By Morgan Phillips
Brentford’s last minute equaliser dismayed Fulham fans, but caused jubilation in parts of the Midlands as it ensured the promotion of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Who would gain the other automatic promotion spot – Cardiff or Fulham?
The day after the Brentford match my wife and I flew to Bilbao for a short break. The Basque port has become a tourist haunt since the construction of the amazing Guggenheim Museum, now adorned by Jeff Koons’s gigantic puppy dog.
Another notable structure is the Atletico Bilbao stadium in the St Mames district. The original St Mames was, it seems, a Christian who survived the lions’ den by making friends with the beasts. It seemed a good omen for the Millwall-Fulham match at the New Den scheduled for Friday 20 April, the day of our return.
The south east London side, still hoping for the play-offs, roared impressively and looked to have scored an early goal only for the referee to disallow it. Then Tim Ream made a last ditch clearance that was outstanding even for him. Fulham were relieved not to have conceded in the first half.
In a short-passing movement straight after the interval Stefan Johansen suddenly released Aleksander Mitrovic, whose fiery shot was fumbled by the Millwall keeper. Ryan Sessegnon pounced on the rebound to score.
This success typified the wonderful understanding between the Fulham attackers this season, but the second goal came out of nowhere. Fulham’s captain Kevin McDonald worked the ball upfield and let fly, to the amazement of the home keeper and the visiting fans.
The match was probably won but victory became certain after substitute Tomas Kalas presented Mitrovic with the necessary opportunity. Kalas has largely missed much of the fun in recent weeks and thoroughly deserved his moment of glory.
The score may have been unjust on Millwall but they forfeited sympathy by sending on Tim Cahill, who contributed a series of ugly fouls. He was rightly banned for three matches.
The 3-0 win meant that Fulham regained second place only to be dislodged by Cardiff a day later. ‘We’re still all over them like a rash’, gloated Cardiff manager Neil Warnock. His team had a game in hand too but Derby County unceremoniously destroyed that advantage.
The rash may not be as potent as Warnock thought.
West London football was immeasurably enriched in the 1950s and early 1960s by the England centre forward Roy Bentley, whose death was announced a few days ago. After helping Chelsea to the club’s first League Championship he joined Fulham in September 1956 where he formed a great partnership with the young striker Roy Dwight.
In a match against Port Vale they both scored hat-tricks. Bentley subsequently transformed himself into a defender and was Fulham’s centre-half in the promotion season of 1958-59. Partnered by the youthful Alan Mullery and the experienced Eddie Lowe he presented a formidable barrier to any opposition. In whatever position he played his class shone through.
As I wrote in ‘Fulham We Love You’ (1976):
‘Bentley always attracted the crowds and rarely disappointed them.’
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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