Perhaps we shouldn’t too much – Fulham would have expected to beat Shrewsbury a lot more convincingly than they did. Lawrie Sanchez’s side certainly had the chances to add to Diomansy Kamara’s first goal for his new club but had to settle for a narrow and, at times, nervy win at Gay Meadow.
The Shrews were adventurous from the first whistle. They created the first chance and could have gone in front in the opening minute had Dave Hibbert’s shot carried more power. A Kamara header thudded against the bar after a sweeping Fulham move down the right as the Premiership side began to settle into the contest and a whipped shot from the Senegalese striker whistled wide of the target a little later.
The home side weren’t overrawed, though, and Jimmy Ryan might have given them a shock lead twice in a minute. Seeing Tony Warner lurking off his line, the midfielder trip a cheeky chip and had the Fulham keeper backpeddling. He was mightily relieved to see the ball clear the crossbar. Only moments later, Ryan lashed a volley from just outside the box but Warner was more comfortably positioned this time to make the save.
Kamara was the focal point of the Fulham attack and almost broke the deadline ten minutes before the break. A smart free-kick from Simon Davies found him in a bit of space but alert goalkeeping from Esson allowed the Shrewsbury stopper to smother Kamara’s header.
The second period saw Fulham, only revved up by Sanchez’s half-time pep talk, put the Shrewsbury goal under some sustained pressure. Davies looked lively down the right hand side and his corner caused mayhem in the penalty area but was somehow scrambled clear. From a second flag-kick in quick succession, Fulham found their opening. The Welshman’s delivery was perfect – Kamara roared into the six yard box and guided his header into the far corner beyond Esson from the near post.
Shrewsbury almost struck back immediately, though. Kempson climbed highest to meet a dangerous corner and the ball flew just wide. It was a heartstopping moment for those of a Fulham persuasion. Davies did his best to try and settle the nerves with some excellent wing play but Carlos Bocanegra couldn’t keep his header down.
Fulham spurned chances to put the game beyond doubt as time ticked away. Kamara skillfully set up a speedy back after a Shrewsbury corner and Davies cleverly fed Smertin, but the Russian midfielder skied his shot from a good position. Substitute Collins John drove wastefully over after Clint Dempsey had surged down the right, but fortunately Fulham held on to book their place in the third round.
SHREWSBURY TOWN (4-4-2): Esson; Moss, Kempson, Murdock, Tierney; Humphrey, Hunt (Hall 69), Ryan, Leslie; Hibbert (Onibuje 68), Symes. Subs (not used): MacKenzie, Langmead, Clancy.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner; Volz (Omozusi 79), Konchesky, Pearce, Bocanegra; Smertin, Davis, Davies, Dempsey; Healy (John 75), Kamara. Subs (not used): Batista, Watts, Diop.
BOOKED: Pearce, Kamara, Omozusi.
REFEREE: Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire).