Fulham overcome wind, snow, a second half collapse and a penalty shoot out as Kit Symons’ young side eventually edged their way into the FA Cup fourth round by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers on an engrossing – if cold – night at Molineux.
Wolves paid a poignant tribute to Sir Jack Hayward, who owned the club for seventeen years, after the local legend had passed away on Tuesday. The match was preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence and both sets of players wore black armbands in Hayward’s memory. They then served up a fitting tribute as the two sides produced a glorious display of attacking football, culminating in a penalty shoot-out where a miss from Matt Doherty and Hugo Rodallega’s subsequent successful kick proved decisive.
Fulham were fortunate to even be contesting the shoot-out having levelled the scores from the spot in the very last minute of normal time. Ross McCormack’s free-kick was handled by Lee Evans in the wall and the Scottish striker kept his composure to tuck home from twelve yards to ensure yet further drama. The absorbing contest had come to life in the second half when Rajiv van La Parra and Dave Edwards had turned the game on its head after Cauley Woodrow’s opener had reflected Fulham’s initial superiority.
Carl Ikeme had pushed away an early effort from McCormack, and although Marcus Bettinelli thwarted Liam McAlinden, the visitors were well on top in the early stages. Woodrow, getting a rare start as Kit Symons’ shuffled his pack in this replay, made the most of his opportunity by powering home a header from Kostas Stafylidis’ inviting cross after 25 minutes. That ended Fulham’s 387 minute wait for a goal and they could have been further in front. French forward Moussa Dembele dribbled through the Wolves defence impressively but lost his balance and stabbed wide under pressure from Richard Stearman and Ikeme as he bore down on goal.
Wolves made a double change at half time – sending on Edwards and Nouha Dicko – to enliven their attack and they almost equalised ten minutes after the break. Doherty drove an effort against the post from van La Parra’s corner and Fulham somehow scrambled his follow-up to safety. Dicko rattled the crossbar from the edge of the box and the visitors’ eventually caved in nineteen minutes from time when Dominic Iorfa’s low cross reached Edwards, who finished easily from eight yards.
The game looked to have turned completely on its head three minutes later when van La Parra lifted a second over a stranded Bettinelli after breaching Fulham’s horribly square backline. But Fulham roared back just three minutes later when Woodrow lashed home from close range to level the scores after Ikeme had got a hand to Dembele’s drive. That took the tie into extra time and it was Wolves who made the breakthrough four minutes into the second half.
A strong run from Danny Baath saw him gallop into space down the right flank and his low cross was perfect for Edwards to put Wolves ahead again from close range. But McCormack’s late intervention – after the referee had spotted Evans’ handball – sent this spellbending tie to penalties. Fulham converted all five flawlessly, but Doherty’s horrible miss allowed Hugo Rodallega to clinch a fourth round trip to Sunderland for Fulham.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-2-3-1): Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Stearman, Doherty; Price, McDonald; van La Parra, Evans, Henry (Edwards 45); McAlinden (Dicko 45, Clarke 118). Subs (not used): Kuszczak, Ebanks-Landell, Saville, Jacobs.
BOOKED: van La Parra.
GOALS: Edwards (71, 109), van La Parra (73).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Grimmer, Stafylidis, Hutchinson, Bodurov; Parker, Fofana, Kavanagh (Roberts 78); McCormack, Woodrow, Dembele (Rodallega 78). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Zverotic, Burn, Fotheringham, Williams.
BOOKED: Woodrow, McCormack.
GOALS: Woodrow (27, 76), McCormack (pen 120).
REFEREE: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).