Gascoigne left chasing shadows

Boston United 1 Fulham 4
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Having waited 30 years, since drawing an FA Cup match with Derby County in January 1974, for another top-flight opponent to come calling, Boston United injected enthusiasm and energy into last night's Carling Cup but were denied even a sniff of an upset, even though their Premiership visitors fielded some unfamiliar faces.

Having waited 30 years, since drawing an FA Cup match with Derby County in January 1974, for another top-flight opponent to come calling, Boston United injected enthusiasm and energy into last night's Carling Cup but were denied even a sniff of an upset, even though their Premiership visitors fielded some unfamiliar faces.

The suspensions incurred by Andy Cole and Papa Bouba Diop would have forced Fulham to make changes in any event but manager Chris Coleman went considerably further, retaining only Adam Green and Luis Boa Morte from the side involved in Saturday's bad-tempered draw at West Bromwich Albion. Seven players were making their first starts of the season.

It was soon evident that this reserve line-up had too much class for the League Two side, even though Paul Gascoigne was given the chance to make his presence felt in midfield.

The first act of the 37-year-old player-coach was a crude foul on Brian McBride. The former Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee was a familiar figure up front for the home side, and Courtney Pitt, once of Chelsea, offered some craft on the left of midfield.

Indeed, Boston's build-up play was often neat and swift, and Fulham's defenders were busy on a wet and windy evening.But Boston's defending left much to be desired, as was illustrated by the 3-0 lead into which Fulham had strolled by the 34th minute.

The former Everton striker Tomasz Radzinski scored after nine minutes, side-footing casually past the goalkeeper, Nathan Abbey, to open his account for the West London club.

Steed Malbranque added the second on 28 minutes after a couple of nice one-twos with Boa Morte and McBride, his shot squirming through Abbey's hands, and McBride the third, a slight deflection enough to beat Abbey again, at his near post.

Boston kept their heads up, continuing to pressurise Fulham's defence in search of an opening. The reward, 11 minutes into the second half, was a goal greeted with rapture by the 5,373 York Street crowd as Lee Beevers beat Mark Crossley with a firm near-post header after Paul Ellender, retaining possession determinedly on the right, had delivered a fine cross.

Gascoigne's involvement was largely peripheral. Lean and older-looking than his 37 years, he was unable to inflict any pain on the Premiership side, even though he took most of Boston's free-kicks and corners. He was withdrawn after 66 minutes, generously applauded by 500 Fulham fans as well as the home crowd.

Another goal for Boston might have produced a tense finish. Instead, Radzinski struck again with 20 minutes left to ensure his side's passage to round three, though Liam Rosenior was sent off in stoppage time for a second bookable offence, namely diving.

Boston United (4-4-2): Abbey; West, Beevers, Ellender, McCann; Noble, Bennett, Gascoigne (Rusk, 66), Pitt (Thompson, 80); Lee, Kirk (McManus, 79). Substitutes not used: Strong, Holland.

Fulham (4-4-2): Crossley; Rosenior, Rehman, Goma, Green; Buari, McKinlay, Malbranque (Timlin, 81), Boa Morte (John, 70); McBride, Radzinski. Substitutes not used: Flitney (gk), Watkins, Ehup.

Referee: R Olivier (West Midlands).

Comments