Fulham failed to go top of the First Division and lost the last unbeaten record in the top four divisions as Paul Bracewell’s side were stunned by ten man Wolverhampton Wanderers at Craven Cottage this evening.
The Whites dominated much of this contest but were beaten by a combination of Wolves’ dogged defending and the predatory instincts of midfielder Neil Emblen, who punished an error from Maik Taylor, to inflict Fulham’s first defeat since May Day. The travelling fans acclaimed a third win in a row and this victory, coming against the odds as Wolves shrugged off the setback of seeing Ludovic Pollet given his marching orders after picking up two yellow cards, certainly suggested they could come closer to promotion that at any point in the last seven years.
Bracewell’s side enjoyed the majority of possession in a first period that Fulham bossed but his side struggled to serious extend Mike Stowell in the Wolves goal. There was plenty of pretty football, with Steve Hayward and Lee Clark to the fore, but little of the penetration that had delivered eight consecutive wins prior to this fixture. The home side’s plans would have been disrupted by the loss of Karl-Heinz Riedle midway through the first half but Wolves got through the first half unscathed largely due to Fulham’s failure to deliver in the final third.
Clark, a standout performer since signing from Sunderland in the aftermath of his FA Cup final misdemeanor, came the closest – drilling an effort from just outside the penalty area against the post but his team-mates also spurned good opportunities to break the deadlock. Kit Symons headed wide from a corner and Geoff Horsfield, always an irritant to the visiting defence, stabbed off target from inside the six-yard box. On the stroke of half time, Hayward blazed into the Putney End when it opened up for him in the area.
Wolves, though, had struggled to knit together much of note. Maik Taylor was only tested by a miscued cross from Kevin Muscat, which he had to tip over the bar, but the Northern Ireland international was culpable for the only goal of the game – which came out of nothing eleven minutes after the interval. Taylor failed to hold a speculative strike from Simon Osborn which was hit straight at him from 25 yards and Emblen arrived to bury the rebound from close range.
That sparked a prolonged period of pressure from the home side, but even with Barry Hayles unleashed from the bench, an equaliser wouldn’t come. Wolves – on the back of this disciplined defensive display – climbed into the top ten.
FULHAM (5-3-2): M. Taylor; Uhlenbeek (W. Collins 79), Neilson (Hayles 61), Morgan, Symons, Coleman; Hayward, Trollope, Clark; Horsfield, Riedle (Peschisolido 24). Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Davis.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-5-1): Stowell; Muscat, Bazeley, Curle, Pollet; Emblen, Osborn, Sedgley, S. Taylor, Corica (Naylor 81); Akinbiyi. Subs (not used): Mautone, Robinson, Simpson, Larkin.
BOOKED: Pollet, Muscat, Sedgley.
SENT OFF: Pollet.
REFEREE: Mike Dean (The Wirral).