Football: Keegan savours home comfort

Fulham 2 Notts County 1
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The Independent Online
THREE MILES and a world away from the power portals of Lancaster Gate, the afternoon sun peeled off the Thames alongside Craven Cottage and good-humoured supporters happily traded chants of "Keegan for Fulham" and "Horsfield for England". Suddenly it was not so hard to understand how Kevin Keegan could describe Fulham's return to the top of the Second Division as "the highlight of my week". How could a part-time job on an industrial estate in north-west London compare to this?

"Don't you get a different buzz coming here?" Keegan asked later. "Don't you come here and think: `This is how it used to be?' It's a bit of nostalgia maybe, and a bit of romance. But I like this ground. It takes me back to Scunthorpe, where I started."

A crowd of almost 12,000, roughly the average at Craven Cottage, were on hand to enforce Keegan's point. "We didn't get any more people in today than we would normally. Fulham's not that type of club. There's more clubs like this than there are your Man Utds or your Chelseas; where the supporters are paying pounds 12 to stand and where the players will have a drink with the supporters afterwards. It still happens here. This is real football."

No matter, there was still something distinctly unreal about the sight of the new England coach pacing up and down the touchline as his team of preference ground away at the stoical resistance of Notts County. That Fulham were able to do so was thanks mainly to the tireless running of Barry Hayles and two strikes of genuine quality from Geoff Horsfield. "Two years ago he was working 60 hours a week on a building site," Keegan said admiringly of his former Halifax charge. "Getting hold of the ball was his cement. The bricks were the good performance he put in today and the goals were the pointing. His wall looks nice now."

A late header by County's Gary Owers briefly threatened to spoil Keegan's big moment, but at the final whistle there were smiles all round. "I don't want to talk about `the other thing'," he said immediately afterwards. He would, he said, concentrate on preparing Fulham for tomorrow's home game against Reading before meeting Arthur Cox and Derek Fazackerley on Thursday to discuss his inaugural national squad.

Goals: Horsfield (36) 1-0; Horsfield (57) 2-0; Owers (82) 2-1.

Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Symons, Albert, Brevett; Trollope, Smith, Hayward, Salako (Betsy, 35); Horsfield, Hayles (Lehmann, 80). Substitute not used: Uhlenbeek.

Notts County (4-4-2): Ward; Hendon, Redmile, Liburd, Pearce; Richardson, Owers, Warren, Dyer (Hughes, 62); Creaney (Jones, 77), Beadle. Substitute not used: Tierney.

Referee: S Mathieson (Stockport). Booking: Fulham: Hayles.

Man of the match: Horsfield.

Attendance: 11,909.