Hayles' genius inspires Fulham

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The Independent Online

When it's Sunday lunchtime and the weather is fine there is nothing better to do than go for a stroll down by the river. That is exactly what Fulham did at Craven Cottage yesterday against Dave Bassett's Yorkshiremen to preserve their perfect start to the season and return to the top of the First Division.

When it's Sunday lunchtime and the weather is fine there is nothing better to do than go for a stroll down by the river. That is exactly what Fulham did at Craven Cottage yesterday against Dave Bassett's Yorkshiremen to preserve their perfect start to the season and return to the top of the First Division.

The incredible power and ease in movement of Louis Saha - who scored a hat-trick in the first half - and Barry Hayles in attack, was irresistible. For the rest of the First Division teams watching on television, however, it must have made scary viewing.

Any team under Bassett are meant to be resilient but on this particular afternoon they melted, very much like butter in the summer sun. Moreover, Fulham's merciless victory was achieved without their best player, John Collins, who was out injured.

While Saha's hat-trick stood out, it was just one of many impressive performances from a Fulham team clearly taking shape, not just as promotion contenders but also possible divisional winners under their manager, Jean Tigana. It seems unlikely, though, that Saha would have claimed his haul had it not been for Hayles, who was all purpose and power. The provider was eventually rewarded with a goal of his own.

The early exchanges created the illusion of a well-balanced contest but, six minutes into the game, Hayles was fouled out on the right. Fabrice Fernandes took the resulting set-piece, and Saha made no mistake heading home.

The game was effectively decided on the half-hour mark, when, after having a legitimate goal ruled out for offside, Barnsley's Mike Sheron then skied a shot over the crossbar from eight yards out and Fulham broke straight upfield. Hayles' attempt was saved but Saha drilled home the rebound and the Frenchman was equally clinical on the stroke of half-time when he converted from the spot, after Bjarne Goldbaek had been brought down.

Not that Fulham were content with three, as proved by Fernandes who hit the post after the restart, before Saha repaid Hayles for all his hard work by providing him with a cross for a tap-in from close range. But if Fulham's performance was excellent, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the referee, Andy Hall.

The Birmingham official was guilty of a bizarre oversight when he booked Barnsley's Mitch Ward in the first half and then in the 62nd minute but did not produce a red card.

Ward was on for three more minutes before the fourth official realised and rectified the mistake. But as Bassett said afterwards: "Those decisions don't bother me, I'm concerned about wrong offside goals."

Barnsley did pull one back, through Matt Appleby after 73 minutes, but that was never likely to spoil Fulham's picnic at the Cottage and Luis Boa Morte rounded it all off as he found an empty net in the final minute.

Goals: Saha (6) 1-0; Saha (30) 2-0; Saha pen (45) 3-0; Hayles (59) 4-0; Appleby (73) 4-1; Boa Morte (90) 5-1.

Fulham (4-4-2) Taylor; Brevett, Melville, Coleman, Finnan; Fernandes, Clark (Lewis, 63), Davis, Goldbaek (Hayward, 71); Saha, Hayles (Boa Morte, 63) Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), W Collins

Barnsley (4-4-2) Miller; Regan, Morgan (Moses, h-t), O 'Callahan, Corbo (Neil, 57); Appleby, Ward, Van der Laan, Barnard; Shipperley (Jones, 69), Sheron. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Woan.

Referee: A Hall (Birmingham). Bookings: Fulham: Coleman. Barnsley: Corbo, Moses, Neil, Ward. Sending off: Ward.

Man of the match: Hayles.

Attendance: 10,437

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