Geoff Horsfield gave Fulham a crucial advantage as the Division One side battled to a hard-earned victory at Northampton Town in the first round of the League Cup tonight.

The burly striker scrambled in a winner five minutes from time after Simon Morgan had headed a Stephen Hughes’ corner towards goal to give Paul Bracewell his first win in charge of the Whites. Horsfield stabbed home instinctively high into the net from a couple of yards out to score Fulham’s second away goal of the evening after youth-team graduate Sean Davis had steered the visitors ahead with his first senior goal for the club.

Davis delivered a measured finish from just inside the area after latching onto a through ball from Stan Collymore to put the Cottagers in front on the hour mark. But the youngster’s joy turned to disappointment six minutes later when he was penalised for bringing down Steve Howard. Substitute Carlo Corazzin squeezed the spot-kick past Maik Taylor to the delight of the Sixways crowd and Fulham then had to show really character to weather a period of pressure from the home side.

NORTHAMPTON TOWN (5-3-2): O’Reilly; Howey, Hendon (Gibb 78), Sampson, Frain, Hunt; Hunter (Corazzin 64), Spedding, Savage; Howard, Wilson (Clarkson 82). Subs (not used): Hope, Sturridge.

BOOKED: Sampson.

GOAL: Corazzin (pen 66).

FULHAM (5-3-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Coleman, Morgan; Davis, Hughes, Clark; Horsfield, Collymore. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Neilson, Hayward, Trollope, Peschisolido.

BOOKED: Davis.

GOALS: Davis (60), Horsfield (85).

REFEREE: Chris Foy (St. Helens).