Brevett inspires Fulham's escape

Rochdale 2 Fulham 2 aet; score at 90 mins 1-1; Fulham win 6-5 on penalties
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The Independent Football

Fulham somehow emerged from this compelling tie with a place in the third round but it will be remembered as the night an 18-year-old got up from the bench and upstaged Jean Tigana's nouveau riche.

Luis Boa Morte's penalty just about eluded Rochdale's goalkeeper, Matthew Gilks, to give Fulham the decision in a nerve jangling shoot out. The striker had given Fulham a 17th minute lead and, it seemed, paved a comfortable passage for his team.

However in the 69th minute Rochdale, the Third Division leaders, summoned the 18-year-old Kevin Townson and the course of not only this match but perhaps the youngster's career was changed irrevocably.

Townson, who 18 months ago was playing local football on Merseyside, scored a stunning equaliser after 74 minutes and another to put his side ahead in extra time.

Fulham appeared resigned to ignominious defeat when, in stoppage time, Rufus Brevett equalised for the Premiership club and condemned the teams to the angst of penalties. Townson was among those who dispatched their kicks but when the Rochdale central defender, Dave Bayliss struck his shot straight at Maik Taylor the onus was on Boa Morte and he delivered, much to the relief of Tigana, his aides and his players.

Steve Parkin, the Rochdale manager, said: "It was a brilliant performance by us and young Kevin has shown what a talent he is. He's got the pace and the natural scoring instincts, and there aren't many players like that around."

Having fallen behind, Rochdale responded to the challenge and twice threatened an equaliser early in the second half. It duly arrived courtesy of Townson. He carved through a casual Fulham defence and thrashed a left foot shot past a startled Taylor.

Townson might have won the tie for his team in normal time, but his volley from Clive Platt's flick on cleared the cross bar.

Fulham, suitably chastised by their manager reasserted themselves in extra time only to squander a succession of chances. Townson needed only one more sight of goal to put Rochdale ahead after 101 minutes. Platt's shot came back off the foot of the post, Townson reacted quicker than anyone else and thumped the ball into the roof of Fulham's net.

The Rochdale supporters were ready to celebrate a momentous achievement when Brevett, who joined the action at the same time as Townson, kept Fulham in the competition. The lottery of penalties finally eliminated Townson and Rochdale.

Rochdale (4-4-2): Gilks; Evans, Bayliss, Griffiths, McAuley; Ford (Flitcroft 66), Oliver, Jones, Durkan (Doughty 48); Connor (Townson 68), Platt. Substitutes not used: Baker (gk), Todd.

Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Knight (Melville 90), Ouaddou, Harley (Brevett 65); Goldbaek (Legwinski 105), Davis, Clark, Malbranque; Boa Morte, Hayles. Substitutes not used: Hahneman (gk), Betsy.

Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).