Sheffield Wednesday hint at brighter future despite bowing out of the League Cup to Fulham

YOUTHFUL PROMISE: Ciaran Brennan takes a shotYOUTHFUL PROMISE: Ciaran Brennan takes a shot
YOUTHFUL PROMISE: Ciaran Brennan takes a shot
Sheffield Wednesday are out of the League Cup after a night when their youngsters were taught the harsh realities of top-level football.

Fulham were clinical in a first-half of few chances where the visitors acquitted themselves well, then wasteful as they dominated the second period. It all added up to a first defeat of the season for the Owls.

Theirs was a night to take positives for the future, but the present offers little margin for error. Fortunately, the cup competitions are where most of the leeway can be found.

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Having arrived in west London with four clean sheets, the first goal the Owls conceded this season was disappointingly straight-forward, Michael Hector's header playing Anthony Knockaert over the top to square the ball for Aboubakar Kamara to score the Cottagers' first chance of note after nine minutes.

Tap-ins from low crosses were the way forward for the hosts, who made the most of their opportunities in a first half where they were scarce for either side.

Fulham rested seven players whilst Garry Monk's line-up was entirely changed from the one which drew 0-0 with Watford at the weekend, but there was only one change from the side which knocked Rochdale out of round two, Liam Waldock making his Owls debt in Alex Hunt's place, who was not risked after complaining of stiffness in his knee.

Striker Charles Hagan was another debutant from a bench with only five visiting players as opposed to the seven allowed.

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Academy product, Waldock was a busy and assured presence in midfield, looking comfortable in his Premier League surroundings, and on the ball. With fellow 19-year-old Fiyaso Dele-Bashiru – signed from Manchester City this summer – alongside Waldock in the centre, Wednesday's policy of focussing more on youth looks like it should reap long-term benefits provided they can just get through this difficult Championship campaign, which they started on minus 12 points for breaching the league's financial fair play rules.

That will be their sole focus for the rest of 2020 after Bobby De Cordova-Reid doubled Fulham's lead in the 33rd-minute.

Former Owls loanee Josh Onomah span on the ball and fired it across for De Cordova-Reid to finish, again from close range.

Kamara kicked fresh air instead of a pull-back and having run half a yard off Liam Shaw, Knockaert was off target from another low ball as Fulham sporadically posed a threat by getting in behind Wednesday's wing-backs in the first half.

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Wildsmith made a good save when Antonee Robinson – a summer target for Wednesday's city rivals – cut easily inside an unbalanced Liam Palmer.

For all their neatness on the ball, the Owls did not overwork Marek Rodak, who beat away efforts from Adam Reach, again a makeshift centre-forward, and Moses Odubajo. The latter's effort rounded off a lovely move started deep on the right before Dele-Bashiru switched the ball out to the left-wing back.

Wednesday's only other chance of note fell to the teenager, whose driven shot was saved by the goalkeeper's legs when anything either side of him could have been interesting.

Whether it was tiring legs and minds, growing Fulham confidence or all of the above, the second half was much more one-sided even though the Cottagers failed to add to the 2-0 scoreline.

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Wednesday had the first chance of it, Odubajo played in by an over-ambitious attempt by the hosts to switch play in the 48th minute.

When Odubajo forced another save, Palmer should have done better from the rebound. His short turned into more of a pass to Elias Kachunga, who could not do anything with it either.

The Owls did well to pick Julian Borner out at a far-post corner in the 56th minute but when he headed the ball across, there was no one to get on the end of it. Perhaps they too realised it was a lost cause.

It simply became a case of whether Fulham could add to their lead. They could not.

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Hector fluffed a header from Kamara's deep cross, De Cordova-Reid allowed Wildsmith to save with his feet after being played in by Stefan Johansen. With the Owls increasingly vulnerable to balls over the top and direct running, Knockaert missed the target, then lobbed the ball onto the top of the crossbar. Neeskens Kebano dinked over a free-kick and Fabio Carvalho could not pick his spot with Wildsmith rushing out at him.

Fulham: Rodak; Odoi, Hector, Ream, Robinson; Onomah (Seri 62), De Cordova-Reid, Johansen; Knockaert (Carvalho 79), Kebano, Kamara (Francois 71).

Not used: Cavaleiro, Le Marchand, Bryan, Fabri, Carvalho.

Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Shaw, Brennan, Borner; Palmer (Penney 71), Dele-Bashiru, Waldock (Rhodes 79), Pelupessy, Odubajo; Reach, Kachunga (Hagan 82).

Not used: Dawson, Iorfa.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire)

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