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Fulham make sure of play-off place against much-changed Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield Wednesday will meet Huddersfield in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs after finishing the regular season with a 2-1 defeat to Fulham, who play Reading.
Wednesday, who were assured of their top-six berth before the Hillsborough clash, will travel to the John Smith’s Stadium next Sunday after finishing fourth while the Londoners host the third-placed Royals the day before.
Sam Winnall scored an early opener for Wednesday, who had Marco Matias sent off, but Neeskens Kebano’s double gave Fulham the win, though the dubious goals panel may be taking a look at his second which may ultimately be awarded as an own goal.
Although this game was no longer the shoot-out for the last play-off spot that it looked like being a few weeks ago, the Owls were still jostling for position in the top six, with third, fourth and fifth possible ahead of kick-off while Fulham had to avoid defeat and an unlikely swing in goal difference in Leeds’ favour to drop out of the mix.
Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal’s 10 changes hinted he was not too bothered where his side finished, but Wednesday’s start suggested otherwise as they took a ninth-minute lead.
Kieran Lee won possession in the middle of midfield and slipped in Winnall, making his first start since April 1, to fire in a low shot across goal into the bottom corner.
Fulham began to dominate and were rewarded with a leveller in the 25th minute with a nice team goal.
They worked the ball out to Denis Odoi on the right and he advanced and cut the ball back to Kebano, who swept home with a low finish past Joe Wildsmith.
Much of the remaining 20 minutes of the first half was played in Wednesday territory and Fulham came close to taking the lead as Chris Martin saw a header from a corner drift just wide.
There was a decisive moment of drama in first-half injury time as Wednesday were reduced to 10 men after a shocking tackle by Matias on Sone Aluko and Fulham almost took immediate advantage but Martin was denied by a block.
With the numerical advantage the visitors assumed total control after the restart and should have been ahead.
The dangerous Scott Malone was at the heart of everything Fulham were doing and had the best chance just two minutes into the half when a loose ball fell to him six yards out but he cushioned his effort against the crossbar while also seeing Wildsmith save another good chance shortly after.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s men were lining up to put their side ahead but they had to wait until the 79th minute to find the winner when Kebano got to Lucas Piazon’s free-kick first, though the last touch may well have come off Wednesday midfielder David Jones.
Kebano would have had a hat-trick had it not been for a superb save from Wildsmith, who brilliantly tipped his curling effort on to the crossbar.
The late action did not affect the play-off positions as Reading beat Burton and Huddersfield were downed by Cardiff.
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