Football: Symons strike helps Keegan on two fronts
Stoke City 0 Fulham 1
Wednesday 17 March 1999
Although not at their best against a Stoke side who threw everything into trying to keep their play-off hopes alive, a first-half goal by the defender Kit Symons provided Kevin Keegan with a victory to reflect on as he goes about choosing the England side he will put out in the Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland on 27 March.
Fulham gained the decisive advantage in just under 19 minutes with a goal that had been flagged by a series of threatening attacks. Neil Smith and Geoff Horsfield had both registered attempts on goal and Horsfield was denied another crack only by an intercepting header by the defender Larus Sigurdsson.
The corner that followed proved costly for Stoke. Paul Trollope, on the left, floated a cross to the right-hand post to be met by Symons, who directed a header across the face of goal and in off the far upright.
After learning of his brother, Alan's dismissal as manager of York City earlier in the day, this was not the kind of start Brian Little wanted to witness as he tries to strengthen his team's now tenuous hold on a promotion chance. Stoke made themselves favourites for the title before Christmas but have slumped alarmingly since and last Saturday's win at Luton followed a run of seven defeats.
Stoke made a concerted effort to get back on terms in the second half but found Fulham's well-organised defence difficult to break down. "We battled but to be honest I always felt they would be strong enough to hold on," Little said.
By the final quarter, the match had become a frustrating experience for Fulham, too, craving the security of a second goal. There was a touch of anxiety, perhaps, in the challenge that brought Horsfield a yellow card, joining Steve Finnan and Rufus Brevett in the book.
Keegan, who will join his England players 24 hours after Fulham's home match with Blackpool on Saturday, refused to acknowledge that the Second Division title race is now all but over. "We are playing with the confidence that Stoke, for example, do not have but I still think Preston and Walsall are capable of catching us," he said.
Fulham almost claimed a second goal 14 minutes from the end when only a brilliant, one-handed save by Gavin Ward kept out a downward header by Smith.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Ward; J Kavanagh, Sigurdsson, Mohan, Woods; Short, Oldfield, Robinson (Wallace, 84), Keen; Lightbourne (Crowe, 56), G Kavanagh. Substitute not used: Small.
Fulham (3-5-2): Taylor; Symons, Morgan, Coleman; Finnan, Hayward, Smith, Trollope, Brevett; Hayles, Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Uhlenbeek, Peschosolido, Lehmann.
Referee: P Danson (Leicester).
Latest in Sport
Manchester United and Adidas branded 'sexist' and 'discriminatory' as women's shirt features plunging neckline and different design
Cristiano Ronaldo buys agent Jorge Mendes a whole Greek island as a wedding present
Premier League 2015/16 preview: Club-by-club guide to the new season
Pedro to Manchester United: Louis van Gaal says £22m winger can turn Manchester United into champions
Can Arsenal win the Premier League? Is Raheem Sterling the answer to Man City's problems? Can anything stop Chelsea?
- 2 Edward Heath 'child sex abuse' allegation: Investigation to be held into Wiltshire police handling of alleged claim in the 1990s
- 3 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 4 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks busy Dublin road
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...
£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...
£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...