A fine free-kick from James Virgo proved to be the ‘golden goal’ as Brighton and Hove Albion beat a much-changed Fulham side 3-2 after extra time to progress in the Auto Windscreens Shield.
Manager Micky Adams, who professed himself ‘bitterly disappointed’ after his side had been eliminated having been 2-1 up with three minutes to play, shuffled his pack with Fulham’s promotion campaign in mind. There were six changes from the side that had been held to a home draw by Leyton Orient on Saturday with only one enforced as midfielder Richard Carpenter was suspended. Fulham dominated the early exchanges with Darren Freeman to the fore and it was little surprise that the former Gillingham forward was heavily involved in the game’s opening goal just after the half hour.
Freeman climbed highest to met a corner at the far post and followed up after his effort was scrambled off the line forcing the ball back across goal, where Nick Cusack headed past Nicky Rust to give the Whites the lead. The home side equalised in first half stoppage time when Craig Maskell spun superbly and curled an excellent finish past Mark Walton. Albion were much more of a force in the second half but the visitors went back in front when Rob Scott, who had only just replaced Freeman, headed home a fine cross from Adams on 76 minutes.
It looked as though the Cottagers would hold on for victory until referee Steve Bennett awarded a controversial penalty, adjudging that Danny Cullip had pushed Maskell to the floor. Paul McDonald powered the ensuing spot-kick past Lange to force extra time and, despite the stoppage time sending off of Gary Hobson, within two minutes of the restart, Virgo drove a low free-kick through the wall and past Walton to book Albion’s trip to Plymouth Argyle in the second round.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION: Rust, Hobson, Allen, Mayo, McDonald; Virgo, Mundee, Parris, Storer; Maskell, Baird.
SENT OFF: Hobson.
GOALS: Maskell (45), McDonald (87), Virgo (92).
FULHAM: Walton; Watson, Adams, Cullip, Angus; Morgan, Thomas, Brooker (Blake 79), Cusack; Conroy, Freeman (Scott 69). Subs (not used): Mison.
GOALS: Cusack (31), Scott (76).
REFEREE: Steve Bennett (Orpington).