Geoff Horsfield scored twice as Fulham booked a place in the third round of the FA Cup after surviving a scare against plucky Hartlepool United at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
Kevin Keegan’s side had already been taken to a replay by non-league Leigh RMI in the first round of the competition and found things tougher than expected here against Third Division strugglers Hartlepool United. It needed a prolonged period of late pressure to make sure of the victory over Mick Tait’s brave battlers with Horsfield, who opened and rounded off the scorer, proving the eventual matchwinner.
Keegan elected to start with a three-pronged forward line in an unusual 3-4-3 formation that caused plenty of problems at the wrong end of the field. His charges began brightly with Hartlepool keeper Martin Hollund making a magnificent save to keep out a Barry Hayles effort after just eleven seconds. Paul Peschisolido nodded a good chance wide two minutes later and it was no surprise when the Whites went in front on six minutes as Horsfield headed home a cross from Paul Bracewell.
The visitors fought to gain a foothold into the contest and put together some promising passing moves of their own. They appeared destined to go in a goal down until Craig Midgley did brilliantly to find some space in the penalty area and saw his speculative shot deflected past Maik Taylor in the Fulham goal two minutes before the interval.
Pools made the worst possible start to the second half when Gus di Lella’s attempted headed clearance flew past Hollund to restore the home side’s lead two minutes after the break. But Tait’s side were undeterred and Paul Stephenson forced a smart save from Taylor with a low shot as they went in search of an equaliser. It arrived through a wonderfully worked move twelve minutes into the second half when Midgley and Miller combined effectively before the former’s cross came to Steve Howard, who fired home his fourth goal of the season.
The home side then laid siege to the Hartlepool goal for the remainder of the contest. Gus Uhlenbeek, Steve Hayward, Chris Coleman and Horsfield all went close before Fulham veteran Simon Morgan headed home a corner from Hayward to give the Cottagers the lead with nine minutes to play. With Hartlepool pushing forward in search of a third leveller, Horsfield did superbly to control a cross from substitute John Salako and volley home his second of the afternoon to kill off Pools’ plucky resistance.
FULHAM (3-4-3): Taylor; Morgan, Coleman, Symons; Bracewell (Smith 88), Hayward, Uhlenbeek, Brazier; Horsfield, Peschisolido, Hayles (Salako 65). Subs (not used): Arendse, Brevett, Trollope.
GOALS: Horsfield (6, 84), di Lella (o.g. 47), Morgan (81).
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (3-5-2): Hollund; Knowles, Barron, Ingram; Miller, Stephenson (Brightwell 68), Clark, di Lella (Hutt 76), Stokoe; Midgley, Howard. Subs (not used): Miotto, Rush, Baker.
GOALS: Midgley (41), Howard (58).
REFEREE: Alan Butler (Sutton-in-Ashfield).