Football: Fulham foiled by Felgate's heroics

Fulham 1 Leigh RMI 1; FA Cup first round: No joy for Boreham Wood but Leigh RMI, Hendon and Emley take Nationwide sides to replays
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The Independent Online
DAVID FELGATE, a veteran of over 700 games in the Football League before his swan-song in the UniBond League, rolled back the years with an astonishing goalkeeping performance that earned his side an FA Cup first round replay.

Felgate now works in a timber yard and there were times when he seemed to have boarded up his goal at Craven Cottage, so effectively did he resist a virtual non-stop barrage.

This would have sounded like a rugby league fixture a few years ago and there was always the prospect of a scoreline more associated with the oval ball when the big spenders of the Second Division met the rude mechanicals of the Railway Mechanics' Institute.

Hard as his team-mates worked it was almost entirely due to Felgate that such an outcome was never on the cards. From the start, Fulham and especially their menacing striker, Dirk Lehmann, bombarded Felgate's goal but the 38-year-old made a string of marvellous saves. When he was beaten, by a Lehmann header from a Steve Hayward corner, the ball bounced onto the line from the underside of the crossbar and was cleared by Graham Hill.

Even more amazing than the manner in which Felgate kept Fulham at bay was the way that Leigh took the lead after 19 minutes; this really was stretching it all too far.

Kit Symons felled Dave Ridings five yards outside the area and Tony Whealing, released by Blackburn Rovers last summer and working as a fitness instructor until Leigh persuaded him back into football, curled a left-footed shot inside the post when Maik Taylor should really have reacted in time.

Fulham responded urgently, John Salako having a shot pushed around the post and Lehmann a volley finger-tipped onto the upright. Yet another Hayward corner, yet another Lehmann header, yet another acrobatic Felgate save.

Leigh even had a golden opportunity to go further ahead, Ridings running through at the exposed Taylor but not putting enough conviction into his shot.

Something had to give at the other end and the breakthrough, 10 minutes before half-time, came in the predictable manner, Lehmann climbing to meet Hayward's corner and Felgate for once not being able to reach it.

Leigh almost went back in front when Taylor saved from Ian Monk, but that was a rare second-half respite for the visitors. Paul Peschisolido gradually got into the game but Felgate was equal to the extra problems he posed, defying both him and Wayne Collins before a series of desperately narrow escapes.

Collins hit the angle of bar and post while Felgate made a superb save from Hayward and an even better one from Paul Trollope, before denying Peschisolido and watching Geoff Horsfield volley over the bar.

Leigh incurred three bookings as they defended with increasing desperation, but they hung on grimly for their right to a replay. If Felgate can board up his nets again, who knows?

"He does it week in, week out for us," the Leigh manager, Steve Waywell, said. "He's 38 but acts like an 18-year-old. He looks after himself, although he's probably got middle-age spread now. Kevin Keegan asked how much we want for him and I've told him a million."

The Fulham manager, who has seen some inspired goalkeeping displays in his time, rated this as outstanding even in his long experience. "It was just about the best I've ever seen, because of the number of great saves," he said.

Goals: Whealing (19) 0-1; Lehmann (35) 1-1.

Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Uhlenbeek, Symons, Coleman, Brevett; Collins, Davis (Trollope 45), Hayward, Salako (Horsfield 71); Peschisolido, Lehmann. Substitutes not used: Morgan, Smith, Arendse (gk).

Leigh RMI (3-5-2) Felgate; Hill, Locke, Turpin; Prescott, Smyth, Ridings, Evans, Whealing; Monk (Cryer 81), Matthews. Substitutes not used: Wallace, James, Rostron, Senior (gk).

Referee: P Rejer (West Midlands).

Bookings: Leigh Locke, Hill, Matthews.

Man of the match: Felgate.

Attendance: 7,965.