Not since 1966

Monday 22 April 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

The last time Fulham scored a goal at Elland Road was on April 12th 1966. With some amazing symmetry, "Pancho" Pearson scored a second half winner to give the Whites a 1-0 victory that was a considerable help in achieving what was probably Fulham's "greatest escape" ever from the threat of relegation from the top-flight.

As frequently happened in those days the teams had met only four days earlier, with Leeds achieving a convincing 3-1 win in front of nearly 39,000 people. That defeat had brought to an end Fulham's five match winning run that had seen them come back from the dead after being firmly rooted to the foot of the table for most of the season. The return at Elland Road, in front of only 34,000, saw the Whites return to winning ways, and they lost only once more, finishing the season in twentieth place and safety.

Although the circumstance may not have been quite so dramatic as then, Saturday's win was as welcome as it was unexpected. With their Premiership status virtually assured, the Whites can now look forward to seeing the Cottage out in style, with the two home games against Bolton and Leicester to come later this week.

There may not have a great deal of difference in Fulham's performance to that seen in recent weeks, but, at last, the Whites seem to be getting an even share of the breaks. It was hard to see why Leeds' first half goal was ruled out, but in the second half, a Leeds hand scooped the ball off Steve Marlet's head in the penalty area, a fact totally ignored by the well-placed referee and his assistant.

In fact, leniency seemed to be the referee's key-word, as Leeds, getting increasingly frustrated, reverted strongly to type. "Dirty" Leeds was an epithet that they picked up a long time ago, but it ain't going away.

Skipper Andy Melville, clearly delighted for everybody, summed the occasion up perfectly when he spoke after the match.

"I think we're nearly there now," he said, "It was a big boost for us in a game that nobody expected us to win. We had to fight really hard out there and we defended as though our lives were on the line.

"We perhaps got a little bit of luck in the first half, but overall, with the hard work we put in, we deserved it. We've not won many away games this season, so it's good to come to a place like this and take the three points. It's a big scalp for us, and I'm absolutely delighted for the team."

I can't finish this piece without once again passing comment on The Premiership, ITV's weekend football show, that begin Saturday night's broadcast by enticing its viewers with the prospect of the "Michael Owen Show" to come.

The Sunday papers were pretty uniform in their post-match conclusions that, despite plenty of Leeds' chances, Fulham deserved their victory. There was no such view from the Premiership. If that was your only source of news, then you would be forgiven for thinking that Fulham didn't have a look-in during the game, and won only because of Leeds failure to play as wonderfully as the commentator knew they could.

This amazing TV programme works on the basis that there are only five teams that matter in English football, the remainder being unimportant and inferior cannon-fodder, there only to make up the numbers. What would be worrying, I suppose, is if the ITV executives have actually done their homework very well, and all they're doing is reflecting the views of the great British public.

Despite that, it looks as though "little" Fulham will be gracing the Premiership once more next season, and we can hopefully look forward to plenty more Saturdays where the ITV pundits can describe their darlings as having "off days" against the mighty Whites!