Brian McBride’s brace fired Fulham to victory over Bolton Wanderers as the Craven Cottage faithful paid tribute to George Best this afternoon.
The Northern Ireland legend might have made his name at Old Trafford but he spent a season with Fulham in the Second Division and the club held a minute’s applause before the kick here. Chris Coleman’s side produced a fitting display on another poignant day – as they had to remember Johnny Haynes recently – beating Sam Allardyce’s men with a high-tempo performance. Bolton’s only response was cynical, with seven visitors booked and El-Hadji Diouf dismissed after the final whistle, as their frustration at being outplayed boiled over.
Wanderers had kept three consecutive clean sheets before they made the trip to west London, but McBride ended their streak within four minutes of the kick off. He took advantage of some dopey defending to turn in Tomasz Radzinski’s cross at the near post as Rahdi Jaidi and Juusi Jaaskelainen left dealing with the danger to one another. Jaidi endured a horrid day at the heart of the visiting defence – completing missing a long kick downfield by Mark Crossley, which McBride volleyed home to double Fulham’s lead after seventeen minutes. The American was only denied a quickfire hat-trick by a brave block from Tel Ben Haim.
Allardyce hauled off Jaidi after 32 minutes but the visitors still looked shaky in defence and were losing their composure with plenty of yellow cards dished out referee Graham Poll. The introduction of Jay-Jay Okocha did little to change the direction of the contest and the Nigerian was also booked, for hacking down Steed Malbranque. Kevin Nolan looked the likeliest to bring Bolton back into it but his effort was well smothered by Crossley and, by the time his stoppage-time cross was turned into the Fulham net by the unfortunate Sylvain Legwinski, there was little time for Bolton to try and force a second. Diouf ended up being red carded after the final whistle for remonstrating with the officials.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Crossley; Volz, Rosenior, Bocanegra, Goma; Diop, Malbranque, Radzinski, Boa Morte (Legwinski 61); McBride, John (Helguson 89). Subs (not used): Warner, Knight, Pearce.
BOOKED: Rosenior, Bocanegra.
GOALS: McBride (4,18).
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; O’Brien, Jaidi (N’Gotty 32), Nakata (Okocha 53), Ben Haim; Gardner, Speed, Faye (Djetou 59), Nolan; Davies, Diouf. Subs (not used): Walker, Vaz Te.
BOOKED: Speed, Ben Haim, Davies, Diouf, Okocha, Nolan, O’Brien.
GOALS: Legwinski (o.g. 90).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Hertfordshire).