FULHAM 3-0 MANCHESTER CITY (Division Two)
This was Fulham’s first home match of that season and had been selected for live coverage by Sky so was played on a warm sunny Friday night. It was a glamorous fixture for the third flight of English football. Kevin Keegan was now in sole charge of the Al Fayed revolution after Ray Wilkins removal and failure in the playoffs had put the 5-year plan to make the Premier League behind schedule. Manchester City had been relegated for the second time in three seasons but were expected to be front-runners for promotion with their stature as a big club undiminished. It was our biggest League match for some years considering only a couple of years before City had been in the top flight whilst we were languishing perilously close to slipping out of the league altogether. Both clubs had won their first games of the season. City had emphatically beaten Blackpool 3-0 at Maine Road whilst a John Salako goal had been enough to see off a doughty Macclesfield at Moss Rose.
The Fulham Team
Maik Taylor; Simon Morgan, Chris Coleman, Kit Symons, Rufus Brevett; Wayne Collins, Steve Hayward, Paul Bracewell, John Salako; Peter Beardsley, Dirk Lehmann. Substitutes not used: Gus Uhlenbeek, Alan Neilson, Paul Moody.
Although it was only 15 months since Micky Adams band of brothers had got us promoted to this level, there was only one player left from that side in the Fulham line up. Simon Morgan had captained that team and although Chris Coleman had been given the armband, Morgs proved his undoubted quality and remained a regular choice.
Plenty of cash had been flashed by the new owner the previous season although that summer Keegan had boosted his squad with a selection of bargains. Kit Symons had been let go by our opponents that day whilst Salako arrived from Coventry after his early promise at Palace had been stalled by injury. Beardsley gave us some star quality up front where he was accompanied by the unheralded Dirk ‘Diggler’ Lehmann who had been signed from Energie Cottbus. The German quickly acquired cult status with the Fulham faithful and was fondly known as the ‘Porn Star’ on account of his name, highlighted hair and moustache.
The Match Report
If Manchester City hoped the malaise dogging them in recent times would be over after two wins in their first week at this level, then they were soon put right in emphatic fashion last night. Bad defending can cost dearly in any division and by half-time City’s predicament was all too familiar.
The air of opulence pervading this Second Division fixture was emphasised before the kick-off when Mohamed Al Fayed took to the pitch to receive George Cohen’s World Cup winner’s medal from the former Fulham full-back, for an estimated £75,000.
Fulham soon looked far the richer in quality as well. From Simon Morgan’s free-kick after 21 minutes, two of their former England internationals combined to confirm the home team’s early dominance with the opening goal. Paul Bracewell found Peter Beardsley in space on the right hand corner of the penalty area and the on-loan 37-year-old forward, also borrowed by City last season, threaded a shot inside the far post.
High confidence levels could have been expected from both teams after their 100 per cent starts to the season but perhaps City’s horrible plunge all the way down from the Premiership over the past 18 months meant they were the more vulnerable.
Beardsley was again involved when Fulham scored 12 minutes later. His square pass invited Steve Hayward to strike goalwards but it was Dirk Lehmann’s outstretched leg, diverting the ball, which obliged goalkeeper Nick Weaver to parry the ball. The German striker, signed last week from Cottbuss, put away the rebound.
The game looked up almost before it had started. John Salako, in sparkling form, received his short corner back from Bracewell six minutes before the interval and centred perfectly for Lehmann to beat the City defence with ease and head into the near corner of the goal.
Manchester City: Weaver, Edgehill, Tskhadadze (Alsop, 13), Wiekens, Vaughan, Horlock; Jim Whitley, Pollock, Mason; Goater, Dickov. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Jeff Whitley.
Fulham went from strength to strength that season. More astute signings arrived in the shape of Steve Finnan, Geoff Horsfield and Barry Hayles and we swiftly forged our way to the top of the table where we remained for pretty much the whole campaign. We were promoted as Champions on a mammoth 101 points, with the icing on the cake being a great FA Cup run that was only halted by treble winners Man United in the 5th round. City didn’t do quite as well as us with Walsall pipping them for the 2nd automatic promotion spot. They looked dead and buried in the Playoff final with Gillingham as they trailed 2-0 in the 90th minute. However, Paul Dickov rescued them with a 97th-minute equaliser and they went on to win on penalties after extra time. Thanks to rich owners of their own they’ve done pretty well since and the bookies will give pretty long odds on us repeating this scoreline this coming season.