Fulham stand up

Wednesday 16 January 2002

If Fulham make serious progress in this season's FA Cup, it will not be because they have been given an easy ride. Last night at Craven Cottage they knocked out Lawrie Sanchez's Wycombe at the second attempt after narrowly achieving a 2-2 draw at Adams Park last week.

They did so by overcoming the physical and defensive tactics of the Division Two team who had four players booked and one sent off.

Their reward is a fourth-round tie at York City, who are second from bottom of the Football League and need all the income and exposure the FA Cup can give them as they try to find new owners to keep them in business.

Popular sentiment is bound to be against the Premiership side progressing and York, who are in the fourth round for the first time since 1986, will be eager to make a Cup giant-killing at Bootham Crescent.

The rapid rise of Fulham from Third Division strugglers 11 years ago to Premiership millionaires today could never have been in sharper focus. But sympathy, according to defender Rufus Brevett, will not come in to it.

He said: "We have got a good chance because we are playing lower division opposition.

"If we approach every match like we do League games then I think we can go quite far in the Cup.

"York will be a difficult game. They are fighting for their lives in Division Three and it is a good money-spinner for them. I am sure they are looking forward to it, but we will not feel sorry for them."

Sympathy is something Jean Tigana's side are unlikely to feel for Wycombe either after last night's bad-tempered match.

Just 15 minutes into it, Fulham striker Louis Saha had to go off when he was kicked in the face on the halfway line by Chris Vinnicombe as the defender was slower to a bouncing ball.

The Frenchman's nose was broken in the incident and he had coins thrown at him by Wycombe fans as he left the pitch for treatment.

Fulham's assistant manager Christian Damiano said: "It was too physical. When Saha received a kick in the face, the sanction in every country would be a red card."

Vinnicombe, however, was only booked. This bloody incident was the worst in a scrappy affair on a difficult pitch which the Craven Cottage club is relaying three-quarters of today.

But the replay never provided the excitement of the first tie and Wycombe never managed a shot to trouble stand-in goalkeeper Maik Taylor.

Brevett added: "They got what they deserved - absolutely nothing. We knew what to expect and stood up and tried to play our football. They tried to upset us and our rhythm but it did not work.

"We knew if we had reacted we would have had a man sent off and let the team down." Wycombe did have a player sent off eight minutes after Barry Hayles had created an opening for himself and scored the only goal from the edge of the penalty area.

Defender Jason Cousins received his second yellow card in the 75th minute for tackling from behind and his departure led to a Fulham onslaught which goalkeeper Martin Taylor did exceptionally well to repel.

Wycombe assistant manager Terry Gibson admitted: "When you play at a Premiership ground, the idea is to nullify the opposition."

Perhaps Tigana will be pleased Fulham's next tie is away from home after all.