Fulham survived a significant banana skin as they came from behind to seal safe passage into the second round of the League Cup by beating Second Division Northampton Town at Craven Cottage tonight.

Jean Tigana had already signalled that promotion from the Premier League was his priority by making eleven changes in the first leg at Sixfields. The Whites had their work out cut out after going in this tie a goal down on aggregate following Marco Gabbiadini’s predatory finish a fortnight ago but there was no compromise with his objectives from Tigana as the Frenchman fielded only four first-team starters in the second leg.

Fulham’s task got even harder when centre back Ian Sampson headed in a valuable away goal after not being picked up at a corner to boost Northampton’s hopes of a serious upset by the banks of the Thames. Fulham struggled to get into their groove after the shock of going behind and most of their speculative efforts were well fielded by Cobblers keeper Keith Welch. It took a moment of inspiration from Sean Davis two minutes before half time to draw the Londoners level on the night when the homegrown midfielder’s quickly taken free-kick fly into the top corner from 25 yards out.

The game remained in the balance until deep in the second half as the Second Division side stick to their assignment admirably. Fulham went in front on the evening when French winger Fabrice Fernandes – who had twice clattered the woodwork with shots from distance in the first leg – tried another strike from outside the area and this time his swerving finish beat Welch and nestled in the back of the net via the far post.

Jean Tigana introduced Louis Saha at the start of the second period and the French forward fired the home side ahead for the first time in the tie with twenty minutes remaining. The athletic striker, who has returned to English football this season following a frustrating loan spell at Newcastle United earlier in his career, finished off a fabulous move full of precise passing by placing an unstoppable finish past Welch from ten yards. He then rounded off the scoring with three minutes to go to ensure Fulham overcome a serious scare to go into the hat for the second round.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Hahnemann; W. Collins, Brevett, Neilson, Knight; Davis, Clark, Fernandes, Lewis (Saha 45); Hayles (Hayward 90), Boa Morte. Subs (not used): Thompson, McAnespie, Trollope.

BOOKED: Knight, Hayles, Davis, Boa Morte.

GOALS: Davis (43), Fernandes (56), Saha (69, 87).

NORTHAMPTON TOWN (5-4-1): Welch; Hunt, Green, Hendon, Sampson, Hughes; Spedding, Savage, Howard, Forrester; Gabbiadini (Hodge 78). Subs (not used): Sollitt, Morrow, Gould, Wilson.

BOOKED: Sampson, Howard, Gabbiadini.

GOAL: Sampson (7).

REFEREE: Ray Olivier (Birmingham).