There aren’t many things Fulham fans must thank Lawrie Sanchez for but signing Diomansy Kamara from West Bromwich Albion is one of them. The mercurial forward flattered to deceive during much of his four year spell at Craven Cottage, but the £6m fee that Fulham spent on his services was paid back in the space of twenty mad minutes at the City of Manchester Stadium in April 2008.
I remember persuading a mate of mine to make a mad dash from university in Exeter to Eastlands for the game – and he’s never been able to live down the fact that he skulked off at half-time in disgust as Roy Hodgson’s side looked dead, buried and down. Kamara, who had been in and out of the starting line-up over the past few months as Hodgson searched for the right striking combination to fire the Whites to safety, replaced David Healy with twenty minutes of the second half gone – and Fulham still needing a minor miracle to even extend their survival battle to the season’s penultimate week.
It took Kamara just five minutes to work his magic. He capitalised on some keystone cops defending from Vedran Corluka, who allowed a hopeful punt to bounce twice and then froze with the Fulham forward racing past him. Kamara twisted and turned his way around the Croatian centre back and, as time seemed to stand agonisingly still, squeezed a shot through Joe Hart’s legs and in. Nine minutes later, Fulham were level. Sun Jihai inexplicably felled Erik Nevland, although the normally nerveless Danny Murphy needed two goes at scoring from the spot – with Hart saving the only Premier League penalty Murphy missed for Fulham but being powerless to prevent the midfielder from desperately following in the rebound.
That was incredible enough but, after a ridiculously open final quarter of an hour where Kasey Keller made sensational saves to deny Benjani and Martin Petrov, something even more extraordinary in the last minute. Red and black shirts streamed forward, with Bullard and Murphy in the perfect place to play a defence splitting ball. Murphy sent Kamara clear down the inside left channel, the hapless Corluka gave chance but it was a lost cause and the away end held our breath. Would Kamara deliver? Of course he would. Lashing it majestically high into the net past Hart for one of the most famous Fulham memories.
What a twenty minutes that was, Joe. Merci, mon ami.