Fulham struggle to overcome Burley's clean-cut principles

Fulham 4 Derby County 2 aet; score at 90 min 2-2
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The Independent Football

The playing principles George Burley absorbed as a player under Bobby Robson at Ipswich, and later applied as the club's manager, are now evident in the work he is doing at Derby County. The team Burley sent out against Fulham in an effort to face Bolton in the last 16 of the FA Cup contained not one player whose signing dented a tight budget and yet, with assurance and no little style, they were Fulham's equals until the loss of Michael Johnson with a knee injury in the sixth minute of extra time proved too much of a drain on their willingness.

The playing principles George Burley absorbed as a player under Bobby Robson at Ipswich, and later applied as the club's manager, are now evident in the work he is doing at Derby County. The team Burley sent out against Fulham in an effort to face Bolton in the last 16 of the FA Cup contained not one player whose signing dented a tight budget and yet, with assurance and no little style, they were Fulham's equals until the loss of Michael Johnson with a knee injury in the sixth minute of extra time proved too much of a drain on their willingness.

Having used their three substitutes they played the remainder of the game with 10 men. It was simply too much for Burley's side, who had fallen behind two minutes earlier when Collins John struck sharply for the Premiership team, firing a low shot past Camp. A fourth goal for Fulham, neatly taken by Claus Jensen in the 105th minute was the cue for possession football that left Derby vainly seeking the ball, their weariness evident.

It was less than Derby deserved from an enthralling tie, one to strengthen Burley's conviction that they are good enough to make the play-off places. "I'm proud of the way we played," Burley said. "We showed we could cope with Fulham and I think we will have opened a lot of people's eyes with some of our football. At times we got through them with embarrassing ease and if we had come in at half-time three or four goals up, I don't think anyone could have argued."

The ease with which Derby cut through Fulham's defence in the first half, especially the problems they caused for Zat Knight and Zesh Rehman, brought rumblings of discontent from the home supporters, who were chastised afterwards by Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, for not getting fully behind their team.

A muted response was hardly surprising. Just four minutes from the off Tommy Smith sped past the left side of Fulham's defence, reached the byline and pulled back a perfect centre for Grzegorz Rasiak to head home his 12th goal of the season.

Fulham, it seemed, had no answer to Derby's inter-passing and the speed with which they got midfield runners in support of Rasiak. With the exception of the tireless Lee Clark, Fulham hung on desperately, relying on the agility and experience of their goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who was twice beaten by Rasiak headers, but was saved first by the post and then by Tomasz Radzinki's alert clearance from the line.

Had either of those opportunities gone Derby's way Fulham would have found it difficult to get back into the game, but as Coleman prepared to berate his men at half-time, the picture changed. Derby had lost some of their cutting edge when the lively Smith departed in the 28th minute, and in first-half injury time, Fulham's giant Senegalese, Papa Bouba Diop, was clumsily challenged for the ball by Johnson, who handled as he fell. Diop drove the penalty kick high into the net.

Coleman used the interval well, bringing on Alain Goma in place of Rehman and calling for more positive action. "We were all over the place in the first half," he said. "We were second best in challenging for the ball and gave Derby too much room. We knew from the first game that Derby are a good passing team. Apart from Clark everybody else was below par. That happens sometimes when players have been involved in international weeks. It's not an excuse, it's a fact."

Having held the upper hand for so long in the first half, Derby might have been demoralised when Luis Boa Morte cut in from the left to put Fulham ahead in the 50th minute, but their spirit survived. With four minutes of normal time left they were level. Inigo Idiakez sent in a wickedly curling free kick that was only just kept out by Van der Sar, and substitute Paul Peschisolido, once of Fulham, equalised.

To Burley went the credit of producing a team that pushed Premiership opponents to the limit, a team built from nothing, but one that fully represented his faith in clean-cut football.

Goals: Rasiak (4) 0-1; Diop pen (45) 1-1; Boa Morte (50) 2-1; Peschisolido (85) 2-2; John (94) 3-2; Jensen (105) 4-2.

Fulham (4-3-3): Van der Sar; Rosenoir, Knight, Rehman (Goma, 45), Bocananegra; Diop, Clark, Legwinski (Jensen, 102); Boa Morte, Cole (John, 80), Radzinski. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), McBride.

Derby County: (4-3-3): Camp; Boertien, Johnson, Mills, Kenna; Bolder (Peschisolido, 83), Idiakez, Bisgaard; Smith (Junior, 28; Dolye, 90), Rasiak, Tudgay. Substitutes not used: Grant (gk), Turner.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Fulham Bocanegra; Derby Doyle.

Man of the match: Clark.

Attendance: 15,528.

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