Football: Coleman stands alone for Fulham

York City 0 Fulham 1
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By Jon Culley

York City 0 Fulham 1

EIGHT GAMES to go and for Fulham's grand design an analysis of so far, so good. Having set out to reach the Premiership in five years, the dream-team partnership of Kevin Keegan and Ray Wilkins may yet complete the first of the two big leaps they need to make within just eight months.

Do they believe it themselves? Saturday's victory at York consolidated their place in the play-off zone of the Second Division and yet the final whistle brought from Wilkins a shake of the head and a handshake for his opposite number that was almost apologetic.

"At this stage of the season points are paramount, of course," he said. "Naturally, I'm delighted we took three today but that is about the only good thing to say. We didn't look sharp but we were solid at the back and battled away.

"I'd have liked to have won with a bit of style but sometimes the result outweighs the performance and this was one such occasion."

Wilkins is too sensible and too polite to decry the company he keeps but after a football life spent largely among the best players in the finest stadiums his current lot must be a source of almost unbearable frustration. He will not remember many times at Manchester United or Milan when he had to scrap for points as Fulham have done this season.

But the Second Division is a scrapper's environment and, for all that he and Keegan may wish to create beautiful football, they know their end requires different means. For one thing, opponents tend not to be willing to allow Fulham to play; for another, Fulham are not really equipped to do so.

The players acquired so far have cost more than pounds 6.5m but of those on the field on Saturday - Rufus Brevett, Wayne Collins and Ian Selley were unavailable - only Chris Coleman seemed out of place. At pounds 2m the former Blackburn defender cost twice as much as any other individual but looked worth every penny, a commanding figure at the back whether breaking up York attacks, organising his troops or launching Fulham's forward moves with passes of vision and accuracy.

The others, on the whole, looked nothing much and those willing to bet on them to go up this season should seek decent odds. In the last month they have lost as many games as they have won and there was no suggestion here that consistency is near at hand.

But they have time on their side, don't they? "Having come this far, we would be disappointed not to make the play-offs," Wilkins said.

Only disappointed? The body language on the Fulham bench suggested failure would be felt a little more deeply.

Goal: Peschisolido (75) 0-1.

York City (4-3-3) Samways; McMillan, Reed, Jones, Thompson; Bushell, Tinkler, Pouton; Greening (Tolson, 76), Rowe, Bull. Substitutes not used: Jordan, Dawson.

Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Neilson, Blake,Coleman, Lawrence; Hayward, Bracewell (Brazier, 55), Smith, Trollope; Peschisolido, Thorpe (Moody 62). Substitute not used: Carpenter.

Referee: M Pike (Barrow).

Bookings: York: Reed. Fulham: Trollope, Smith, Hayward.

Man of the match: Coleman.

Attendance: 4,871.