Kevin Keegan insisted he wasn’t joking when he said he’d give serious consideration to the ‘Horsfield for England’ requests from the Craven Cottage faithful after the Fulham favourite returned the Whites to the top of the Division Two table with a brace that beat Notts County this afternoon.

Some Cottage regulars won’t trust Keegan’s word again after the national hero u-turned on his pledge to honour his Fulham contract by accepting the FA’s overtures. Veteran journalists scoffed that Keegan who changes his mind more often than the weather and gave short shrift to the new England manager’s claims that the most important thing he’d done this week was restore his club to the Second Division summit.

There is nobody better acquainted with Horsfield’s strengths than the man who persuaded Mohamed Al-Fayed to take a punt on a bricklayer from Halifax. The burly striker, who shrugged off concussion worries to put County to the sword, made it nineteen for the season to ensure London’s oldest football club were in the headlines for more pleasing reasons after seven days where Keegan had held centre stage.

The new national team boss, who will combine his first taste of international management with his Fulham duties until the end of the season, said:

“There was a lot of banter from the crowd – Horsfield for England. That doesn’t look a bad shout after today! He might have been concussed – but he’s got his dreams. I didn’t know what he’d done but the ref had told me he wasn’t quite right so I said: `You must know him from his Halifax days!’ You’ve got to look at where he’s come from. Two years ago he was a brickie, working 60 hours a week on a building site and now he’s improving all of the time.

That’s the beauty of this place and I don’t want to lose it. I like this football ground. When we play under lights it takes me back to Scunthorpe where I started. I supported Doncaster Rovers as a boy so this is not unusual for me. I love it. This place is like chalk and cheese from Wembley but there’s something to be enjoyed from both.”

Keegan had been disappointed with his side’s application on their last league outing, a draw at Wycombe Wanderers, accusing some of his players of having their minds on the impending FA Cup trip to Manchester United. He could hardly accuse his stars of lacking focus this afternoon but it took a while for the Whites to break down a stubborn County side, for whom goalkeeper Warren Ward was inspired.

Ward saved superbly from Paul Trollope, Garry Hayles and Steven Finnan and when Barry Hayles missed a penalty after having been hauled down by Matty Redmile midway through the first half you would have been forgiven for wondering whether it would be a day of frustration for the hosts. But Horsfield lashed in a fine finish from Finnan’s cross to put the Cottagers in front nine minutes before the interval.

The in-form forward doubled the lead midway through the second half when he volley majestically past Ward from 20 yards after taking down a forward ball from Hayles to spark more songs about an impending international call-up. It was certainly a moment of England class, but Fulham had to survive a scare after Gary Owens headed in Dennis Pearce’s corner with seven minutes left to ensure a nervy finale.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Symons, Albert; Smith, Hayward, Salako (Betsy 33), Trollope; Horsfield, Hayles (Lehmann 75). Subs (not used): Uhlenbeek.

BOOKED: Hayles.

GOALS: Horsfield (36, 67).

NOTTS COUNTY (5-3-2): Ward; Warren, Pearce, Liburd, Hendon, Redmile; Dyer (A. Hughes 62), Owers, Richardson; Beadle, Creaney (Jones 75). Subs (not used): Tierney.

GOAL: Owers (83).

REFEREE: Scott Mathieson (Cheshire).