Hayles double catches Luton cold

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The Independent Online

Mohamed Al Fayed had cause for a double celebration last night when, after his High Court libel case ended in his favour, his expensively assembled Fulham team triumphed at Kenilworth Road. Two goals from Barry Hayles during a purple patch for Fulham early in the second half, when they scored three times in six minutes, snuffed out Luton's hopes just as those of Neil Hamilton had been destroyed only a few hours earlier.

Mohamed Al Fayed had cause for a double celebration last night when, after his High Court libel case ended in his favour, his expensively assembled Fulham team triumphed at Kenilworth Road. Two goals from Barry Hayles during a purple patch for Fulham early in the second half, when they scored three times in six minutes, snuffed out Luton's hopes just as those of Neil Hamilton had been destroyed only a few hours earlier.

The reward for Fulham is a plum FA Cup fourth round tie against their London rivals Wimbledon next month. Given their obvious liking for knock-out competitions, it will not be an easy trip up the District Line for Egil Olsen's team.

Paul Bracewell, who knows all about the travails of the FA cup having been to Wembley for the final four times without ever coming away with a winner's medal, had cause for concern with his side's uncertain early play.

Fulham's best early opening came when Hayles broke free after the referee Graham Frankland ignored a linesman's flag for off-side, but his run was ended by a desperate, but effective tackle by Julian Watts. This was a warning to Luton of Fulham's potential and others came after 17 minutes, when Simon Morgan planted a header into the arms of a releived Nathan Abbey and soon after from Geoff Horsfield, back from suspension, who shot wide.

A dull first period was broken up by an unexpected moment of drama after 28 minutes when the referee booked the wrong player much to the mirth of the crowd. Everyone could see that Wayne Collins went in late on Paul McLaren but it was Hayles who was shown the yellow card.

Hayles had the last laugh though as Fulham won the in the opening quarter of the second period when they found a gear they had not hinted at possessing in the first half. Hayles capitalised on chances arising from mistakes in Luton's youthful midfield that killed off the Bedfordshire side.

The first came after 57 minutes when a misplaced ball by Stuart Fraser was collected by Steve Hayward. He sent Lee Clark away on the left for a cross which eluded Horsfield at the near post only to be met by the unmarked Hayles at the far post who finished comfortably.

The second followed only three minutes later. This time McLaren was the Luton culprit. Clark intercepted his pass and quickly found Hayles who burst clear and thundered a rising drive into the net. As if these double blows were not enough, Luton suffered a third after 63 minutes when, after Julian Watts had fouled Steve Finnan on the edge of the box, Hayward stroked the resulting free kick around a poor defensive wall and into the bottom corner.

Luton Town (3-5-2): Abbey, Fraser (Boyce,60), Watts, Doherty, Johnson, George, Locke, Douglas, Spring, McLaren, Taylor. Substitutes not used: Scarlett, Kandol, Ayres, Tate (gk).

Fulham (3-5-2): Taylor, Finnan, Brevett, Melville (Trollope, 78), Morgan, Simons, Collins, Clark, Horsfield, Hayles, Hayward. Substitutes not used: Uhlenbeek, Peschisolido, Selly, Hahnemann (gk).

Referee: G Frankland (Middlesbrough).

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