Fulham came from behind to defeat Cardiff City in the last Craven Cottage meeting between the sides prior to the weekend’s game, with Peter Beardsley and Dirk Lehmann (whose goal from the game was featured in the following matchday programme – pictured above) securing the victory.
Confidence was high as Kevin Keegan started a season as Fulham Manager for the first time, having taken a more hands on role at the tail end of the 1997/98 campaign following Ray Wilkins’ departure.
Our season had begun solidly with an opening day win away at Macclesfield Town courtesy of John Salako’s debut goal, but we were given an immediate respite from Division Two action as we faced Cardiff in the Worthington Cup – as sponsorship rights dictated it be named back then.
Fourth-tier Cardiff were the visitors, with the Bluebirds naming former Fulham midfielder Richard Carpenter in their starting XI for the First Leg tie, with another ex-Whites man on the bench in the form of Jeff Eckhardt. Keegan made just one change from the side that defeated Macclesfield, and it was a positive one as forward Beardsley came in for defender Matt Lawrence.
The first opportunity of note fell the way of the visitors as Christian Roberts hit an off-target shot within the opening minute, but Fulham soon began to find some rhythm, with Rufus Brevett and Salako causing problems down the left.
Yet it was Cardiff who struck first when Lee Phillips hit a ball forwards to John Williams who finished confidently beyond Maik Taylor to give his side a surprise lead.
Fulham responded brightly, though, and were pressing the Cardiff players hard as they probed for an equaliser. Beardsley saw his strike from 30 yards gathered by Bluebirds stopper Jon Hallworth, before Kit Symons had his header cleared off the line by Mark Bonner.
Cardiff were well under the cosh and couldn’t quite make it to half-time with their lead intact as Beardsley struck two minutes prior to the interval. A cross from the right fell kindly into his path having ricocheted off a defender and the former England man made no mistake as he drilled his effort into the corner of the net.
The Welsh outfit emerged for the second half with renewed vigour, forcing Taylor into two saves, firstly from Scott Young, before future Aston Villa and Wales full-back Mark Delaney tested him with a long-range effort.
Cardiff’s promising play meant it came as something of a surprise when the Whites took the lead through Lehmann shortly before the hour mark. Brevett played the ball in-field to the German striker who took it on his chest before thumping an effort beyond Hallworth.
Wayne Collins then got a head onto Salako’s cross only to see the ball land on the roof of the net, before Kevin Nugent shot over at the other end. Beardsley saw an attempt deflect wide for a corner, before Carpenter sought a goal on his return to the Cottage but shot over after running at the Fulham defence.
The Whites won the reverse fixture at Ninian Park by the same scoreline a week later – Salako and Simon Morgan with the goals – to secure a 4-2 aggregate victory and safe passage to the Second Round.
From the archives
Fulham FC matchday programme (v. Manchester City) – Friday 14th August 1998
‘Kevin’s Corner’ – Kevin Keegan’s Programme Notes