A first-half header from Mike Conroy helped Fulham grind out an impressive victory over one of the Division Three promotion favourites Carlisle United at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

A tight contest was settled as early as the eighth minute when Rob Scott’s cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Conroy leaving the visiting goalkeeper Tony Caig with no chance. Scott had already served notice of the Cottagers’ intentions by heading just wide himself in the fourth minute – and United had to regroup having barely had a kick in the first twenty minutes. They thought they had levelled matters just before the break but referee Tony Leake ruled out David Reeves’ shot for a foul on Fulham number one Tony Lange by the Carlisle captain.

The visitors were much improved in the second half, with the influential Steve Hayward both pulling the strings in midfield and testing Lange’s reflexes with a number of shots from distance. Fulham weathered the storm and might have had a second when Darren Freeman’s shot from the edge of the area was cleared off the line by Owen Archdeacon.

The hard-fought win lifts the Whites into second place in the early Third Division standings.

FULHAM: Lange, Watson, Herrera, Cullip, Cusack, Blake, Freeman (Mison 85), Cockerill, Conroy, Morgan, Scott (Thomas 83). Subs (not used): Angus.

BOOKED: Blake, Freeman.

GOAL: Conroy (8).

CARLISLE UNITED: Caig; Edmonson, Archdeacon, Walling, Varty (Conway 81), Pounewatchy, Thomas (Currie 81), Peacock (Delap 61), Hayward, Aspinall, Reeves.

BOOKED: Varty, Edmonson, Hayward.

REFEREE: Tony Leake