Ex-England forward Peter Beardsley rolled back the years to fire Fulham past a stubborn Lincoln outfit at Sincil Bank this afternoon.

The former Newcastle and Liverpool hero, relishing the opportunity to be handed a free role by Kevin Keegan, showed that he still has too much class for the Second Division by delivering a virtuoso display for the Cottagers that proved to be the difference between the two sides. Fulham were grateful to the veteran’s enduring class as two second half strikes from Beardsley saw the visitors construct an unassailable lead despite the grit shown by City.

Lincoln looked as if they had weathered a strong spell of Fulham pressure before the interval to play some expansive football of their own but they never recovered from going behind in controversial circumstances just two minutes into the second period. Home goalkeeper Barry Richardson protested his innocence but was penalised for picking up what referee Trevor Jones deemed a backpass.

That gave Fulham a great opportunity with an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area, which Beardsley blasted home despite eleven Lincoln men stationed on the goal line. The only blemish on Beardsley’s copybook throughout an excellent afternoon came when he rolled a finish agonisingly past the post having tricked his way past left back Steve Holmes. Fulham went close to a second when substitute Rob Scott chipped the retreating Richardson superbly only for Kevin Austin to clear off the line.

Keegan’s side earned some breathing space from their next attack when Beardsley drove home from twenty yards after right back Jason Barnett failed to clear a cross from Gus Uhlenbeek after the Dutch right back had run fully forty yards with the ball. Lincoln didn’t fold and forced a grandstand finale when centre half Jon Whitney halved the hosts’ arrears by heading home his second of the season from Lee Thorpe’s cross.

LINCOLN CITY (4-3-3): Richardson; Barnett (Bimson 77), Holmes, Whitney, Austin; Fleming, Finnigan, Hartfield; Battersby (Fortune-West 62), Alcide, Thorpe. Subs (not used): Philpott.

BOOKED: Thorpe.

GOAL: Whitney (74).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Uhlenbeek, Brevett, Symons, Coleman; Bracewell, Morgan, Hayward, W. Collins; Beardsley, Lehmann (Scott 45). Subs (not used): Neilson, Trollope.

GOALS: Beardsley (47, 64).

REFEREE: Trevor Jones (Barrow-in-Furness).