You’ll have your own list of iconic Fulham goals. Gera against Hamburg, Dempsey to see off Juve, Louis Saha or Junichi Inamoto at Old Trafford and Rodney McAree at Carlisle would all be up there, but for moments of absolute astonishment it is hard to beat Mike Conroy at Wycombe Wanderers in the Coca Cola Cup first leg on this day in 1997.
Why? Well, the video tells it better than I can. But Conroy, fresh from a 23 goal season as Micky Adams’ men surprised everyone by winning promotion from the Third Division on a shoestring budget, was in form. Transformed from the Hammersmith End’s boo boy to ‘Super Mick,’ the enigmatic Scottish forward was more famed for close range finishes like the one that had launched Fulham’s season at home to Wrexham a few days earlier, but this strike was as extravagant as our new Egyptian owner.
The penalty box poached had scored a stunner to rival David Beckham’s at Selhurst Park a year earlier. Talk about incredible. It secured a first leg lead following Aiden Newhouse’s first Fulham goal in the first half – and still lives long in the memory.
With the disappointment of Saturday’s squandering of a winning position not quite out of our system, Fulham head to Wycombe Wanderers tonight to begin their League Cup campaign for the second time in the last three years. Slavisa Jokanovic used the competition to blood a number of the academy’s leading lights last year – indeed, it will be a year ago tomorrow that young Ryan Sessegnon took his first steps in senior football at Leyton Orient – and all the signs are that it will be a much changed side that takes to the field at Adams Park this evening.
Just how youthful a team Jokanovic puts out remains to be seen. Marek Rodak might get a Fulham debut in goal, but it could be worth offering David Button another opportunity given Marcus Bettinelli’s prolonged absence and how well the former Brentford goalkeeper stepped up to the task against Norwich at the weekend. If the Serbian is content to push Sessegnon further forward following his tough examination at the hands of Yanic Wildschut on Saturday, then Jerome Opoku might continue his encouraging development during pre-season or we may get another fleeting sighting of Sean Kavanagh.
Marcelo Djalo could be paired with the fit-again Michael Madl at the heart of a revamped defence, with European Under 19 Championship winner Tayo Edun in front of the back four. Edun has been versatile in his previous performances in the first team, but after signing his new contract in the summer hinted that he would like to make a midfield spot his own. The promising youngster could be joined in the middle of the park by either Ibrahima Cisse or Oliver Norwood, but not by American starlet Luca de la Torre, who has picked up an untimely injury. Matt O’Riley, who was given plenty of opportunities during Fulham’s pre-season programme, might make the matchday squad.
The interesting conundrum will come when Jokanovic considers who to opt for in the forward positions. Aboubakar Kamara’s cameo on Saturday suggested that he lacks neither for pace nor confidence and you would guess that the barrel-chested Frenchman would benefit from more minutes as he acclimatises to the English game. Cauley Woodrow will be keen to make an impression – and if he is overlooked this evening it may well be that his immediate future is out on loan rather than with Jokanovic’s first team squad. Lucas Piazon would be a natural fit to the wide left role should Sessegnon be rested ahead of the Royals’ clash at the weekend.
Supporter-owned Wycombe began their season with a 2-2 draw at home to newly-promoted Lincoln City on Saturday. Gareth Ainsworth, now one of the longest-serving managers in the Football League, is considering making some changes to the weekend line-up, which featured summer signings Adam El Abd and Nathan Tyson. There is a feelgood factor around Adams Park after the club’s highest opening-day attendance in eight years and the presence of former AFC Wimbledon unit Adebayo Akinfenwa will be sure to test out any jitters in the Fulham back line. Wanderers have real pedigree in this competition having knocked out Fulham on their way to the semi-finals in 2006 – and Jokanovic will be desperate to avoid a repeat.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Button; Odoi, Opoku, Madl, Djalo; Edun, Cisse, Norwood; R. Sessegnon, Piazon, Kamara. Subs: Rodak, Ream, Kavanagh, O’Riley, Ayite, Aluko, Woodrow.
Fulham have been drawn away at Wycombe Wanderers in the first round of this season’s Capital One Cup.
The tie will take place at Adams Park during the week commencing Monday August 10.
The Chairboys, who missed on out promotion from League Two in a cruel penalty shoot-out defeat at Wembley last month, memorably beat Fulham on their way to the semi-finals of the competition in 2006/07.
Moussa Dembele (right) battles Matt Bloomfield for the ball at Adams Park
Fulham continued their impressive preparations for the new season with a comfortable win at Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon – and the margin of victory could have been even greater were it not for the sharp reflexes of Nikki Bull who kept the League Two side in the contest for much of the second half.
This was Wycombe’s first home game since their supporters’ trust had successfully completed their takeover of the club from Steve Hayes but none of Gary Waddock’s six summer signings had much of a chance to shine as Fulham’s courtesy extended only to naming a very strong first eleven. On this very day a year ago, Martin Jol’s side secured a battling draw away at RNK Split in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, in what was already their fifth fixture of a frantic summer. This term, Fulham have benefited from the more mundane pre-season pace, with a short tour of Germany designed to deliver peak fitness by mid-August and the signs are promising.
Mladen Petric, a clever close-season capture from Hamburg, looks ideally suited to the loan striker role vacated by Pavel Pogrebnyak, especially after scoring his four summer strike in as many matches. The 31 year-old needed just a single sighter, which he created for himself after Grant Basey had dawdled in possession, before opening the scoring eighteen minutes in. The Croatian collected possession twenty yards from goal in a central position and bent a brilliant effort around a beaten Bull and into the far corner.
Wycombe’s leaky defence had doomed their fight against relegation – spearheaded for a while by Marcello Trotta, who returned to Adams Park as a late substitute today – last term and there were signs that they might have been overwhelmed by their top flight visitors. Only a superb saving tackle from Basey prevented Petric from reaching a raking through ball from Bryan Ruiz and new skipper Garry Doherty bravely blocked a powerful blast from Moussa Dembele. Just before the break some excellent approach play between the Belgian and Petric, who also went close with a free-kick, almost presented a second to Mesca Na Bangna but the pacy winger lifted his finish over the crossbar.
The sum total of Wycombe’s first half efforts was a rising drive from midfielder Stuart Lewis, who signed his first professional contract with Martin Jol at Tottenham, and, although the hosts were more competitive after the break, they never unduly troubled Mark Schwarzer. Matthew Spring, who made his first appearance in professional football alongside the man who now manages him for Luton back in September 1997, wasted a decent shooting opportunity when John Arne Riise’s clearing header fell at his feet but Fulham were largely on the front foot.
Ruiz, making his first start since injury curtailed his season last March, was increasingly becoming more influential operating behind Petric. The Costa Rican’s cultured pass sent Mesca marauding through on goal but Bull stood up well and then the ex-QPR and Hayes custodian did brilliantly to tip over a well-disguised lob from Ruiz as he was desperately backpeddling. Bull then fisted away a venomous drive from Mahamadou Diarra, but it appeared only a matter of time before the Premier League side clinched the contest with a second. It came from Ruiz’s magical left foot, when curled a superb set-piece beyond Bull’s reach from 25 yards, and the energetic Sascha Riechter marked another outstanding display, characterised by energetic overlapping down the right, with a low cross that was gleefully tucked away by the returning Steve Sidwell two minutes later.
It was little more than a pleasing summer stroll for Fulham and judging where Jol’s side are in top flight terms is difficult on the evidence of a half-pace friendly against a side three divisions down the pyramid. But the manager and his coaching staff will have been pleased by the professional nature of their team’s performance, especially with a trip to Nice to come at the weekend.
WYCOMBE WANDERERS (4-4-2): Bull; McCoy, Basey (Dunne 63), Doherty, Stewart (Johnson 63); Lewis, Spring (Bloomfield 63), Oli, Wood (Angol 75); Logan (McClure 75), Beavon (Grant 63). Subs (not used): Ingram.