Late goals from Bobby Zamora and Danny Murphy meant Fulham avoided a shock Europa League result last night against Crusaders on their plastic pitch.
The part-timers from Northern Ireland had cancelled out Matthew Briggs's opener at Seaview and scented a famous win before Zamora and Murphy gave the visitors a lead for next week's second leg at Craven Cottage.
"I thought it was typically British," the Fulham manager Martin Jol said. "They made it tough for us until our goal and got tough again after the equaliser. The problem is they play like it is a cup final. You have to motivate yourself. We said before the game they will be battling for the first 60 or 70 minutes then it could be over. It was true, in hindsight. But if you score three goals away from home it's okay."
Despite fears of players suffering injuries on the artificial "4G" surface, Jol picked his strongest team, with a friendly defeat against AFC Wimbledon suggesting his squad lacked the strength in depth to rotate.
They were ahead six minutes before the interval when Paul Leeman's tackle on Zamora fell for Briggs, who brushed David McMaster aside before powering his finish into the top corner for his first goal at senior level.
Crusaders, however, were level nine minutes after the interval when Timmy Adamson struck. The forward collected Jordan Owens's lob into the area before spinning past Hughes and volleying in off the post.
Adamson also struck the crossbar later but Zamora edged Fulham ahead when he headed home Damian Duff's corner, then Murphy scored his penalty after Leeman handled.
Jol feels that playing competitive games is more beneficial than taking the club on tour, adding: "You don't have to go to Asia. You can go to Portugal or somewhere in Europe where it is better. You can have a training camp over six or seven games. I don't see much of a difference, we came here and the hotel was fine. The only problem was the pitch but hopefully people say it is a good experience."