Fulham needed yet more late intervention to finally progress past Blackpool in the FA Cup tonight – with a stunning strike from Kieran Richardson saving them from humiliation at Bloomfield Road before Brede Hangeland bundled home a winner in extra time.
The big Norwegian defender managed to outjump Craig Cathcart and head home Damien Duff’s corner with only two and half minutes left. The defeat was harsh on Blackpool who were ten seconds away from the possibility of money-spinning trip to Old Trafford before a rocket from Kieran Richardson cancelled out a clinical finish by Nathan Delfouneso.
A scrappy game was devoid of the drama that encapsulated the original tie between the two sides before the former Aston Villa forward seized on a comedy of errors in the Fulham defence to fire the Championship side in front with just seven minutes to play. Matthew Briggs made a mess of what appeared to be a routine clearance, sending the ball high into the air and Mark Schwarzer’s abject punch fell kindly for Delfouneso, who couldn’t really mess from close range.
They looked set to hang on until Richardson rattled in a remarkable equaliser from 25 yards with time almost up. It was sensational strike that sparked wild scenes of joy amongst the pocket of away supporters – arguably up there with Giorgos Karagounis’ incredible equaliser in the first meeting between the sides at Craven Cottage.
What had been a rather dour spectacle burst into life during extra time. Tom Ince forced fine saves from Mark Schwarzer with two exceptional long-range efforts and Kirk Broadfoot somehow skied over from six yards with the goal at his mercy. Fulham snatched the victory and a route into round four when Hangeland climbed highest to head home Duff’s corner, although the last touch might have come off the unfortunate Cathcart.
BLACKPOOL (4-2-3-1): Gilks; Eardley, Crainey, Broadfoot, Baptiste; Basham (Cathcart 89), Osbourne (Sylvestre 78); Ince, Taylor-Fletcher, Eccleston (Gomes 65); Delfouneso. Subs (not used): Halstead, Harris, Angel, K. Phillips.
GOAL: Delfouneso (83).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Riether, Briggs, Senderos (Hughes 71), Hangeland; Baird, Karagounis, Dejagah, Kacaniklic (Richardson 87); Petric (Duff 79), Rodallega. Subs (not used): Stockdale, Riise, Grimmer, Kasami.
BOOKED: Richardson, Riether.
GOALS: Richardson (90+4), Hangeland (116).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).