Steve Bruce had demanded guts from his Huddersfield Town side but was left as bitterly disappointing as the 3,500 Town fans who made the journey down to London after watching Fulham run their hopes of making the play-offs.
The visitors looked cowed by the connotations that would come with a win that could have given them a tilt at the top flight, whilst Fulham – free of any such pressure following at the end of a frustrating campaign – attacked at will. The lively Lee Clark was a thorn in Huddersfield’s side all afternoon. The creative midfielder caused consternation at Craven Cottage when it was suggested that he might follow his great mate Paul Bracewell out of the club when Fulham parted company with the novice manager last month, but he looks set to be a big part of Jean Tigana’s future plans.
Clark fired Fulham in front after a classical goalmouth scramble shortly after the half hour mark and then doubled his tally from the penalty spot after Barry Hayles had been hauled down by Steve Jenkins. Danish winger Bjarne Goldbaek made it three with an impudent chip over the stranded Nico Vaesen and a dejected Bruce was left to reflect on how Huddersfield had slipped out of the top six on the final afternoon after Bolton edged past Norwich.
While Bruce bemoaned injuries and a lack of fight, Fulham caretaker coach Karl-Heinz Riedle hailed the commitment of his charges as he led them for the last time.
“The players showed big character in a game we did not have to win. They showed great quality and I think in the end justice was done with the result. Our biggest problem this season has not been the home matches but away from home. We have not won enough away from home and that’s why we’re not in the play-offs either.”
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Phelan, Melville, Symons; Hayward, Clark (Ball 84), Goldbaek (Davis 84), Lewis (Trollope 56); Horsfield, Hayles. Subs (not used): Neilson, Peschisoldio.
GOALS: Clark (33, pen 68), Goldbaek (76).
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (3-5-2): Vaesen; Lucketti, Jenkins, Thornley (Hay 73); Gorre, Heary, Beech (Baldry 71), Vincent, Holland; Sellars (Smith 45), Wijnhard. Subs (not used): Margetson, Armstrong.
BOOKED: Lucketti, Vincent.
REFEREE: Anthony Leake (Lancashire).