Fulham’s first game of 1999 saw them make the trip to Premiership outfit Southampton in the Third Round of the FA Cup.
Having dumped Leigh RMI (following a Replay) and Hartlepool United out of the competition, third-tier Fulham were drawn against Dave Jones’ Saints side, having already ended their cup hopes once that season when the Whites emerged 2-1 victors on aggregate from the two-legged meeting in the Worthington Cup back in September.
It meant Kevin Keegan’s men went into the FA Cup game with no fear – a factor which was also aided by their position at the top of Division Two – and began the match strongly, needing just nine minutes to take the lead through midfielder Steve Hayward.
The front pairing of Barry Hayles and Geoff Horsfield combined neatly down the left before the latter crossed accurately to Hayward who coolly placed his shot into the corner of the net from just outside the area.
Fulham were well on top in the first half, with the Saints – who were badly missing the injured Matt Le Tissier – only testing their former goalkeeper Maik Taylor once in the opening 45 minutes, when Egil Ostenstad drew a fingertip save from his one-time colleague.
The South-Coast outfit were improved after the break but couldn’t break down an organised Whites backline, and their cause was further hampered when Ken Monkou was shown a straight red card for a foul on Rufus Brevett. Whether or not red was the appropriate colour to be brandished by referee Dermot Gallagher was up for debate, though, with The Dell faithful furious at the decision.
Despite their man disadvantage, Southampton continued to press but for all their efforts couldn’t find an equaliser. And so, with just a minute remaining of normal time, it was a bitter pill to swallow when they found the back of the net in bizarre fashion.
The ball fell to Ostenstad in the penalty area but as the striker went to control it, he lost his footing and ended up on the turf. Paul Trollope – who had only entered the action seconds previously as a substitute – then went to clear the danger but succeeded only in smashing the ball into teammate Alan Neilson. As bad luck would have it, the loose ball fell directly into the path of the stricken Ostenstad who gleefully accepted the present given to him on his 27th birthday to sweep home the equaliser.
It was frustrating for Fulham not to have seen off the 10 men, despite their tag as favourites, but advance into the next round we did as Saints left Craven Cottage 11 days later on the back of a late goal conceded themselves as Hayles set up a Fourth Round tie at Aston Villa.
From the archives
The Independent – Sunday 3rd January 1999
‘Ostenstad is Saints' saviour’ by Andrew Longmore