Dirk Lehmann made an instant impression upon Craven Cottage – scoring a stunning winner as Fulham came from behind to avoid a shock at the hands of Third Division Cardiff City in the League Cup this evening.
Kevin Keegan’s side were stunned by the Bluebirds’ bright start, which saw Christian Roberts threaten in the very first minute before John Williams calmly converted a fine through ball from Lee Phillips to silence the home ground. Cardiff’s physicality, encapsulated by a combative display from former Fulham promotion hero Richard Carpenter in central midfield, initially made it difficult for the Whites to make much of an impact through the middle of the pitch.
Beardsley, who replaced Matt Lawrence in the only alteration from the side that got off to a winning start at Macclesfield on Saturday, tried his luck from distance but saw a 30-yarder well held by Jon Hallworth. When Kit Symons did beat the Cardiff custodian with a trademark header from a corner, the Welsh international’s effort was scrambled off the line by Mark Bonner. But Beardsley popped up two minutes before the break to bring Fulham level – drilling into the bottom corner after a cross was deflected into his path.
Cardiff were quickly back on the front foot after the interval. Maik Taylor had to save smartly from Scott Young before showing all of his agility to keep out an audacious effort from distance by Mark Delaney. The visitors were making most of the running, but Lehmann stepped up to fire Fulham ahead with a moment of magic. The German’s clever movement allowed Rufus Brevett to float a forward ball into his path, which the striker brought down beautifully on his chest before volleying majestically past the helpless Haworth.
It was a sensational way for the forward, who had only signed from Energie Cottbus for £30,000 on Thursday, to open his Fulham account and was celebrated gleefully by the Cottage crowd. The goal appeared to galvanise Keegan’s side with Wayne Collins heading a cross from John Salako just over the bar and Beardsley had a snapshot deflected wide. Cardiff, who introduced another former Fulham stalwart Jeff Eckhardt from the bench as they sought to get back into the game, threatened an equaliser through Kevin Nugent, who fired over, and Carpenter, whose rampaging run opened up the Fulham defence, but the veteran midfielder spooned his shot over the crossbar.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Morgan, Brevett, Symons, Coleman; Bracewell, W. Collins (Lawrence 85), Salako, Trollope (Hayward 39); Lehmann, Beardsley. Subs (not used): Brown, Neilson, R. Scott.
GOALS: Beardsley (43), Lehmann (58).
CARDIFF CITY (4-3-3): Hallworth; O’Sullivan, Young, Mitchell (Eckhardt 60), Phillips; Delaney, Carpenter, Bonner (Penney 82); Williams, Roberts, Saville (Nugent 62). Subs (not used): Kelly, Jarman.
BOOKED: O’Sullivan, Delaney, Nugent, Eckhardt.
GOAL: Williams (8).
REFEREE: Paul Danson (Leicestershire).