Thursday, March 20, 2014

FULHAM TIMES TWO

Two matches from one season: FULHAM 1999-2000

Romance stirs by the sparkling waters of the Thames
August 14th 1999 dawned sunny and calm in London. By the banks of the Thames, Craven Cottage, newly restored to the second tier, looked forward to receiving Manchester City, also back in the big time after an eventful season attempting to avoid cowpats in the old third division. City had opened inauspiciously with a home defeat on live tv to Wolves, whilst Fulham had drawn 2-2 at Birmingham. A midweek blitz of Burnley in the Worthington Cup restored faith amongst jittery City supporters that the season need not be a complete disaster. Fulham, with the likes of Steve Finnan, Rufus Brevett, Chris Coleman, Lee Clarke and Geoff Horsfield, were tipped to be strong challengers, whilst City were looking for a season of consolidation after the ructions of 1998-99 had nearly caused us all seizures.

"The only noteworthy incident came in the 70th minute when Collymore went down in the box under a beefy challenge from Morrison. (...) When asked why he was sent off, Morrison said, "I haven't got a clue. Collymore just whistled..." - Mark Redding in The Guardian

Tiatto produces his usual half-hearted commitment
The game was to hinge on an incident in the 70th minute. Embroiled in a bout of pushing with Fulham's star man Stan Collymore, captain Andy Morrison, with a reputation for storing the shortest temper in football under his overstretched shirt, somehow ended up with his tongue in Collymore's mouth. As Morrison received his marching orders, it was unclear whether tongue kissing an opponent had been deemed a bookable or a sending off offence, as Morrison had been booked earlier. "We've had a player sent off for putting his tongue down another player's throat," exclaimed a mildly surprised Joe Royle at the end of a backs-to-the-wall 0-0 draw, which earned City their first points of what would turn out to be another one of those quite eventful seasons.

CITY: Weaver; Crooks, Tiatto, Wiekens, Morrison; Horlock, Jeff Whitley, Bishop; Dickov, Goater, Kennedy (sub used: Vaughan) 

By Sunday 16th January, an odd thing had happened. Fulham, as expected, had acclimatised well to their new surroundings and were well placed in a comfortable 10th place, City, though, had managed to do the usual trick of surprising everyone, this time in a positive way, and lay in an incredible 2nd place in the table, a single point behind leaders Charlton. City came into the Fulham game on the back of a salutary lesson in the 3rd round of the Cup, where David O'Leary's brilliant young Leeds side had thrashed the Blues 5-2 at Maine Road.

"We are not going to go out and meet teams the calibre of Leeds in this division (...) we have to find out strengths and play to them..." - Ian Bishop, previewing the Fulham game.
 "Well, they're hardly Leeds are they, Fulham?!" - Joe Royle previews the Fulham clash in his own inimitable way.
This match hinged on the performance of another high profile player. Whereas the away game had been dominated by Andy Morrison's romantic advances on Stan Collymore, this match was all about the incredible goal poaching of Shaun Goater. The Bermudan striker, with a knack for hitting the net with any part of his body, grabbed a brilliant hat-trick as City kept distance between themselves and the hard chasing Ipswich and Barnsley in 3rd and 4th respectively.

Shaun Goater carries out another unlikely finish, this time over his right shoulder

Taking his tally to 18 for the season with a neatly taken threesome, Goater was busy confirming his cult status amongst the City faithful. Again this match hinged on a sending off 20 minutes or so from time. With City one up, Chris Coleman was given his marching orders for a foul and hand ball double on Goater as he raced onto a cunning through-ball from Rodney Trotter look-a-like Tony Grant (a collector's item if ever there was one) and from that moment on City had it all their own way, scoring another three goals, with a penalty from Kevin Horlock completing the rout.

CITY: Weaver; Edghill, Wiekens, Jobson, Granville; Bishop, Grant, Horlock, Kennedy; Goater, Taylor (sub used Tiatto). An amazing six changes from the side that had played the August fixture.

The season would end in tears for the third season running, but this time they would be tears of delight and disbelief after a roller coaster game at Blackburn saw City promoted for the second consecutive season. Fulham, finishing strongly in 9th, would miss the play-offs by nine points.

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