THERE are some things money cannot buy, and a place in a Wembley play- off final is one of them. Mohamed Al Fayed and his director of football, Kevin Keegan, will have to wait another season to join the ranks of the upwardly mobile, finally succumbing to Grimsby after defending for an hour with only 10 men.
With less than 10 minutes remaining the massed ranks of Fulham defenders found themselves caught square and Kevin Donovan nipped through them to slide the ball past Maik Taylor.
Until the first leg on Sunday, when Paul Moody was dismissed for a lunge on Mark Lever, Fulham had not had a man sent off all season. But they doubled their red-card count after only half an hour when their Canadian striker, Paul Peschisolido, was sent packing for a heavy challenge on Grimsby's Peter Handyside.
"It was only a yellow card foul. The ref overreacted," said Keegan afterwards. "But we got a lot out of tonight as a club. Maybe Fulham FC starts here."
The Grimsby manager, Alan Buckley, said: "It was a warranted sending off. We used the ball better against 10 men than in the first leg, but they made us fight every inch of the way despite playing the equivalent of a full game with 10 men over the two legs."
Once they had secured numerical as well as home advantage, it looked a Harrod's hamper to a fish supper that Grimsby would coast towards their second Wembley final in a month in the wake of their Auto Windscreen triumph.
Indeed, Lee Nogan should have put them ahead when he found himself with only Taylor to beat, but the goalkeeper turned his shot round the post. With Peter Beardsley injured, Fulham had no-one to put his stamp on the game and made little impression even when they had a full compliment, with what would have been an own goal off Dave Smith's thigh being the closest they came to scoring.
"Two Wembley visits in a month is Manchester United stuff," said Buckley. All Keegan has to look forward to is next season's visit by Manchester City.
Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Davison; McDermott, Gallimore (Livingstone, 77), Handyside, Lever; Donovan, Burnett, Groves, Smith; Nogan (Black, 85), Lester. Substitute not used: Jobling.
Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Lawrence, Morgan, Coleman, Brevett; Collins (Brooker, 80), Bracewell, Hayward, Trollope; Thorpe, Peschisolido. Substitutes not used: Blake, Smith.
Referee: C Wilkes (Gloucester).Reuse content