Tomasz Radzinski saved Fulham from League Cup humiliation as Chris Coleman’s side escaped from a potential banana skin at the City Ground tonight. The Canadian international denied Nottingham Forest a shock success when he cancelled out Marlon King’s strike with just four minutes later and then put the Premiership side ahead in extra-time. Steed Malbranque appeared to have settled a thrilling tie only for Andy Reid to set up a storming finish. It was left to Andy Cole to settle Fulham’s nerves with two minutes of extra time remaining.
Forest, who have been so disappointing in the league so far this season, came close to forcing a penalty shoot-out when Gareth Taylor sent a free header wide of an open goal and the hosts were punished by the experience of Cole, who kept his cool in the closing stages. The under pressure Joe Kinnear could definitely draw confidence from the quality of his side’s overall display – they were certainly not overawed by their top flight opponents and put Fulham under pressure from the outset.
Coleman’s men seem discomforted by Forest’s first start. David Johnson missed an early opportunity when found by Matthieu Louis-Jean and former Forest keeper Mark Crossley was worried when Reid lined up a long-range lob but it drifted a long way wide. Radzinski replied for Fulham by playing in Cole but Paul Gerrard was quickly off his line to avert the danger. In truth, the visitors were just as ropey as they had been for much of their 4-1 win at Newcastle United at the weekend – having rode their luck through the majority of that encounter.
Forest carried plenty of threat in the final third and King did well to release Reid, whose powerful try almost surprised Crossley. The Fulham goalkeeper was called on again to repel King’s rising drive and the home side’s sense of adventure continued after the break. A Reid curler quickly extended the Fulham goalkeeper and King was disappointed not to test Crossley when he latched onto another Reid pass and raced into the area.
Fulham gradually got a foothold in the contest and began to create some openings of their own. Moritz Volz played in Cole but his short was blocked at close quarters. Malbranque nearly released Radzinski but Gerrard was alive to the danger. The French midfielder, now back to full fitness having missed the first two months of the season with a groin problem, was beginning to pose problems for Forest. He fashioned the game’s best chance for Cole, who could only shoot tamely at Gerrard from twelve yards.
Mark Pembridge nearly produced a long-range rocket to rival his winner at Birmingham in the previous round but Gerrard tipped the Welshman’s free-kick over the bar. Forest still kept Fulham honest and Zat Knight’s timely intervention prevent King from finding Taylor in the visitors’ penalty box. King and Johnson failed to force home from close range after a scramble in front of goal and Luis Boa Morte then failed to even hit the target after storming through the Forest defence.
King finally broke the deadlock with twenty minutes to go when he muscled the ball over the line after a devilish Reid delivery had prompted confusion in the Fulham defence. Coleman’s side pushed forward but looked toothless in attack until Radzinski fired home with six minutes left. Both sides had chances to win it in normal time. John Thompson went close for Forest, whilst Brian McBride couldn’t believe he missed a header.
Fulham looked to have wrapped matters up during the additional thirty minutes. Radzinski’s rising drive gave the Premiership side some breathing space and McBride rediscovered his poise in front of goal, spinning to prod home a third. Reid restored some hope for Forest late on, but they ran out of road after Cole clinically chipped a stranded Gerrard.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-4-2): Gerrard, Louis-Jean (Perch 20; Jess 96), Rogers, Morgan, Dawson; Commons (Taylor 45), Evans, Thompson, Reid; Johnson, King. Subs (not used): Roche, Robertson.
BOOKED: Perch, Thompson, Evans, Dawson.
GOALS: King (71), Reid (104).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Crossley; Volz, Bocanegra, Rehman, Knight; Diop (McBride 80), Pembridge, Malbranque (Legwinski 120); Radzinski (Rosenior 120), Boa Morte, Cole. Subs (not used): van der Sar, Hammond.
BOOKED: Cole, Volz.
GOALS: Radzinski (86, 93), McBride (101), Cole (119).
REFEREE: Mike Riley (West Yorkshire).