Injury time goals. You simply can’t beat them! I’m sure we have all moaned in the past when Fulham have made hard work of games and it’s never an easy watch when a lead isn’t comfortable. Yet, despite our desire to want a comfortable, ‘straight forward’, 90-minute display, which games last longer in the memory? The mid-season 3-0 win or the scrappy, nervy, dramatic winner with seconds to play when you rescue a result with the last chance of the match?
Some of the club’s most iconic moments have come once the fourth official has held up his added-time board, and that’s why for this week’s Focus Fives, we are going to count down five of the most memorable…
5 – READING HOME & AWAY (2007/08)
At number 5 I’m going to cheat a little and give credit to two goals that had equal significance to our survival during The Great Escape season in 2007/08. When people think about The Great Escape, they can be forgiven for picturing the Bullard freekicks, the Man City comeback, the Murphy header etc but despite every vital point earned that season, there’s an argument that Fulham only stayed up in the end because of goals scored by Erik Nevland and David Healy.
If you look at the final standings below, you will see that Fulham and Reading finished level on points with our goal difference being marginally better by 3 goals. Had the goal differences been the same, Reading would have survived because of Goals Scored. Therefore, we stayed up by the skin of our teeth and a 3 goal margin. When looking through the results of that season, our goal difference to gain that 3 goal advantage could only have been influenced by games where we won by more than 1 goal in order to increase our GD. Still with me?!
That only happened on three occasions, twice beating Reading. A 3-1 win at the Cottage and then 0-2 at the Madejski Stadium. Plus, we also beat Birmingham 2-0 at home in the penultimate game of the season.
The fact that 2 of those came against Reading gives you a swing of 4 goals and is, therefore, the difference between which club survived. More incredibly, both goals came in injury time.
David Healy sealed the 3-1 win in the November as Reading pushed for an equaliser deep into stoppage time. Fulham cleared their lines and a long punt up to the halfway line was flicked on by Shefki Kuqi to the on running Simon Davies who squared for Healy to finish off a fine counter-attack and arguably the most under-appreciated goal in Fulham history.
I say that because there’s no doubt that the second priceless injury time goal is seen as more iconic despite them having an equal amount of importance in reality. A brilliant move started and finished by Nevland, exchanging a 1-2 move with Simon Davies just inside the Reading half, as the Welsh wizard once again provided the injury time assist. This time for the composed Norwegian to write his name into Fulham folklore.
Nevland also went onto score in the 86th minute against Birmingham and if you do the maths, the goal was nothing more than a bonus in the end. Granted that any combination of 2 of those 3 goals keeps us up but the Birmingham one wasn’t needed as the 2 Reading ones together were enough.
You are correct if you are thinking that alongside the Birmingham goal, only one of these Reading goals was required but since they both serve the same purpose, I opted to make them joint 5th.
4 – SPURS COMEBACK (2002/03)
During our unwanted two-year stay at Loftus Road, there were a handful of famous moments that we’ve accepted into Fulham archives. One of those was the comeback against Spurs in 2002. In the Premier League era, we have only come back from 2 goals down to win on 3 occasions and this was the first of those. Having trailed 0-2 at the break, Fulham’s improvement in the second half was finally rewarded with a goal from Junichi Inamoto in the 68th minute. But it wasn’t until the 84th minute that the drama really began. Barry Hayles was dragged to the ground in the box by Spurs centre back Anthony Gardner, with the ref initially waving away any penalty claims. But the linesman had flagged for a penalty and after consulting the linesman, Mark Halsey pointed to the spot and Steed smashed home the resulting spot-kick to rescue a point (or so we thought).
The final few minutes were all Fulham as the momentum and confidence in both sets of players had switched. Spurs went into the match second in the table with 10 points from the opening 4 matches of the season. Meanwhile, Fulham had experienced an ordinary start to the 2002/03 campaign and sat 14th on 4 points. Those 4 points would soon become 7 as Facundo Sava played through Sylvain Legwinski to complete the comeback in injury time, sending the Fulham fans into raptures. Leggy was a tidy player during his 4-year spell with the club but after watching back footage of this London derby, hearing Martin Tyler shout “Legwinski!!!” as his shot flew past Kasey Keller and into the net is surely the highlight of his time in SW6, even if it wasn’t scored in SW6…
3 – SEAN DAVIS VS BLACKBURN ROVERS (2000/01)
Arguably the most satisfying goal in the Fulham history books, courtesy of Graham Souness’ comments in the week building up to this huge match. You all know the story: it was a clash of the top two at Ewood Park live on Sky and Fulham were running away with the league in style, whilst Blackburn were a solid bet to be runners up. Souness made it public that he believed Rovers were the best team in the division and were out to show it by beating us and it couldn’t have started any better for the straight-talking Scot. With Fulham trailing 1-0 and also playing with ten men from the 40th minute, surely this was an opportunity for Souness’ players to back up the words of their manager? Instead, it was the Fulham players who showed exactly what the rest of the division knew already: that they were a special team and undoubtedly the best that season.
An opportunistic equaliser from Saha just before the break following Brad Friedel’s collision with his own defender, was followed by a second half where we were clinging on for dear life, desperate to avoid defeat. Blackburn continued to push, knowing that with Bolton breathing down their necks, they needed to take advantage of our ten men and threw everyone forward as the game headed into injury time. Tigana’s men won the ball back and launched one last counter-attack as Blackburn’s players scrambled back. With an element of luck, Lee Clark’s deflected shot fell perfectly into the path of an unmarked Sean Davis who side-footed the ball home, sealing promotion to the Premier League. Maybe not quite mathematically on the night but we knew. The players knew and Jean Tigana certainly knew.
In all honesty, this goal meant very little with regards to our chances of promotion but a combination of the way the game played out, the comments from Souness and the prize at the end of it made this a very special night. Fulham had never played in the Premier League before and after the battle of trying to save the club from financial ruin just a few years prior, the emotions felt that night were simply overwhelming and unforgettable.
The celebrations alone from Sean dancing, the camera facing all those uncontrollable Fulham fans behind him and Tigana bombing down the touchline, when he was usually so reserved, makes it the most wildly celebrated goal I’ve seen Fulham score, something that certainly adds to its iconic status.
2 – JOHN MITCHELL VS BIRMINGHAM CITY (1974/75)
96 years on from our establishment, and after decades of scenarios played out in the dreams of generations, we finally got to witness the moment that would take Fulham to their first and only FA Cup Final at Wembley thus far. The script was finally written in 1975 and it did not disappoint. There can be no greater way to fulfil the dream of a lifetime than to see your team score an injury time winner in the semi-final and that’s exactly what John Mitchell did at Maine Road against Birmingham City.
There’s something about an injury time goal that makes it more of a fairytale than comfortably sailing into a final. The drama, the adrenaline, the desperation of knowing it’s ‘now or never’ as the majority of the crowd were already preparing for a third replay at Highbury. Then, ecstasy-filled scenes as the ball is just about bundled over the line, with footage of Mitch running away, arms aloft towards the jubilant Fulham fans knowing that the blood, sweat, tears and record number of games to get to this stage were definitely going to be rewarded with the dream that all Fulham fans dared to dream: an FA Cup Final!
It naturally goes down as one of the most iconic goals in our history because of the occasion and importance of it, but the timing of the goal certainly gives it an edge.
1 – MAN CITY COMEBACK (2007/08)
There’s no doubt about it in my eyes. Despite all the famous goals Fulham have scored in 141 wonderful years, Diomansy Kamara holds the accolade of scoring the most important goal in our club’s history.
Injury time goals are so memorable because they are confined to the smallest of margins, where there’s no possibility to make amends for missing that final opportunity. It’s your last chance to salvage something from the game and that pressure is magnified to epic proportions when the entire history of a football club is hanging on that one moment.
If Mitchell doesn’t score in the semi-final, we go to a replay where we might have made the final anyway. If Sean Davis doesn’t score at Ewood Park, we would have drawn the match and finished as champions regardless. Even without Dempsey’s famous Juventus goal, we still had 10 minutes or so to win the tie and probably would have in extra time against the tiring legs of the Old Lady’s ten men. All of those goals meant so much but didn’t depend on the implications of its importance as much as the 2007/08 season did with Kamara’s 92nd-minute winner at the City of Manchester Stadium.
2-0 down at half time and relegated because of results elsewhere, it seemed inconceivable that the following May we would be recording our highest league finish and qualifying for the newly formatted Europa League, a competition we would go onto make the final of a further 12 months later. The two greatest seasons in our history would never have happened if Diomansy Kamara misses that injury time chance.
Instead, we would have simply gone down. No ifs, no buts and certainly no ‘Tidal Waves on the Thames…’
Every goal plays its part in the tale of a football club. But it’s impossible to imagine Fulham’s story without Kamara’s.