Football: Morgan lifts Fulham to top after Oldham's breakdown

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Fulham 1 Oldham Athletic 0

SHOWING NO sign of fatigue or even ennui with the more mundane things in life, Fulham returned to the top of the Second Division last night with an adventurous performance against lowly Oldham.

It was an occasion that had little in common with what took place at the weekend or what is in store for Kevin Keegan's team in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford next month.

Fulham were greeted by a sizeable number of admirers, both old and new, upon their return to Craven Cottage following Saturday's famous FA Cup triumph at Villa Park but the players, like the spectators, were obliged to wait longer than anticipated for the action to begin.

The Oldham team, which had arrived at their hotel near Heathrow Airport as early as yesterday lunchtime, had their bus break down on its way in to central London. This obliged Fulham to dispatch a minibus to collect them while the Oldham players got changed on their stricken bus and apparently ran the last few hundred yards to the ground in their tracksuits owing to heavy traffic. Eventually, to no one's amusement on a bitterly cold night, play began 45 minutes late.

From the way they started it seemed Fulham were intent on finishing it by half-time, but in fact it was Andy Ritchie's struggling Oldham side who had the first chance to open the scoring, Steve Whitehall miscuing after Mark Allott's initial effort had landed at his feet.

Fulham were fielding nine of the 11 who started the match against Villa and although one of their goalscorers, Steve Haywood, was rested, the other, Simon Morgan, was very much involved.

After inadvertently deflecting Geoff Horsfield's header on to the Oldham bar and having another, more legitimate attempt saved by Gary Kelly, he finally opened the scoring after 23 minutes when Steve Finnan's corner evaded a crowd of players around the penalty area and fell perfectly for Morgan, who hooked the ball high into the Oldham net.

Oldham briefly looked like being overrun after that but as the first half wore on they began to pose a threat once more and Lee Duxbury squandered a good chance to equalise just before the break.

In a manner that would have been eerily familiar to Fulham's new on-loan signing, Philippe Albert, from his days under Keegan at Newcastle, the home side showed no inclination whatsoever towards protecting their lead at the expense of further enterprise in the second half.

Although they continued to run Oldham ragged, Barry Hayles in particular going close, both Scott McNiven and John Sheridan really should have equalised for Oldham with three headers.

Fulham (3-4-1-2), Taylor; Symons, Morgan (Collins, 72), Colman; Finnan, Smith, Albert, Brevett; Peschisolido (Uhlenbeek,h-t); Horsfield, Hayles. Substitutes not used: Lehmann.

Oldham (3-5-2): Kelly; Garnett, Mardon, Thom; Rickers, Duxbury, Sheridan, McNiven, Holt; Allott, Whitehall (Tipton, 86). Substitutes not used: Swann, Innes.

Referee: A D'Urso (Billerickay).