Tuesday 11 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Matches

The best five Fulham matches I can remember attending.

1. Portsmouth 4 Fulham 4 (1st Jan 1985 at Fratton Park)

2. Fulham 7 Swansea 0 (11th Nov 1995 FA Cup 1st round at Craven Cottage)

3. Fulham 1 Lincoln 1 (18th May 1982 promotion clincher at Craven Cottage)

4. Fulham 3 Spurs 2 (11th Sep 2002 at Loftus Road)

5. Fulham 4 Stockport Co. 1 (26th August 2000 at Craven Cottage)

A New Year's Day trip to a windy Fratton Park and the most amazing game of football I have ever seen. Within the first 15 minutes we had already lost Robert Wilson to injury and had seen a Pompey goal disallowed for offside. Less than 10 minutes later and we were 3 goals down. Pompey added a forth thanks to Jeff Hopkins (never my favourite player) attempting a clearance that only managed to smash into Alan Biley's face before looping back over a stranded Jim Stannard and finding the back of the net. 4-0 down at half time and nobody in the away enclosure really believed we were going to win the game. As the Whites trotted out for the second half though the away end sang loud and clear determined to make the most of a Bank Holiday afternoon out. With the wind in our favour we made a great start scoring the first goal two minutes into the second half. Coney reaching a far post cross from Ray Lewington. "We're gonna win 5-4" we sang hilariously - as if! Then we added two more in three minutes and suddenly, with 15 minutes still to play, realised we actually could win. Pompey fought desperately to stem the tide and for a while it looked like our hopes would be dashed. Hopkins headed a Portsmouth free kick into our own net but miraculously we got a reprieve as the Ref ordered the free kick retaken. In the final minute Cliffy Carr surged forward and was brought down in the box. Kevin Lock stepped up, right in front of the away crowd, incredible pressure but Locky was always the consummate penalty taker and he slotted it away to level the match at 4-4. The away end erupted in joy and as the final whistle blew we knew we'd seen something spectacular. Even being held back for 1/2 hour after the game did not dampen our spirits, in fact if anything we were happy for a bit of extra time to bask in the glory of the greatest Fulham comeback of all time.

Quite often victories by big scorelines don't make for great games. Its all too one sided and there's no edge to the game. This F.A. Cup success was something different though. We weren't having the best of times and Swansea were doing well in the division above us. We took the lead after just two minutes, Nick Cusack flicking on a Tony Lange goal kick for "Super" Mick Conroy to fire home. Conroy got his second after 16 minutes before Lea Barkus had to leave the field to be replaced by Paul Brooker making his Fulham debut. We added a third within the first half hour as Duncan Jupp shot home after a Gary Brazil corner. I remember being slightly concerned that we may lose our momentum having lost Barkus, Brooker however, turned in one of the greatest debut performances I have ever seen. In the second half he ripped Swansea apart time and time again and by the end of the game I genuinely believed we had a new Fulham hero in the making. Conroy completed his hatrick, before Cusack and Brooker made it six. Martin Thomas then completed the rout with a cracking volley from a Robbie Herrera cross. At the time this was the biggest-ever defeat of a club from a higher division in the history of the F.A. Cup.

A crunch match which could have seen either team claim a promotion spot. It was a dark and misty old night with a big crowd of around 20,000. We struggled to find our rhythm, and Lincoln looked by far the better team. Then "Big" Roger Brown came crashing in with a header to take the lead and we were back in the driving seat. Lincoln pulled one back with around a quarter of an hour remaining, but we held on and the point was enough to confirm our promotion back to the 2nd division. As the final whistle blew the pitch was swamped by supporters, who carried the players from the field. We stayed to see the team come out onto the Cottage balcony to soak up the cheers and applause, a great night, my first promotion season and one I will never forget.

Another cracking Fulham come back, and THE game I think of when I remember our years at Loftus Road. 2-0 down, having lost Saha early on to injury and not looking that impressive, we came out for the second half a different team. Inamoto scored on 68 minutes to give us hope before Malbranque slotted home a penalty, with about 5 minutes left, to level the scores. Having pulled it back to 2-2 no one could have complained, but then Sylvain Legwinski raced onto a through ball and fired home an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the goal to make it 3-2. It was just about the last kick of the game and we went home unable to stop smiling.

This was the game when I realised exactly how good we were under Tigana. I'd missed a few of the early games that season due to the birth of my first son in May and I think this might have been the first chance I had had to see the team for real. We were so good that I actually felt sorry for Stockport. They couldn't get the ball of us, we just passed them to death and how they ended up on the scoresheet I have no idea. We probably could have won by many more but this was as impressive display as I have ever seen from a Fulham team. It would go on to be one of our greatest seasons and eventually see us achieve Premier League status for the first time.

Incidentally in case you are wondering about some obvious games not included in this Top 5 here's a few great games that I missed; Carlisle 1 FFC 2 (5th April 1997), Blackburn 1 FFC 2 (11th April 2001), FFC 1 Sheff. Weds 1 (16th April 2001), FFC 2 Liverpool 0 (22nd Oct 2005), FFC 1 Chavs 0 (19th Mar 2006) and FFC 2 Arsenal 1 (29th Nov 2006).


adam said...

Yes, I remember the Portsmouth match - how stupendous that was! I can still visualise Cliff Carr dancing into the box and that despairing tackle on him that took his legs away, the tension that could be felt as Lock stepped up to take the penalty, and the eruption of the Fulham fans when he scored. It was a dictionary definition of euphoria. Pity the fans that left at half-time - and there were a fair few of them. It remains the only match where I've seen all eight goals scored at the same end!

Anonymous said...

Us Pompey fans will never forget that one either. We missed out on promotion by goal difference that season so a very costly match for us. Was stood very close to the away end so your euphoria was very painful to hear!

Chopper said...

Oh dear, I didn't know that. Was an amazing game though.

Fingers crossed for you that things sort themselves out at Pompey soon.