The confidence gained by the start to the season was measurable by the form that followed, with Fulham sitting in third spot by the end of September having lost only once in the opening 10 matches. That run featured a 1-0 win over fellow promotion hopefuls Stoke City who were top of the standings with a 100 per cent record at the time. What was most surprising was that Rufus Brevett grabbed the winner – the only league goal he managed in 177 appearances for the Club. “I only got three goals for Doncaster, one for QPR, and one the other day,” he said afterwards. “But with the position I’m playing now – wing-back in a back five – I’m pushed on a lot more. It certainly paid off the other day!”
A defeat at home to high-flying Luton Town was a blip that became an ignition switch, as Fulham swept aside their next six opponents, taking 18 points which took us to within one of leaders Stoke, but with two games in hand on the Potters. One of the more impressive victories in that spell was when Walsall were dispatched 4-1 at the Cottage, as our opponents had started the day above us in the standings, only to find themselves leapfrogged come 5pm. There were a couple of subplots for this encounter; Kevin Keegan was absent from the dugout having undergone surgery on his neck, and Geoff Horsfield was given his debut following his arrival from Halifax. He needed just 11 minutes after coming off the bench to score his first Fulham goal. Apparently Brentford were rivals for the Horse’s signature, but a move to Hounslow was never on the cards according to the man himself: “There was no way I could turn Fulham down – not with Keegan, Bracewell, Beardsley, all internationals, here. I’m not going to find another club outside the Premiership with this quality of players and management, and from what I’ve seen so far I can see us going up easily.”
Two defeats in four days away to Gillingham and Wigan provided some breathing space for Stoke, who were now four points ahead of us in first. “We’ve got some ground to make up in the league bearing in mind our last two defeats,” Keegan said. “With an improvement in our finishing, we’ll soon be back on track.” That was written in his programme notes as we welcomed Burnley to SW6, and the players certainly heeded their manager’s words, comfortably winning 4-0. Barry Hayles scored his first for the Club in that thrashing, having lined up against Fulham for Bristol Rovers just a month earlier.