Fulham made it though to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup but were made to work for it by a gritty Kettering Town side. Goals from Simon Davies, Danny Murphy, Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora ensured the victory but, truth be told, Kettering were in the encounter every bit as much as Fulham – at least up until the 86th minute when the late salvo from Johnson and Zamora ended the tie.
Frederick Stoor came in for John Pantsil at right back whilst the two central midfield berths were occupied by Leon Andreasen and Dickson Etuhu – with Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies outside them.
Craig Westcarr almost handed the home side a dream start when he managed to find a way past Brede Hangeland to get on to the end of an awkward bouncing ball. With Mark Schwarzer rapidly advancing, the Poppies forward hooked the ball past the Fulham goalkeeper but also wide of the goal.
The opening stages of the game saw Kettering allowing Fulham to maintain possession right up until the edge of the Poppies’ penalty area, leaving a thick bank of red shirts providing the defensive resistance.
With the opposition looking to keep a tight formation, Fulham used the full width of the pitch to good effect whilst patiently building their attacks. Kettering’s early forward ventures often came in the shape of long, hopeful balls to lone striker Gareth Seddon who was doing a sound job of leading the line.
Fulham took the lead in the 12th minute through a well-taken Simon Davies volley. The pattern of play had been pointing towards a Fulham opening goal and Davies made no mistake from 15 yards with a sweet volley from Clint Dempsey’s cross which left Lee Harper with no chance.
A second good opportunity presented itself to the Whites two minutes later after Dempsey was brought down 25 yards from goal. The following set-piece saw the ball rolled into the path of Leon Andreasen whose powerful, rising drive whistled past the post.
A fine double save from Lee Harper on 24 minutes kept the home side within touching distance. Clint Dempsey rose well in the middle of the area to head Frederick Stoor’s pinpoint cross towards goal. Harper sprung to his left to touch the ball wide and got his body in the way to block the follow up from Andy Johnson.
As the first half progressed the home side grew in confidence, largely based on the solid defending of Exodus Geohaghon. With the centre of Fulham’s midfield dropping ever deeper, the Poppies were finding themselves edging towards the danger area with every attack.
The home side drew level on 36 minutes after Craig Westcarr was brought down on the edge of the penalty area. Westcarr stepped up to take the free kick and his low shot deflected past Schwarzer to send the home supporters wild.
Kettering got the second half off to a fine start. Gone was the respect they had given the Whites in the opening period of the first half. The Poppies were pressing high up the pitch and giving the Fulham defence no time on the ball. Fulham’s early attempts to pass the ball out from defence were largely stifled before any momentum could be gained and Kettering’s attacks carried far more threat than they did in the opening 45 minutes.
Fulham’s first opportunity of the second half came when a move down the right, initiated by Frederick Stoor, culminated in Stoor’s cross being nicked away from the head of Clint Dempsey by Dale Bennett.
Kettering wasted little time in hitting back and the lively Richard Graham tricked his way into the box only to see his effort defected behind at the near post by Mark Schwarzer. Moments later a cross from Nicky Eaden found the head of John Dempster but his effort flew just over the bar.
The action swung to the other end where a fantastic shot from Paul Konchesky produced a world-class save from Lee Harper on 62 minutes.
Roy Hodgson replaced Dickson Etuhu and Zoltan Gera with Danny Murphy and Bobby Zamora in the 68th minute as the Whites looked to make a final push. Zamora joined Johnson up front, allowing Dempsey to drop back into midfield.
Craig Westcarr squandered a fine chance to give Kettering the lead after he turned past Hangeland but could only stretch a toe to the ball when a stronger finish was required.
Danny Murphy’s presence in Fulham’s midfield was certainly being felt as he found space in the middle to deliver a wonderful diagonal ball to Bobby Zamora, whose diving header flashed just wide.
Fulham retook the lead in somewhat fortunate circumstances on 77 minutes. Murphyfound himself in possession just outside the Kettering penalty area and with no obvious pass on, the midfielder elected to shoot. His effort took a deflection off the unfortunate Exodus Geohaghon and past Harper.
The lead lasted only four minutes until the 81st when Westcarr was brought down in the area by Hangeland, who received a booking for his trouble. Westcarr dusted himself off to place the spot kick past Schwarzer.
With the prospect of a replay looming on the horizon Fulham upped the pace and went back in front on 86 minutes when Simon Davies’ deep cross to the back post eluded Harper. Bobby Zamora was on hand to head the ball back into the path of Andy Johnson who nodded the ball into the net from close range.
Zamora made it four for Fulham two minutes later when he worked his way into space on the edge of the penalty area and drilled a low shot past Harper’s right hand, effectively putting this tie to bed.
Competition: The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON
Date: Saturday 24 January 2009
Venue: Rockingham Road Elgoods Brewery Arena, Kettering
Team line-up is not available.
Team line-up is not available.