Striker Ian Stevens earned revenge for Carlisle United after Fulham’s memorable win at Brunton Park last season with a brilliant brace that settled a fiery encounter this afternoon.
A crowd of nearly 5,000 fans created an electric atmosphere and the hosts were eager to settle a lingering score from the promotion battle last year when Rod McAree’s wonderful winner all-but sealed promotion for Micky Adams’ men. Even without the energy of the injured Matt Jansen up front, Carlisle carried the greater threat in the early stages. Derby loanee Nick Wright headed against Maik Taylor’s crossbar in the early stages.
The influential Graham Anthony fashioned a chance for Jamie Hoyland with a looping cross that midfielder headed agonisingly wide. United even made light of the early loss of Paul Boertien, with Rory Delap slotting across to left back. The volume went up a level when a frustrated Paul Peschisolido somehow escaped a sending off after manhandling Billy Barr. The incident sparked a mass melee in front of the dugout, which required the local constabulary, to restore order but the big-spending visitors, perhaps disrupted by Paul Moody’s early departure, failed to test Tony Caig in the first half.
That pattern persisted in the second half and Carlisle, through the promptings of Richard Prokas, carried the greater threat. They broke the deadlock on the hour when Barr played a one-with Wright and sent in a low cross from the left that the sliding Stevens steered home. Carlisle went in search of a vital second, with Gareth McAlindon testing Taylor, and Ray Wilkins reacted by sending Chris Coleman forward to try and add more punch to Fulham’s toothless attack.
That move backfired six minutes from time when Fulham switched off from a set-piece as Stevens smashed home in a superb volley after he latched onto a header from Wright to seal United’s first win in six games. Wilkins was magnanimous in his praise for the victors afterwards:
“When you come to the bottom clubs it is sometimes harder because of the commitment they show. Those lads did Carlisle credit. It wasn’t good enough from us and the best team won.”
CARLISLE UNITED (4-4-2): Caig, Hopper, Boertien (Delap 26), Barr, Varty; Hoyland, McAlindon, Anthony, Prokas; Stevens, Wright. Subs (not used): Dobie, Couzens.
GOALS: Stevens (60, 84).
FULHAM (5-3-2): Taylor; Lawrence (McAnespie 62), Herrera, Cullip, Coleman, Neilson; Bracewell (Carpenter 81), Smith, Trollope; Scott (Moody 17), Peschisolido.
BOOKED: Peschisolido, Cullip.
REFEREE: Steve Baines (Nottinghamshire).