National press

Wednesday 16 January 2002

The Guardian

Fulham assistant manager Christian Damiano blasted Wycombe's tactics as Louis Saha was left with a broken nose in the FA Cup third round replay at Craven Cottage.

Wanderers, whose goalkeeper Martin Taylor kept his side in the contest with four outstanding saves, had five players booked and Jason Cousins sent off in the 73rd minute after two yellow cards for bad tackles on home goalscorer Barry Hayles.

And Damiano also pointed criticism at referee Graham Barber after the narrow victory.

Hayles had hit the back of the net after 67 minutes to clinch a fourth-round date at cash-strapped Third Division strugglers York.

But Damiano was far more concerned by Second Division Wycombe's physical approach and Barber's response to it than the trip to Bootham Crescent.

French forward Saha was substituted in the 19th minute with blood splattered across his shirt, after being kicked in the face by Chris Vinnicombe as he ran clear on goal.

Damiano claimed Barber's booking of the Wanderers defender was too lenient.

Asked how long Saha will be out for, Damiano said: "Maybe eight or 10 days. His nose is broken and he will go to hospital tomorrow.

"It was too physical - and when Saha received a kick in the face, the sanction in every country would be a red card.

"When you play against a team who get five yellow cards and one red, where's the objective?

"They did not have one chance - not a deflection or anything.

"Referees need to act more quickly. We need to protect the game and give the right application of the international laws.

"Who is the winner in this game? We tried to play with a good focus on the game. We kept our focus and stayed quiet."

Wycombe were within three minutes of knocking Fulham out in a stirring performance at Adams Park last Tuesday - but they won few friends in the replay at freezing Craven Cottage.

Sanchez's men adopted ultra-defensive first-half tactics and contained the Premiership's ninth-placed team before the break.

After the interval, the visitors did offer more in terms of attack - but were undone by Hayles in the 67th minute.

He seized the ball when Steve Brown lost possession - and fired into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Wycombe manager Lawrie Sanchez did not show at the post-match press conference, but his assistant Terry Gibson defended his side's tactics.

He said: "We learned from our game at Wimbledon last year, when we tried to play them at their own game and soon went 2-0 down.

"When you play at a Premiership ground, the idea is to nullify the opposition. We did that."

The Independent

Lawrie Sanchez's fear that "usually you only get one bite at a Premiership side" proved to be a correct hunch in the end, although his Wycombe Wanderers side, FA Cup semi-finalists last season, bared their teeth and nibbled away at Fulham for more than an hour before succumbing in their third-round replay last night.

Two minutes from victory a week ago, before Steve Marlet's equaliser, the Second Division team again raised their game, but caused their own downfall this time with a defensive error for Barry Hayles' goal, followed shortly by the dismissal of their centre-half Jason Cousins.

Fulham's assistant manager Christian Damiano, not enjoying his first taste of plucky FA Cup underdogs with bite as well as bark, felt that the referee, Graham Barber, should have flourished his red card as early as the 15th minute; Louis Saha, about to burst clear from the centre circle, was caught by a kick in the face from Chris Vinnicombe, the last defender, that ended the French striker's participation in the game.

"Saha's nose is broken and the sanction should be a red card," Damiano said. "The referee needed to act more quickly and give the right application of the laws. Wycombe were too physical."

Having given Saha a bloody nose, they set about doing the same, metaphorically, to his team and had as many or as few chances in a dull first half. Jermaine McSporran, whose pace had been compared by Fulham's Steve Finnan to Thierry Henry's, demonstrated it on a couple of occasions early on but did not have the finish to match when the best opportunity materialised; errors by Sean Davis and Zat Knight, both diverting the ball back towards their own goal, let the former Arsenal trialist in to drag a disappointing shot wide of Maik Taylor's goal.

The goalkeeper's near-namesake at the other end, Martin Taylor, was barely troubled as Wycombe defended with vigour. Cousins and two team-mates were booked by half-time as well as Fulham's Rufus Brevett for a dive that added to the bad feeling and by the interval the home side had not managed a shot on target. "When you come to a Premiership ground, the idea is to nullify the opposition," said Sanchez's assistant, Terry Gibson. His side achieved that until after half-time, though it did nothing for the tie's entertainment value.

There was some work to do at last for the goalkeepers soon after the break, the two Taylors having to save low down from Stuart Roberts, a Wycombe substitute, and Steed Malbranque respectively. The hard-working Malbranque, the most forward point of Fulham's midfield diamond, volleyed wide after having his first effort blocked and Marlet was given offside as he turned Knight's mis-hit shot over the line.

The tide was slowly turning and in the 69th minute it brought a goal. Steve Brown dwelled on the ball, allowed the industrious Malbranque to dispossess him and feed Hayles, who shimmied this way and that before hitting a fine low shot just inside a post.

Six minutes later Wycombe's hopes diminished further with an unarguable second yellow card for Cousins, who again crashed into the back of Hayles, and it took three fine saves from Wycombe's Taylor to prevent further damage. Fulham will now provide a welcome pay-day for the impoverished York City at Bootham Crescent in the fourth round.

Wycombe's consolation, apart from being able to hold their heads up in front of their noisy supporters at the Putney End in a poor crowd of less than 12,000, is that they have not lost anything like as much ground in the league as last season, when they began a famous run in sixth position and finished it 20th, fighting relegation.

The Times

FOR all Fulham's multimillion-pound investment in talented players from abroad, it took a man who learnt his trade in the Nationwide Conference to break the hearts of Wycombe Wanderers last night. Barry Hayles, who served his time with Stevenage Borough before joining Bristol Rovers and then Fulham, scored the decisive goal as the FA Barclaycard Premiership club finally overcame their Nationwide League second division opponents to take their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, sponsored by AXA.

Lawrie Sanchez's Wycombe players may have fallen short of replicating last season's miraculous run to the last four of the competition, but they can still take courage from their performances, after a 2-2 draw at Adams Park in the first match, against a team costing £29 million more than theirs.

Hayles leads the scoring charts this season with nine goals for a team who can now look forward - if that is the appropriate term - to a visit to York City.

Wycombe were reduced to ten men for the final quarter of an hour of a rumbustious encounter when Jason Cousins, a survivor of their triumphant non-league days, was dismissed for a second bookable offence when he tackled Hayles from behind.

Christian Damiano, Fulham's assistant manager, was critical of Wycombe's robust approach. He said that Louis Saha, who had to be substituted in the twentieth minute after a challenge from Chris Vinnicombe, had broken his nose and will miss Saturday's Premiership game away to Sunderland.

"Today the game was bad," Damiano said. "When you play a team who has five yellow cards and one red, and Louis Saha has a nose broken, it is difficult. They were too physical. You have to ask what is their objective?"

Saha was set to run clean through on goal from the halfway line when Vinnicombe attempted to hook the ball away. The striker bowed his head in an attempt to nod the ball forward and it was then that Vinnicombe's boot caught his face. "When the forward takes a kick in the face and it is from the last defender, he has to have a red card," Damiano said. "When he doesn't, it gives him another chance."

Fulham made heavy weather of breaking down Wycombe's massed ranks. In the first period the Premiership side were restricted in the main to longer-range efforts, but the difference between the sides was evident from a glance at the substitutes' bench. Jean Tigana, the Fulham manager, introduced an £11.5 million replacement for Saha in Steve Marlet; Sanchez brought on a £100,000 winger from Swansea City in Stuart Roberts when he reshuffled his pack.

Four minutes before the interval, Rufus Brevett was cautioned for diving when he fell under Vinnicombe's challenge when attempting to run on to Hayles's return pass. In the ensuing mêlée, Steve Brown was cautioned. The temperature increased further when Jermaine McSporran curled a teasing 20-yard shot over Fulham's crossbar as the home crowd began to voice their frustration.

Yet, just as memories stirred of how Wycombe, having drawn at home to Wimbledon in last season's fifth round, prevailed away from their own patch, Fulham scored the decisive goal. With 68 minutes gone, Hayles pounced when Brown dawdled on the ball deep in his own territory. The Fulham forward took possession, turned Mark Rogers on the edge of the penalty area and drilled a clinical low shot beyond the dive of Martin Taylor in the Wycombe goal.

If it had previously been an uphill struggle for a team who only 12 years ago were playing on the notorious sloping pitch of Loakes Park, then Wycombe's task was now tantamount to impossible. Taylor, their goalkeeper, made three marvellous saves from Marlet, twice, and Hayles as Fulham finally found their swagger.

Terry Gibson, the Wycombe assistant manager, was proud of a team that remains in contention for a place in the play-offs. "I feel just the same as when we got beaten by Liverpool last year," he said. "We rallied, we worked so hard and from our point of view it was an unfortunate goal to give away. Yet for an hour we restricted them to long-range efforts and when you come to a Premiership ground, the idea is to nullify them. We learnt that from the Wimbledon game last year when we tried to play it against them and went 2-0 down. We took our lessons from that and the players have done the club proud."

Tigana refused to shake hands with the Wycombe management team after a tie that epitomised the raw appeal of the FA Cup. This was scheduled to be the last night game at Craven Cottage in its present antiquated state, before they depart for pastures new next season.

If they cannot counter-act the methods of highly motivated lower-division opponents, however, York may yet have something to say about that.

The Sun

IT was not fancy French footwork but British beef that finally put Lawrie Sanchez's Wycombe warriors to the sword.

Barry Hayles struck the crucial blow with a 68th-minute winner in this third-round replay to finally crush the hopes of last year's semi- finalists.

The Fulham striker could well find himself edged out if Jean Tigana adds to his £34million continental spending this season to secure another striker.

But he did himself no harm with his seventh goal of the season against a side who have shelled out just £300,000 on players this term.

Hayles, facing two misconduct charges, admitted he found it difficult to remain calm.

He said: "I needed to keep cool, especially after what has already happened to me. But it was a very difficult game. I was delighted to score and we deserved to win."

Yet, while their FA Cup adventure was more short-lived this time for Sanchez and his Wycombe boys, they once again left following a glorious defeat.

Wanderers made life a nightmare for their Premiership opponents and, while they rarely threatened, you have to say on this evidence they are capable of mounting a half-decent promotion challenge in Division Two.

As for Fulham, they finally showed enough class from a bruising encounter and must fancy their chances away to York in the fourth round.

Wycombe, of course, will now look back ruefully at that 2-2 home draw seven days earlier, when a late goal from Steve Marlet spared Fulham's blushes.

It was certainly another uncomfortable night for Tigana and his men as Wycombe used every trick in the book to unsettle their opponents.

It was generally legitimate stuff yet they succeeded in ruffling Fulham's fancy feathers.

But Wycombe did have Jason Cousins sent off in the 75th minute for a second booking while four other visiting players saw Graham Barber's yellow card.

Home striker Louis Saha was forced out of the action as early as the 20th minute with a suspected broken nose.

The French striker had attempted to continue after being caught in the face by the boot of Wycombe's Chris Vinnicombe five minutes earlier.

This scruffy game with few chances finally exploded into life just before the break. Fulham claimed a penalty after Rufus Brevett went down like a ton of bricks following a perfectly fine challenge from Vinnicombe.

Wycombe's Steve Brown was furious with Brevett for his theatrics and a shoving match turned into a 15-man handbags-at-dawn confrontation. Brown and Brevett both ended up in the book.

Fulham finally got the ball in the net in the 55th minute but sub Marlet was offside when he flicked in a shot from Zat Knight.

And, with the game drifting towards extra-time, Hayles pounced to the despair of Wycombe's 3,500 travelling fans.

Visiting midfielder Brown, one of Wycombe's Cup heroes last season, lost possession in his own area to Hayles.

He twisted, turned and teased defender Mark Rogers before unleashing a right-foot drive from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.

Any hopes Wycombe had of bouncing back were dealt a further blow when Cousins was dismissed and only heroics from keeper Martin Taylor - who made a great double save from Steed Malbranque and Marlet - kept the score down.

Wycombe's assistant manager Terry Gibson said: "We battled so hard and it was unfortunate to give the goal away when we did. I felt we had a chance.

"But all the lads can be extremely proud of themselves."

The Mirror

FULHAM boss Jean Tigana has assembled a multi-million foreign legion at Craven Cottage but it took a chippy from south London to spare his FA Cup blushes last night.

Former carpenter Barry Hayles grabbed the precious 69th-minute winner as he proved nothing beats a bit of good old British beef.

Lambeth-born Hayles was a snip at £2million from Bristol Rovers considering Tigana has splashed out £34m on overseas talent, but his goal could be worth its weight in gold as it set up an easy-looking fourth round tie at York.

Hayles' late clincher broke Wycombe's hearts just when they looked as if they might frustrate the home side in a bad-tempered replay at Craven Cottage.

To cap Wycombe's miserable night, defender Jason Cousins got his marching orders after 75 minutes for two bookable offences - both fouls on Hayles.

It spelt the end of Wycombe boss Lawrie Sanchez's cup dream for another year, but it was a real throwback to his old Wimbledon days when he lifted the FA Cup with the Crazy Gang in 1988.

Sanchez, whose team reached last season's semi-finals, had his men playing just like the Dons of old. Wycombe niggled, snapped and bit at Fulham's heels and never allowed them to play their pretty football.

It made for a poor, ugly and nasty cup tie as referee Graham Barber dished out eight cards.

Fulham's forward line lacked venom, however, only shooting as a very last resort.

Thank God then for Hayles, who may not possess the foreign flair of some of his fancy dan team-mates but at least he knows where the goal is.

Hayles is facing a double FA rap which could land him with a heavy fine and suspension - and how Fulham will miss him.

His fellow strikers Louis Saha and Luis Boa Morte just seem to have forgotten where the goal is. So it was surprising that Tigana started with Steve Marlet on the bench despite his last gasp equaliser at Wycombe which gained this replay. Then Tigana does not regard the FA Cup high on his list of priorities as Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar and midfielder John Collins were also rested.

Wycombe defended heroically while never creating a clear cut chance and forcing Fulham keeper Maik Taylor into a top-class save.

Referee Barber had to work overtime to control the match from the 17th minute when Saha was forced off with a broken and bloodied nose.

Saha was left poleaxed by Chris Vinnicombe's dangerous tackle as he tried to clear a high ball. Yet the defender escaped with just a caution.

Wycombe enjoyed their best chance in the 52nd minute when Cousins' flick set up substitute Stuart Roberts but he wasted the opening by firing straight at keeper Taylor.

Fulham finally managed the breakthrough after 69 minutes.

Latvian substitute Andrejs Stolcers dispossessed Steve Brown and then fed Hayles who teased the Wycombe defence before firing a low 20-yard shot into the far corner.

Finally, the mounting number of cards came back to haunt Wycombe as Cousins got his marching orders for a second careless and needless foul on