Veteran goalkeeper David Felgate rolled back the years with an incredible display that earned UniBond League part-timers Leigh RMI a valuable FA Cup first round replay against big-spending Fulham this afternoon.

Felgate, who made more than 700 Football League appearances before electing to combine his goalkeeping duties with a shift in a timber yard, was so outstanding as the non-league side held firm against Kevin Keegan’s expensively-assembled promotion chasers that the Hammersmith End were demanding Mohamed Al-Fayed ‘sign him up’ before the end of the game. Nobody expected the outsiders from the old Railway Mechanics’ Institute to stand much of a chance against Fulham’s attacking arsenal – but Steve Waywell’s side took their opportunity to shine with both hands.

They were indebted to their experienced goalkeeper for keeping them in the contest after Fulham dominated the first fifteen minutes. German striker Dirk Lehmann was denied three times in a frantic opening before the visitors took the lead in astonishing fashion. Kit Symons brought down Dave Ridings five yards outside the box and Tony Whealing, now working as a fitness instructor following his release by Blackburn Rovers, curled an outstanding free-kick past a frozen Maik Taylor.

Fulham upped the ante but found first, Felgate, and then the frame of the goal in an unforgiving mood. When the unlucky Lehmann did power a header past the goalkeeper from Steve Hayward’s corner the ball flashed down off the underside of the bar and was hacked away by Graham Hill. John Salako was denied by a full length dive from Felgate, who then turned a venomous drive from Lehmann onto the far post. That teed up another Hayward corner from which the goalkeeper produced another excellent stop as the former Energie Cottbus forward headed for goal again.

Leigh could even have extended their lead as Ridings raced clear of a horribly square Fulham defence but snatched at his shot allowing a grateful Taylor to save. The home side kept up their onslaught on the visitors’ goal and grabbed an equaliser ten minutes before half time with Lehmann climbing majestically to head past Felgate from another inch-perfect Hayward corner. The part-timers might have gone ahead through Ian Monk but for a terrific Taylor save at the start of the second half, but it was a bit backs to the wall after that.

Paul Peschisolido’s clever movement caused problems for the Leigh defence but Felgate foiled both him and Wayne Collins in quick succession. The former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder fired a shot against the frame of the goal before Felgate acrobatically denied both Hayward and Paul Trollope. He blocked bravely at the feet of Peschisolido before substitute Geoff Horsfield blazed over the crossbar on the volley.

Leigh defended diligently for all they were worth and thoroughly deserved both the acclaim of the crowd and the romance of a replay after withstanding everything Kevin Keegan’s side could throw at them. The Fulham boss rated Felgate’s display of goalkeeping as ‘just about the best I’ve ever seen, because of the number of great saves’.

Goals: Whealing (19) 0-1; Lehmann (35) 1-1.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Uhlenbeek, Symons, Coleman, Brevett; Collins, Davis (Trollope 45), Hayward, Salako (Horsfield 71); Peschisolido, Lehmann. Subs (not used) Arendse, Morgan, Smith.

GOAL: Lehmann (35).

LEIGH RMI (3-5-2): Felgate; Hill, Locke, Turpin; Prescott, Smyth, Ridings, Evans, Whealing; Monk (Cryer 81), Matthews. Subs (not used): Senior, Wallace, James, Rostron.

BOOKED: Locke, Hill, Matthews.

GOAL: Whealing (19).

REFEREE: Paul Rejer (West Midlands).


Man of the match: Felgate.

Attendance: 7,965.