Latvian international Andrejs Stolcers breathed new life into his Fulham career with a breathtaking brace against Bury that sealed Fulham’s progress into the fourth round of the League Cup at Loftus Road.
The forward, something of a forgotten man since his £2m transfer from Spartak Moscow, made the most of only his ninth start in two years to remind Jean Tigana of his goalscoring qualities. The 28 year-old was part of a Fulham line-up that featured ten senior internationals and Lee Clark, who represented England’s under 21 side, and were ruthless in ending the Shakers’ superb Cup run.
The Premiership outfit were on top from the outset but a crowd of only 6,700 appeared more enthralled by a fireworks display in Shepherd’s Bush rather than the action on the field in the early stages. Barry Hayles drilled an effort wide before Junichi Inamoto saw a shot deflected wide from just outside the area, Steve Finnan sent a header over the bar and Danish veteran Bjarne Goldbaek blasted a shot wildly in the top tier in an opening 20 minutes where the Whites were far from accurate with their finishing.
The pressure kept coming with the evergreen John Collins testing Glynn Garner in the Bury goal with a low strike before Hayles headed an inviting Finnan cross straight at the goalkeeper after Goldbaek had miskicked right in front of goal. The Bury goalkeeper then pulled off a brilliant save to deny Inamoto from point-blank range and it was left to Stolcers to show his team-mates how to finish six minutes before the break. He raced onto a precise through ball from Hayles and steered a shot in the bottom corner.
Bury’s hopes of getting back into the game were disrupted at the start of the second period when Terry Dunfield was carried off with a knee injury and they fell further behind six minutes after the interval when Stolcers scored his second. Clark played the Latvian in along the left flank but he still had plenty to do. Stolcers skipped away from two defenders before powering a right-footed foot superbly into the far corner. With finishing like that, he may yet feature against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Fulham could have extended their lead further. Garner was fortunate to be able to regather the ball after dropping a cross at the feet of Goldbaek. The Danish winger then went close with a much more conventional opportunity, firing fractionally wide from 20 yards out. Substitute Facundo Sava should have made it three but failed to convert a simple chance from a Stolcers cross and the Whites were nearly made to pay when Daniel Swailes headed a Chris Billy ball in against the crossbar.
A dreadful mistake from substitute Colin Woodthorpe gave Clark the simple task of nodding into an empty net to ensure Fulham’s progress. The defender completely missed a long ball that bounced over goalkeeper Garner and Clark was able to grab one of the simplest goals of his career. Goldbaek rasped a shot into the sidenetting and Garner made sensational stops to prevent Sava and Hayles from adding to Fulham’s tally before the Third Division side scored a cracking consolation goal through Jon Newby in added time.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan (Djetou 64), Wome, Melville (Hudson 79), Ouaddoh; Collins, Clark, Inamoto (Sava 45), Goldbaek; Stolcers, Hayles. Subs (not used): Herrera, Boa Morte.
GOALS: Stolcers (39, 53), Clark (73).
BURY (4-4-2): Garner; Swailes, Unsworth, Nelson, Barrass (O’Shaughnessy 81); Stuart, Billy, Dunfield (Woodthorpe 49), Forrest; Newby, Preece (Nugent 73). Subs (not used): Redmond, George.
GOAL: Newby (90).
REFEREE: David Pugh (Merseyside).