League Two Leyton Orient enjoyed one of the finest afternoons in their history as they knocked Fulham out of the FA Cup at the third round stage. Martin Ling’s men thoroughly deserved their sensational victory having outplayed Chris Coleman’s complacent side – with goalkeeper Glyn Garner the hero after he saved a second half spot-kick from Collins John to preserve the lead fashioned by strikes from Craig Easton and Joe Keith.
A sloppy Fulham side were well below their best and, although Tomasz Radzinski saw an early effort contentiously chalked off following an offside flag, the hosts never looked like establishing their supremacy over opposition three divisions below them on the pitch. The Canadian international did prod home after an excellent counter-attack, but was adjudged to be offside from John’s cut back, which cut the home celebrations short.
The home fans who did turn up – enthused after Coleman had stated he would ring the changes in a bit to give fringe players match sharpness as during a break from a disappointing league campaign – were outsung throughout by a terrific travelling support. Orient never appeared overawed by the task in front of them and took the lead with an aid of a deflection when Easton’s shot looped over a flat-footed Tony Warner after Fulham had failed to clear Keith’s original cross. Simon Elliott, signed to offer midfield cover, had a disastrous debut, encapsulated by his dual role in the opening goal. The New Zealand international gave the ball away carelessly and, in an effort to redeem himself, succeeded only in deflecting Easton’s effort beyond his own goalkeeper.
Fulham played in fits and starts and were at least enlivened by the shock of going behind. Sylvain Legwinski saw an audacious effort from out wide come back off the frame of the goal and John, handed a rare start up front after voicing his dissatisfaction with a lack of playing time, somehow headed over when it appeared easier to score from close range. The visitors punished the Dutch international for that miss – doubling their lead right on the stroke of half time, as Warner made a mess of dealing with Keith’s low drive, which bounced up over his head to give the visitors a considerable cushion.
John’s only moment of quality came when he charged through the Orient defence to halve Fulham arrears within five minutes of the restart, but he spurned a glorious opportunity to bring the Whites level on the hour after Luis Boa Morte was bundled over by Gabriel Zakuani. The striker’s penalty was poor, but Garner deserves credit for guessing right and keeping it out. It was a damning indictment of Fulham’s lack of invention that it took until the last minute for the Premier League side to force the visiting goalkeeper into another save, when Garner tipped over a rising drive from Legwinski.
Coleman was far too generous in absolving his centre backs from blame whilst labelling the rest of his players as ‘arrogant’. While there will be plenty of time to focus on Fulham’s faults, the credit should go to Orient, whose players were fined every time they mentioned the Cup tie over the festive period in order to keep the concentration on the league. Ling had said he was confident of causing an upset – and his outstanding team proved their manager prescient with a performance worthy of the Premier League.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Warner; Rosenior, N. Jensen, Knight, Pearce (Goma 86); Elliott, Legwinski, Boa Morte, Elrich (Timlin 62), Radzinski; John. Subs (not used): Drobny, Rehman, Milsom.
BOOKED: Rosenior, Pearce.
GOAL: John (50).
LEYTON ORIENT (4-5-1): Garner, Lockwood, Mackie, Miller, Zakuani; Keith (Carlisle 85), Tudor (McMahon 72), Easton, Simpson, Alexander (Barnard 90); Ibehre. Subs (not used): Morris, Saah.
GOALS: Easton (17), Keith (44).
REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).