A classy finish from Bobby Zamora, who delivered another timely nudge to England manager Fabio Capello, took Fulham past plucky Swindon and into the FA Cup fourth round draw.
Zamora, tipped for an England call-up in recent weeks after some fine form for Fulham, put the Premier League side in the hat for tomorrow afternoon’s draw with an assured finish after sixteen minutes at Craven Cottage. He took a hopeful ball forward from Stephen Kelly in his path and shrugged off the attentions of Gordon Greer before dinking the ball beautifully over David Lucas to give Fulham the lead.
Roy Hodgson’s side, which contained several changes from the team that lost at Chelsea on Monday, started the brighter as they looked to impose themselves on their League One opponents. Barely two minutes were on the clock when the bright Bjorn-Helge Riise fed Zamora but he shot harmlessly wide of the Swindon goal when he perhaps shot have tested Lucas from ten yards.
The visitors, roared on by 6,500 travelling supporters camped in the Putney End, were far from overrawed by their task and might have equalised shortly after Zamora put Fulham ahead. The highly-rated Billy Paynter, Swindon’s top scorer with eleven goals this season, shot straight at Mark Schwarzer from the edge of the area after a promising move.
Zamora was partnered up front by the returning Andy Johnson, making his first start since August, and the former Everton striker was desperate to make an impression. He was very close to touching in a threatening cross from Paul Konchesky and his eager running caused plenty of problems for the Swindon defence. Both strikers spurned good chances to extend Fulham’s lead just before half-time and it was a far from comfortable advantage given the discomfort Paynter was causing the Fulham defence.
Chris Smalling, given another start after impressing in the SW6 derby, did well to shackle the Swindon forward but he will have felt he should have done better than float a shot harmlessly wide nine minutes before the break. He also teed up Jonathan Douglas, who couldn’t test Schwarzer either, and early in the second half Ben Hutchinson’s weak shot didn’t match the quality of Swindon’s approach play, which belied their league position, in the last of the League One play-off places at the start of play.
Johnson should have made sure of the victory shortly afterwards after being checked by Lucas as he bore down on goal. The former Preston and Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper was only booked for the foul and kept the Robins in the tie by saving a very tame spot-kick, which Johnson took himself. Fulham enjoyed a decent spell of pressure just after the penalty, with Clint Dempsey and Johnson both going close. Lucas saved well from the American but Johnson’s frustration was evident as his shot curled wide of the target.
Danny Wilson’s side came forward gallantly with time ticking away, but failed to create too many clear-cut opportunities. The closest the Robins came to earning a replay was when John-Paul McGovern’s free-kick from 20 yards out was well held by Schwarzer.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, Konchesky, Hughes, Smalling; Dikgacoi, Greening, Riise, Dempsey; Zamora, A. Johnson (Gera 83). Subs (not used): Stockdale, Baird, Stoor, Kallio, Nevland, Elm.
GOAL: Zamora (16).
SWINDON TOWN (4-4-2): Lucas; Amankwaah, Sheehan, Greer, Cuthbert; Hutchinson (Macklin 64), McGovern, Douglas, Ferry; Ward (Timlin 86); Paynter. Subs (not used): Smith, Peacock, Henshall, Thompson, Jean-Francois.
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe).