That’s all from me. Night!
Ryan Sessegnon is 17. Seventeen! The clarity of mind he displayed with his goal hinted at a special talent. Would it be worth taking him to the World Cup for the experience? England did that with Rio Ferdinand in 1998.
Slavisa Jokanovic speaks about Ryan Sessegnon: “This man is special. Today he showed a great mentality and quality.”
Slavisa Jokanovic speaks: “This club needs this kind of happiness. We found it today. In the end, after 43 years, we will play at Wembley. It is a great achievement for us. We played very well and deserved this victory. The players trust in themselves. My job is to believe in them and they played very good football and showed great self-belief. Without confidence it is hard to play this kind of game.”
Fulham will face either Aston Villa or Middlesbrough in the final on 26 May. Villa won the first leg of the other semi-final 1-0 and will be confident of going through at Villa Park tomorrow night.
Here’s Mitrovic! “It is unbelievable. It is amazing. We got the result we wanted. I think we deserved it because we showed better football.”
Ryan Sessegnon speaks: “We said we were going to give it a go. It was special. We got the first goal. Thankfully I got it and we kept going. In the last few games we lost our way a bit but we got our composure back. We believe in our style of play and today it showed that if we keep going we’ll get our reward. I just play my normal game. I get my head down and work hard for the team.”
Fulham fans are on the pitch, celebrating like mad after second-half goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi swung the tie their way! Derby’s players are devastated.
Fulham have done it! They’re in the Championship play-off final! They’ve finally won a play-off game! Not a bad time to end their torrid run.
90 min+6: Wisdom’s cross is headed wide by one of three Derby’s cross at the far post.
90 min+5: Vydra tries to release Palmer. Ream is in the way.
90 min+4: Derby hoist the ball into the Fulham area. It falls to Nugent. A shot. A block. Fulham clear their lines. Craven Cottage is anxious.
90 min+1: Oliver Norwood replaces Tom Cairney, who takes his sweet time leaving the pitch. There will be six added minutes.
89 min: Weimann charges into the area but Sessegnon races back to challenge him. Weimann almost wins the ball back and Sessegnon seems to pull him back. No penalty, though.
88 min: Johnson backheels the ball to Nugent, who slashes a shot miles wide from 18 yards. Derby have faded badly since Fulham’s second. But there could yet be a late twist.
84 min: The game is being played in Derby’s half, which is unhelpful from Derby’s perspective. They aren’t threatening at all.
81 min: Johansen shoots straight at Carson from 20 yards. Derby need something coherent. Time is running out.
78 min: Palmer throws the ball at McDonald. Both men are booked.
77 min: Huddlestone trips Mitrovic. He’s booked.
76 min: Tomas Kalas replaces Matt Targett.
75 min: England’s David Nugent replaces Cameron Jerome.
74 min: Luckily for Fulham, nothing comes from the corner. Instead they break at high speed. Kamara, so quick, surges down the right and he’s got acres of space to attack, with nobody between him and Carson. He charges forward and sees the Derby goalkeeper running towards him. He lobs the ball over Carson, who’s stranded outside his area, and then he falls over, claiming a foul. He’s booked for diving. Dearie me.
73 min: Fulham concede a ridiculous corner, Ream’s backpass from just inside his own half putting Bettinelli in trouble. Bettinelli can’t keep it from going behind. Jokanovic is fuming.
71 min: Palmer darts to the byline and turns a cross into the middle. Weimann, all alone, heads over from six yards!
70 min: Derby have responded strongly to falling behind on aggregate, pushing Fulham back. It’s the home team’s turn to feel the nerves. It doesn’t feel like this is over yet. Far from it.
67 min: Derby respond with two changes, Matej Vydra and Kasey Palmer replacing Ikechi Anya and Tom Lawrence. Gary Rowett is unhappy.
Sessegnon sends the corner to the near post from the right and Odoi, leaping above Forsyth, glances a stunning header into the far corner! Fulham lead on aggregate and Craven Cottage has gone mad!
65 min: Kamara charges down the outside and rams a shot into the side-netting. It took a slight deflection, though, so here’s a Fulham corner. And...
64 min: Mitrovic sends one over from 25 yards. He’s had so many attempts tonight.
62 min: Johansen’s booked for ending a Derby counter with a tactical foul on Jerome.
60 min: After a brief lull, Mitrovic produces an exceptional turn to shrug off Forsyth, but his low shot curls just wide of the right post from 18 yards.
56 min: Derby finally relieve some of the pressure and counter down the left. Lawrence hooks a ball through to Johnson, who holds off his man before forcing Bettinelli to turn his bobbling shot behind. Nothing comes from the corner.
53 min: Fredericks can’t control on the edge of the area but the ball runs to Johansen, who sees his shot deflected over. Derby are being pinned back. Luckily for them, Keogh has recovered from his blow to the noggin.
51 min: Fredericks escapes down the right but Carson plunges to collect his low centre. Fulham are turning the screw. Derby look a bit rattled. Keogh and Davies both go for the same ball and succeed in sending it out for a Fulham corner. Keogh stays down. That was a nasty clash of heads with his fellow centre-back.
49 min: Derby look to hit back immediately, Fredericks dozing off at the far post, but Anya can’t control his header.
Matt Targett picks up possession on the left. Nobody closes him down, so he sends a cross into the area. Johansen, in between two Derby defenders, brilliantly chests it down for Sessegnon to control with his chest and spank a left-footed shot high past Carson from 12 yards! What composure from the 17-year-old! The tie is level!
47 min: “Derby’s away jersey is eye-catching,” says Peter Oh. “It’s got a safety yellow hue to it, but to Fulham fans it could soon start take on a shade of traffic signal yellow.”
46 min: Fulham, in desperate need of a goal, get the second half underway.
Fulham have had the chances but they have nothing to show for their dominance. Derby will be feeling quietly encouraged. They’re 45 minutes from Wembley.
45 min: There will be one added minute. Mitrovic is having a moan at the officials about being bundled over on the edge of the area by Forsyth, who was playing with fire.
44 min: Closer and closer. Targett swings in a cross from the left. Mitrovic rises above Forsyth, six yards out, and his powerful header looks destined for the back of the net - only for Carson to make a stunning reflex save! Fulham can’t believe it.
43 min: Fredericks runs at Anya, who’s pushed back into the area, and the right-back decides to have a pop. It’s dipping under the bar but Carson leaps back to push it over! Fulham are getting closer.
42 min: Jerome goes for goal from 25 yards, but his effort’s dreadful.
41 min: Kamara pops up on the left, cutting inside and letting fly from 20 yards. It’s low and swerving, but Carson beats it out. Fulham settle for a corner. But that comes to nothing.
38 min: Anya pulls a cross into the area from the left byline. The ball eventually comes to Wisdom on the edge of the area, but the right wing-back blooters his shot over.
36 min: Mitrovic receives the ball with his back to goal. A drop of the shoulder shakes off Davies and opens up a sight of goal, only for the striker to bend his 18-yarder inches past the left post. The Fulham fans were getting ready to celebrate. Instead they greet their team’s latest miss with anguished howls.
34 min: Mitrovic drags a shot wide from 25 yards. All a bit anxious from Fulham. Derby are taking every opportunity to waste a few seconds when they can.
32 min: Johnson screws a shot wide after a decent Derby break. McDonald, meanwhile, is lucky not to be booked for a cynical trip on Weimann.
30 min: Sessegnon has had six touches. Admittedly he might have scored with one of them, but Fulham need to work the ball to the 17-year-old more.
28 min: Mitrovic glances a header a few yards wide from Fredericks’ cross.
25 min: McDonald threads a pass to Mitrovic, who holds off his marker and lays the ball off to Johansen, who arrows a drive just over the angle of post and bar from 18 yards.
23 min: Anya saunters down the left, does a stepover to make space for a cross and zips a low ball into the six-yard box. It’s a fine delivery but it’s just behind Jerome, who can’t scramble it in, much to Fulham’s relief. The ball’s hacked away.
20 min: Mitrovic plays a one-two with Sessegnon, but he scuffs his shot straight at Carson from 18 yards. Up the other end, Jerome turns and knocks a clever ball through to Weimann. The Austrian’s dangerous cross has to be turned over his own bar by Fredericks.
19 min: Derby are proving tough to break down. Fulham are going to require patience.
17 min: McDonald looks like he’s going to run to a loose ball on the edge of the area, only for Cairney to take it off his captain. The move fizzles out. Oh dear.
15 min: Lawrence’s free-kick is headed away as far as Weimann, who volleys well over from 25 yards.
14 min: A Fulham attack breaks down and Lawrence is able to lead Derby away down the left, eventually winning a free-kick when Kamara clips his heels.
11 min: Derby loft a deep free-kick into the Fulham area. Keogh beats the offside trap on the left and lofts a high cross into the area. Nothing comes from it in the end, but Derby are showing signs of having the measure of Fulham in the air.
8 min: Jerome heads on a long ball and Fredericks puts it behind for Derby’s first corner. Cairney clears it at the near post and Fulham counter after Derby twice give the ball away cheaply on the right. It’s a three-on-one break, led by Kamara, and Derby are all over the place! Kamara sweeps the ball across to Sessegnon, who takes a touch and shoots high towards the right corner, only for Carson to palm the youngster’s effort wide!
7 min: Derby attack for the first time and Lawrence whips in a cross from the right. Weimann attacks it but Bettinelli gets there first. Weimann, sliding in, takes the Fulham keeper out with his momentum. It was an accident. After a brief exchange of words, all’s well.
3 min: Mitrovic bustles into the area on the right and forces Davies to concede a corner. “What an unbelievable run of form from Aleksandar Mitrovic at the end of the season,” says Shaun Wilkinson. “A question for you - if Fulham don’t go up, should Rafa Benitez give him more of a chance to show what he can do next season? He may not be 100% reliable, but I am surely not alone in thinking he should at least get the chance to show he can be better than Gayle and Joselu.”
I think he’s really benefited from working under a Serbian manager. Jokanovic has been able to connect with him. I doubt Benitez will fully trust him. Mitrovic hasn’t really shown much in the Premier League yet.
2 min: Fulham, looking to start quickly, attack after Jerome concedes possession. Johansen feeds Kamara, who can’t do anything with a low centre from the right. Fulham keep pressing, though, and Cairney shoots straight at Carson from 25 yards.
Peep! Derby, in fluorescent yellow, get the game underway in the south-west London late-evening sun. Fulham, in white shirts and black shorts, are kicking from left to right.
Here come the teams! Craven Cottage, such a lovely ground, is rocking.
An email! “Nerviness is right,” David Hopkins says. “I tried to tell myself that Derby squeezing up through the playoffs might not be a good thing after what happened last time they did that, but it hasn’t worked.”
While we wait for the team news, here’s Nick Miller’s preview of tonight’s game.
Are Fulham going to blow it? They might be about to blow it. They’re regarded by many as the best footballing side in the Championship – don’t shout at me, Wolves fans, that’s what other people are saying – but that might not stop them from blowing it. They’ve already missed out on automatic promotion to Cardiff City, despite going 476 games unbeaten, and are in danger of suffering more play-off woe after freezing in the first leg of their semi-final against Derby County on Friday night.
Derby arriving at Craven Cottage clutching a one-goal lead thanks to Cameron Jerome and Gary Rowett’s men will back themselves to get the job done. They can be a stubborn lot when they’re in the mood and will certainly take a repeat of the 1-1 draw they earned at this ground in November. Fulham, however, will back themselves to turn this around. They have the firepower to do so and Derby, remember, finished 13 points behind them in sixth place. You can make arguments for either side: welcome to the nerviness of a play-off semi-final.
Only time will tell if this highly-charged encounter will help take Fulham back to the promised land of the Premier League. But judging by the electricity that crackled round the old stands of Craven Cottage, there is momentum behind the Cottagers. And they also have Ryan Sessegnon.
The teenager scored the first goal of this match and set up the second for Denis Odoi. Kept quiet for much of the game, when his moment arrived in the second minute of the second half, Sessegnon buried it.
The gifted teenager and his teammates will need to shake off Derby’s semi-final first-leg shackles and a 1-0 deficit if they are to reach Wembley
Ryan Sessegnon turns 18 on Friday. Not old enough to get a tattoo, but old enough to face the muscular men of the Championship, arms mostly covered in legally obtained ink, 47 times. Sessegnon notched up his half‑century in all competitions for the season in Fulham’s play-off semi‑final first leg 1-0 defeat at Derby, and his season might not nearly be over yet: he has an outside chance of being named in England’s World Cup squad on Wednesday.
It is a lot to take for a kid, and watching Sessegnon in the last few weeks of a gruelling season, it’s tricky not to come to the conclusion that it all might be a bit too much, too soon. Sessegnon was substituted after an ineffective performance against Derby, similar to Fulham’s last few games of the regular season.
I’m very happy with lots of things. We were a counterattacking threat all night which we worked on. Defensively, we were very well disciplined. Curtis Davies marshalled them very well. I was disappointed we didn’t pick them off for a second. The goal was the first time we showed a bit of composure. The goal comes from a bit of good play. We have given ourselves a fantastic opportunity.
CJ : “It’s a slight advantage. If you had offered it before we would have taken it. It’s going to be tough. They boys were magnificent from 1-11.”
CD: “[On Mitrovic] He’s an in-form striker. We can’t defend for another 90 minutes down there..but it’s good to have a lead to take down there.”
CJ: “Given chances you will score goals. The lads are finding me, thankfully. Curtis was magnificent tonight and the back 3-5 was brilliant.”
CD: “They [Fulham] with Wolves are the best footballing side in the First Division Hopefully, we can make a couple of chances and win the tie.”
There goes the final whistle. Derby, resolute and threatening. Fulham were disappointing and fragile.
90 mins: Fulham are careless in the dying seconds, and give the ball away. Anya, though, cannot do much with it. There were no teammates ready to receive a cross.
90 mins: Applause as Carson takes an age over a goal-kick. Derby fans trying to sing the nerves away. And their team is now dallying over throw-ins down the right-hand flank.
90 mins: Plenty of pictures of fans biting nails, sucking thumbs and rocking on their heels. Agony for the home fans, and even worse for Fulham supporters, perhaps.
90 mins: There will be four added minutes, which seems maybe a minutes in excess, and the Derby fans are none too amused.
89 mins: Derby sub: On comes Jamie Hanson for a limping Weimann.
88 mins: Fulham step it up again. A dinked cross to Mitrovic, but the striker can’t keep his header down.
87 mins: Sub: Oliver Norwood is on for Fulham, replacing Johansen.
87 mins: Cairney chance. In typical style, he ghosts into space, and his shot spinnakers towards goal. Carson was beaten, but so was the post.
86 mins: And Bradley Johnson booked too, for Derby, for a tactical foul as Fulham looked to be breaking.
85 mins: Johansen booked for Fulham.
84 mins: Weimann on the break, falls over at exactly the wrong moment. Derby were close to being through and Weimann, who slipped on the ball, looks to have hurt himself.
82 mins: Kebano is getting involved, and been more prominent than Sessegnon, but still, Fulham, who have scored in every game in 2018, look incapable of carving out chances. Mitrovic forces a corner.
81 mins: Derby fans are giving it the big one. “Super Derby, super Rams” and their team has been pretty heroic so far, though the lack of a second goal will only add anxiety.
79 mins: Not sure those subs have had the desired effect for Fulham. Suddenly, their attack looks even more lacking in cohesion. For Derby, Anya and Nugent have been effective in releasing the pressure.
77 mins: Fulham pile it on, but Derby have reclaimed something of their early poise in defence and throw a wet blanket over the danger.
76 mins: First booking: Weimann for clattering Kebano and then protesting too much.
75 mins: Better signs for Derby, even better signs when Sessegnon and Ayite leave the field for Piazon and Kebano. Sessegnon, the EFL Player of the Year no less, was negligible.
74 mins: Odoi has to take evasive action. Lawrence again gets space, and Nugent was lurking with intent. Another Derby corner comes to nothing when a whistle is blown for an infringement.
72 mins: Tom Lawrence gets to the byline, and his ball arrows into the six-yard box. Anya cannot reach it. Would a centre-forward like Vydra or Jerome have done better?
71 mins: Tom Huddlestone opens up Fulham with a long pass. Anya forces a corner. It went to the back post but Bradley Johnson was penalised for some shoving.
70 mins: The stats suggest that for the last 10 minutes 55% of the action has been in Derby’s final third. They are holding firm. But only just.
69 mins: Targett overlaps and nods down for Mitrovic, but he overbalances and the ball ends up squirting behind the goalline. The ball not quite dropping for Fulham.
68 mins: Derby subs: off come Jerome and Vydra, while on come David Nugent and Ikechi Anya.
66 mins: Fulham ratcheting it up. Derby going last-ditch. But pressure is relieved when Mitrovic can’t keep the ball in.
64 mins: Mitrovic attempted to slalom through but Davies denied him again. It is, though, getting ragged for Derby.
63 mins: Cairney at last surges forward from midfield. A fierce shot but straight at Carson.
62 mins: Long, hopeful ball from Vydra, and Bettinelli came out to the edge of the centre circle to deny Jerome. He had to since Odoi was dithering, but this was as foolhardy as it was brave.
60 mins: At such a point, do players begin to think of their clubs’ poor record in the play-offs? Possibly not the best course of action for these specialists in play-off failure.
59 mins: This is opening up now. Mitrovic denied that time but becoming ever more prevalent.
57 mins: Fulham are known for late goals, and it looks as if half-time has leadened Derby’s legs. That said, Lawrence found space, but the ball up to him from Weimann had been any use, that could have been 2-0. Neither team have shown the attacking precision they will find in the Premier League.
55 mins: Now a chance for Weimann at the other end. Looped ball over and the Austrian gets a shooting chance. Fredericks, though, was in the right position to put him off. The angle was also far too acute.
54 mins: Another great Fulham chance! Long, diagonal ball from Johansen finds Ayite clear on goal but he can’ keep his shot down.
53 mins: Fulham rattle the bar! Mitrovic holds the ball up and McDonald smashes it. Carson was beaten.
51 mins: The intensity of the later part of the second half is yet to be replicated. Fulham, though, are looking a little brighter.
49 mins: More signs of nerves? This time it’s Curtis Davies leaving Bradley Johnson short and he has to clatter Cairney. Fulham take the free-kick short and Andre Wisdom climbed highest. Sessegnon gets a sighter and smashes it over the bar.
48 mins: Chaotic scenes. What happened there? Goalkeeper Bettinelli, slipped on a back pass and it bounced off Cameron Jerome. Fulham very lucky not to concede another.
47 mins: We begin with Fulham passing the ball around at the back, just as we began the first.
46 mins: That deafening Derby sound system was playing Eminem’s Lose Yourself, an odd choice considering its title, but as that cuts out, the second half is back underway.
What do Fulham need to do here? Perhaps it might be as simple as keeping the score to 1-0, but they could really do with getting players like Tom Cairney on the ball in midfield, or at least further forward than they are currently being allowed to venture.
Daniel Reilly emails in from Failsworth, Manchester.
I like Tom Huddlestone. He gives hope to those of us that are broader of chest.
What are these clubs playing for? David Conn with a gentle reminder.
So far, a tactical masterclass from Gary Rowett’s Derby. Fulham have tried to play their usual game but have been shunted backwards by power and organisation. Perhaps their best chance of taking anything back to SW London is Derby running out of energy, but it them who have looked leggy. Great goal from Jerome, too. Real quality centre-forward play from him.
45 mins: And that ends with more frustration for Fulham.
45 mins: A minute added on
44 mins: Davies again stops Mitrovic holding the ball up. The Serb is the counterpoint of Fulham and with him struggling, they will struggle to create chances.
43 mins: Another Fulham attack comes to naught. Some hurried, long passing. Most out of character for them.
42 mins: Here come Derby again. Jerome out on the flank and Vydra tries to follow up the second ball. Fulham being hurried in defence and attack.
40 mins: A pre-break surge from the visitors. Ayite has a shot blocked. Derby still holding firm. Their three-man defence is effectively five with wing-backs tucked in. Andy Weimann, a forward for Villa, has been manful in dealing with Fulham’s attacks down the right.
39 mins: Jokanovic calls for calm from the sidelines. Still a long way to go here.
38 mins: What can Fulham produce? Mitrovic gets his first sight of goal. Turns away from Davies at last and forces a hesitant save from Carson.
36 mins: Derby fans bounce in the stands and their team are now brimming with confidence. Fulham have been circumspect, and nervous, and have failed to deal with Rowett’s game plan.
35 mins: It had been coming though that was the first time Derby had properly got down the flanks. Targett, was, er, targeted there, and Derby overloaded once they got the ball out to the left. Jerome is always capable of bullying defenders.
Huddlestone’s ball gets Forsyth out on the left. Great cross, and Jerome powers through Matt Targett to get there.
32 mins: So far, Mitrovic is losing the battle with Curtis Davies, who is showing off all his experience and wiles.
31 mins: Some hurried stuff from Fulham at the back. Derby have slowly edged forward as this half has gone on.
29 mins: Fulham lack flow, it has to be said but Derby need to take advantage of that during such moments of doubt.
27 mins: Derby build up a head of steam. Richard Keogh steps forward, and it looks like the ball is being retained rather than risked. Then a prodding pass catches Tim Ream unawares, and Lawrence just fails to create a clear chance.
25 mins: Chance? Derby allowed a cross to travel a long way and it took Scott Carson’s alertness to clear the danger. Fulham will rue not getting enough men forward.
24 mins: Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce is in the stands with assistant and fine man Steve Agnew. A scouting mission, but perhaps also a chance to acclimatise to the play-off pain by watching someone else go through it.
23 mins: The most regular sight in this game so far is the ball being played around the centre circle by Fulham as their midfield attempts to find the speedsters on the flank or Mitrovic, and it’s not working so far.
21 mins: But here’s Lawrence, who’s been lively, and he’s on the burst, only to hit the first Fulham defender when he had teammates to his left.
20 mins: At this point, I shall use up the cliche “cagey affair”.
18 mins: Derby are looking to hit Jerome with long balls. So far, he has barely had a touch. The Rowett plan appears to be sitting back and then on the counter.
17 mins: Fulham try to calm things down with some passing moves. Eventually, Fredericks overlaps down the right and Davies comes across to clear.
16 mins: Now the noise is up as Sessegnon has to clear a Johnson cross. Vydra, who always looks for space, has made a couple of incursions into dangerous areas.
15 mins: The early noise has dulled a little, and the nerves are apparent.
14 mins: A shove in the corner from Odoi on Lawrence gives Derby a free-kick chance. The big men are up for this but Fulham keeper Bettinelli punched it clear to safety.
12 mins: Derby on the counter attack. It was harem scarem and Cameron Jerome looked to be away, but the angle was tight and another flag on the play. Seems Fulham are playing the offside trap, and none too safely.
10 mins: Derby have weathered the early storm and while they don’t look too coherent in attack, they have been resolute in defence.
8 mins: Gary Rowett is a gum-chewer par excellence. Really chowing down, in between barking at his players and officials. He is, let’s say, one of life’s enthusiasts.
7 mins: Offside decision given that looked dodgy to say the least, and Derby looked to have got clear. Now Tom Lawrence has suffered an injury. Losing the Welshman would be a significant blow, but he comes back on.
5 mins: Fulham free-kick in a dangerous position. Tom Huddlestone climbed highest to head clear.
4 mins: Fulham with the early momentum. Mitrovic holds the ball up, and Sessegnon gets his first sight of goal. He smashes it over. Just after that, the young man gets a run on the Derby defence. His being tackled brings out a hell of a cheer from the home fans.
3 mins: Penalty claim there. Did Curtis Davies handle? He looks a little guilty but the ball is cleared and the ref waves play on.
2 mins: On the bench, Slavisa Jokanovic looks tense and wild-eyed. Mind you, that’s a pretty regular occurrence.
1 min: Hell of a racket out there, plenty of boos for Fulham whenever they are in possession.
1 min: And away we go!
Captain Curtis Davies has been leading Derby’s players through a Stevie G-style huddle, and used some very rude words indeed.
James Elliott emails in.
I’m following this from the Mille Miglia offices in Brescia, working on the classic car event that starts on Monday. Let’s hope we don’t give Derby ‘Alfa’ chance this evening...
That doesn’t really work, does it?
Anyone who has attended Pride Park will be familiar with the racket the pre-match routine makes. It sounds like a rocket taking off, in the world’s worst cheesy nightclub. Can there be a worse pre-match routine? Let me know if you have heard or seen it.
After last week’s 4-1 win over Barnsley, Derby will be more confident. Despite what Jokanovic may say, losing 3-1 at Birmingham was a bitter blow. Victory there would have taken Fulham up.
Slavisa Jokanovic speaks
I am really proud of my team. They had a fantastic regular season. We are ready, we are confident. We believe in our position, we believe in ourselves. We have 180 minutes or more ahead of us.
Gary Rowett speaks
Olsson has a very bad injury, in fact he will be out for nine months, I think. We need goals and Vydra has come into the last big games and scored against Cardiff and Barnsley. I want us to be as attacking as we can. We have to respect Fulham.
The prize, of course, for the clubs that see this ordeal through, is a cash bonanza of £160m. Note I didn’t use the word “teams” since promotion can mean the ripping up of the groups who make it up to the Premier League.
These teams will meet again at the Cottage on Monday, and as I have just been reminded, there are no away goals.
Simon McMahon emails in and he’s got it bad.
Evening John. Don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely got a bad case of PLAY-OFF FEVER. It’s the second leg of the Scottish Premiership semi-final between Livingston and Dundee United tonight (though the less said about that the better, from a United point of view anyway), and tomorrow I’m off to see the second leg of Cowdenbeath v Cove Rangers to decide who plays senior Scottish league football next season. I’m not sure my nerves can take it. Somebody call Dr. Football!!!
No sign of Hugh Grant doing similar just yet for his beloved Cottagers.
Some celeb support for the Rams tonight, Citizen Smith and My Family star, Robert Lindsay.
Can what happened before tell us what to expect? Last time these team met, Fulham won 2-1 at Pride Park in March, with goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon. Back in November, at Craven Cottage, it was a 1-1 draw, with Oliver Norwood scoring for Fulham and Matej Vydra for the Rams.
And on the other play-off, played tomorrow evening, here’s Louise Taylor.
Ayite Floyd comes in for Lucas Piazon for Fulham while for Derby, Marcus Olsson is missing after suffering a serious knee injury last week against Barnsley. Matej Vydra, the top scorer in the entire Championship, comes in for the full-back. Looks like Andreas Weimann will play as a wing-back for Gary Rowett.
This is where the Championship season starts to end, with brutal bangs and plenty of whimpers. Neither Derby nor Fulham have happy memories of the play-offs. Between them, they have progressed from the end-of-season endurance test just once. Fulham have never won a single match while Derby’s only success, at the end of the 2006-07 Championship season, preluded the worst ever top-division campaign and a record low Premier League points total of 11 points the following year. Too much, too soon, it was said in glorious hindsight and Derby have never been back since.
This is their sixth attempt at the second-tier play-offs, with recent years seeing the Rams suffering a last-minute Wembley winner from QPR’s Bobby Zamora in 2014, and in 2016, under the aegis of temporary boss Darren Wassall, they lost 3-2 on aggregate to Hull City, where a second leg comeback was not enough to stage “Istanhull”. Perhaps things can be different under Gary Rowett, though he suffered the pain of play-off defeat twice with Burton Albion.
As for Fulham, Slavisa Jokanovic will want to avoid the pain of last season where Reading rode roughshod over a late charge into the top six. The Cottagers are trademarked by legal statute as the best footballing side in the EFL but judging by last week’s choke at Birmingham City, tiki taka is hard to maintain when an angry Midlands crowd is on your back and you were nervous in the first place.
The side who finished sixth in the Championship have not won promotion through the play-offs since Blackpool managed it in 2010. Derby County have spent the intervening years seemingly finding new and more elaborate ways not to go up but they took a step towards the top flight with a battling 1-0 win over Fulham in the first leg of their semi-final on Friday night.
This was a granite solid performance from Derby, defending Cameron Jerome’s first-half header as if the very future of the club depended on it, and keeping Ryan Sessegnon and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who have laid waste to the Championship at times this season, quiet all night.
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Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:23:55 +0000: Sessegnon signs new Fulham contract - Latest Stories, Video, and Commentary about Fulham | BBC Fulham youngster Ryan Sessegnon signs his first professional deal, keeping him at the club until June 2020.
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Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:34 +0000: Championship fixtures in full - Latest Stories, Video, and Commentary about Fulham | BBC Find out your team's fixtures in the Championship during the 2017-18 season.
Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:19:02 +0000: Sunderland to play Bury in EFL Cup - Latest Stories, Video, and Commentary about Fulham | BBC Sunderland will travel to Bury in the EFL Cup first round following their relegation from the Premier League.