A below par first half performance cost Fulham dearly as Wycombe Wanderers came away from Craven Cottage with a memorable Cup victory.
Chris Coleman handed debuts to four Fulham players as the Whites lined up with a much-changed side to the one that took to the field at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Jan Lastuvka, Bjorn Runstrom and Gabriel Zakuani were all given their first taste of First Team action, whilst Elliot Omozusi replaced Carlos Bocanegra in the second half.
Fulham started the brighter of the two sides with Wayne Routledge in particular catching the eye with some positive play and useful distribution.
However, it was the visitors who took the lead on eight minutes. Fulham’s defence failed to deal with a high diagonal ball which was soon worked into the penalty area. Fulham’s central defensive pairing in of Bocanegra and Zakuani tried to remedy the situation but it was too late, Jermaine Easter ran on to the loose ball and side footed home from close range.
The goal temporarily set Fulham back on their heels and it wasn’t until the 15th minute that the Whites reasserted themselves as an attacking force. Routledge, who was looking full of energy, whipped in a teasing cross from the right and Helguson nipped in front of his marker to send a powerful header just over the bar.
With the opening goal to their name, Wycombe were able to get plenty of men behind the ball and force Fulham to press for the equaliser. It was no easy task and, as a result, the Whites looked most likely to threaten on the counter attack.
The visitors almost doubled their lead on the half hour mark when goal scorer Jermaine Easter was given plenty of space to make progress down Fulham’s left flank. He managed to reach the by-line but his cross evaded former Fulham striker, Kevin Betsy, who was waiting in the middle.
Fulham came within a few inches of levelling matters in the 36th minute when a mix up in the Wycombe area saw the ball squirm into the path of Runstrom after Timlin and Wycombe goalkeeper, Jaime Young, tussled for a fifty-fifty ball. Fulham’s Swedish Under-21 striker poked the ball goal wards but it was cleared off the line by some desperate defending. From the following corner, Timlin forced a fine reaction save from Young.
Wycombe doubled their lead from the spot with under five minutes remaining in the first half. Easter was felled in the area by Bocanegra and Referee Hall had no alternative but to award the penalty. Former Watford front man Tommy Mooney stepped up and calmly sent Lastuvka the wrong way.
Fulham flew out of the traps after the break and pulled a goal back on 47 minutes. Wayne Routledge burst through the Wycombe midfield line with a purposeful run and fed the ball into the path of Runstrom on the left side of the penalty area. The striker’s drifted cross looked like sailing over Young and inside the far post, but Helguson made sure, heading home from virtually on the goal line.
Elliot Omozusi was given his Fulham debut just before the hour mark as he replaced Bocanegra. The young Academy graduate, normally a right back but equally at home in the centre of defence, took up his position alongside Zakuani in the middle.
Runstrom should have put Fulham level just a few minutes later when he was sent clear by Helguson following a quickly taken free kick, but with only the keeper to beat, Runstrom clipped the ball wide.
Fulham continued to apply pressure and without doubt, started playing their best football of the match. Tomasz Radzinski was causing his markers all sorts of problems and his performance allowed Timlin and Claus Jensen more time on the ball in the middle of the park. Indeed with Rosenior, Radzinski, Routledge and Volz all looking to use their pace, Fulham were bringing plenty of speed and athleticism to the table.
However, for all their energy and effort, the Whites were unable to undo the damage done in the first 45 minutes.
Competition: Carling Cup
Date: Wednesday 20 September 2006
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Referee: Andy Hall
Team line-up is not available.
Team line-up is not available.