Tomasz Radzinski’s brace saw Fulham past plucky Boston United and into the third round of the League Cup tonight – and there was an encouraging return to the first team for French midfielder Steed Malbranque after a long injury lay-off.
Chris Coleman had warned the Premier League to turn in a professional performance in aftermath of this tricky looking trip with Steve Evans promising to make things difficult for the Londoners. Fulham began brightly and made the perfect start, taking the lead in the ninth minute when Zesh Rehman’s forward ball was not dealt with by the Pilgrims’ defence and Radzinski gleefully swept the ball home from ten yards out.
Malbranque marked his first appearance of the season with Fulham’s second on 28 minutes. The visitors stroked the ball around patiently on the left flank before the French midfielder motored into the penalty area. His low shot probably should have been saved by Nathan Abbey, but Malbranque’s delight after more than three months on the sidelines with a troublesome groin injury was clear to see.
The contest was killed off six minutes later when Liam Rosenior rampaged forward down the right and teed up Brian McBride. The American rifled a shot into the top corner from just outside the area, with a slight deflection leaving the luckless Abbey with no chance. Boston, who had offered next to nothing as an attacking force in the first half, got on the scoresheet eleven minutes after the break when Mark Beevers powerfully headed home Paul Ellender’s corner.
But Fulham restored their three-goal cushion with twenty minutes to play when Malbranque did brilliantly down the right flank to feed Radzinski and the former Everton forward fired the glorious crossfield pass beyond Abbey. Paul Gascoigne managed more than an hour but there were only glimpses of his class as the game appeared to peter out to a tame finale. Rosenior had other ideas, however. A pleasing night for Fulham was marred when the youngster, already booked for a robust challenge, received his marching orders having attempted to win a late penalty with a dive.
BOSTON UNITED (4-4-2): N, Abbey, West, Beevers, Ellender, McCann, Gascoigne (Rusk 67), Bennett, Noble, Pitt (Thompson 80); Lee, Kirk (McManus 78). Subs (not used): Strong, Holland.
GOAL: Beevers (56).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Crossley; Rosenior, Green, Goma, Rehman; McKinlay, Malbranque (Timlin 81), Buari, Boa Morte (John 71); McBride, Radzinski. Subs (not used): Flitney, Watkins, Ehui.
BOOKED: Rosenior, Green.
SENT OFF: Rosenior.
GOALS: Radzinski (9, 70), Malbranque (28), McBride (34).
REFEREE: Robert Oliver (West Midlands).