Fulham moved into the FA Cup quarter finals for the second year in succession with a convincing win over League Two Notts County, even if the margin of victory might have flattered the Premier League side. The beleaguered visitors had a couple of decent chances at 0-0 and it was only after Simon Davies and Bobby Zamora had given Fulham a comfortable lead that heads in the League Two side began to drop.
After the departure of Sven-Goran Eriksson and Tord Gripp and the transfer of power at Meadow Lane from the shadowy Munto finance group to a former chairman of Lincoln City for just £1, some of the glamour has gone out of the league’s oldest club. Questions still remain about their future and Eriksson was uncharacteristically unspoken about the actions of his former employers on the radio this morning. County’s results have been superb throughout all of this and, with the amount of quality they have in their side, they could still earn promotion out of League Two.
Having been Wigan Athletic to set up this trip to Craven Cottage, the visitors certainly wouldn’t have been fazed by their surroundings. Fulham started the brighter, with Zamora dragging a shot wide, but there were a few nervy moments at the other end. Ben Davies brought a fine stretching save out of Mark Schwarzer and Craig Westcarr, who starred when Kettering pushed Fulham close in the Cup last year, wriggled away from Chris Baird before shooting wide.
Those narrow escapes seemed to galvanise Fulham who took the lead with their next attack. Danny Murphy found Simon Davies in space with a lovely lofted pass and the Welshman drilled a shot past the covering defender and former Manchester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel from a tight angle. Roy Hodgson had kept the same side that had started the 3-0 win over Burnley and, although Schwarzer had to save smartly from Westcarr, they were beginning to show some Premier League class.
David Elm and Zamora look as though they are starting to strike up a real understanding. The pair linked up cleverly for the crucial second goal just before half-time. The Swedish striker backheeled the ball perfectly into Zamora’s path and the in-form forward crashed home from just inside the box. Elm’s looked very useful in the last few games – and with injuries to other forwards and Stefano Okaka being ineligible – can probably look forward to a chance in the forthcoming Europa League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Roared on by 4,000 fans, County kept going to their credit but found little of the penetration that they had mustered in the first half. Ben Davies had their best efforts but they were from long distance and Fulham carried plenty of threat in attack themselves. It was no surprise when Damien Duff put the contest beyond their reach with time ticking by.
Duff, again deployed on the right side of midfield, cut inside onto his favoured left foot and hit a shot past both the unfortunate Johnnie Jackson and Schmeichel, who might feel he could have done a little better at the near post. Okaka might an immediate impact as a late substitute, sprinting clear of the County defence to latch onto a glorious through ball from Simon Davies, and taking his time before scoring his first goal for the club since arriving on loan from Roma. It’s Bolton or Tottenham next at home.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baird, Shorey, Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Murphy (Greening 70), Duff (Riise 75), S. Davies; Elm, Zamora (Okaka 75). Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Smalling, Nevland.
GOALS: Davies (22), Zamora (41), Duff (73), Okaka (79).
NOTTS COUNTY (4-5-1): Schmeichel; Thomas, Jackson, Hunt, Edwards; Ravenhill, Bishop, Clapham (Rogers 60), Westcarr (Hawley 83), B. Davies; Hughes (Hamshaw 83). Subs (not used): Hoult, Lee, Fairclough, Akinbiyi.
REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).