We’ve been here before. Tricky away ties at non-league opposition have traditionally been another opportunity for Fulham to fail miserably. For neutrals and pundits this was more or less a foregone conclusion, for fans of the Whites it was a banana skin waiting to be trodden on. I’m incredibly superstitious when it comes to football so an early morning trip down the high street gave me the chance to put a contingency bet on a Kettering win (£5 at 6-1) to cancel out any jinx I might be generating. The Radio 5Live commentator didn’t make me feel a great deal better when he mentioned it had been twenty years since a non-league side last knocked a top flight team out of the F.A. cup. Fulham are good at those sort of firsts!
I watched the game via a combination of internet stream and Radio 5Live commentary. There was a five second delay between the voices and the pictures which meant whenever the commentator got excited I could rush to my PC and see it happen. The marvels of modern living. Five minutes in and there was a small sign of what may be to come. Hangeland let a ball drop over his head, hoping Schwarzer would be on hand to collect it. Kettering’s lively ex-Forest striker Craig Westcarr nipped in but failed to generate much power or direction with his shot. Hangeland and Schwarzer huffed and puffed until Konchesky arrived to spare their blushes. We recovered from this and started to play the ball about. Dempsey received the ball out wide on the right, jinked around a Kettering defender before sending a lovely cross towards the middle of the area where Simon Davies was waiting to fire home a perfect first time volley.
1-0 Fulham and we could all relax a bit. For five or ten minutes Fulham looked comfortable and in control. It wasn’t to last. Kettering pushed up about ten yards and started to close us down more quickly. No clear cut chances but the emphasis was definitely with them now. Westcarr was chopped down on the edge of the area. He picked himself up to fire in the free kick, nothing spectacular but it caught Gera in no man’s land (behind the wall and obscuring Schwarzer’s view), glanced off his ribs and into the net.
The second half began much as the first had ended. Kettering were piling forward as often as they could and making life difficult for us. Westcarr and Seddon both had chances and some players, Hangeland in particular, did not seem to be enjoying the afternoon. On the hour mark a ball from the right wing found acting-skipper John Dempster unmarked in the box but he was unable to direct his header on target. Soon after Murphy and Zamora replaced Ethuhu and Gera. This was to be a turning point in the game. Murphy’s craft and experience brought some much needed quality to our midfield. A long ball from Danny found Zamora unmarked in the box, but the striker showed his lack of confidence with a poor effort off target. On 77 minutes we did take the lead as Murphy and Davies exchanged passes before a Murphy shot deflected off Exodus Geohaghan. Surely now we could hold onto the game?
No. Westcarr got the wrong side of Hangeland who didn’t seem to make much contact but certainly got tangled up. Both players went down and Old Mother Riley pointed to the spot. Westcarr again dusted himself down before sending his penalty beyond Schwarzer’s grasp. 2-2 and I was ready to settle for a replay. Kettering’s tails were up and the crowd were scenting a shock. However, two goals in a minute sealed the result and broke the hearts of the Poppies support. A high looping cross (I think from Murphy) seemed to be harmlessly drifting out of play, Kettering ‘keeper Harper let it go, but the alert Zamora was on hand to head it back across goal to where Andy Johnson was waiting to head home our 3rd. Then, almost straight from the restart, a pass though the centre found Zamora in space and he turned and lashed home a 4th from the edge of the box.
The final score flattered us a little but we stuck to the task at hand and did a professional job over the ninety minutes. Kettering fans have a lot to feel proud of, they took us to the brink of a replay, and certainly created enough changes to have turned us over. A cracking game that sums up the beauty of the cup. We've another tricky draw in the next round, away at Swansea, which will see our first competitive match against the Swans (albeit at a different stadium) since the day we were relegated to the bottom division in 1994.
Kettering: Harper, Eaden, Geohaghan, Dempster, Jaszczun (Potter 71), Bennett, Boucaud, Solkhon, Richard Graham (Marna 89), Westcarr, Seddon (Beardsley 73) Subs Not Used: Wrack, Galbraith.
Booked: Richard Graham, Dempster, Westcarr.
Goals: Westcarr 36, 83 pen.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Stoor, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Andreasen, Etuhu (Murphy 69), Gera (Zamora 69), Johnson, Dempsey Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Pantsil, Nevland, Kallio, Baird.
Goals: Davies 12, Murphy 77, Johnson 88, Zamora 89.
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire)