Last season, Fulham went out of the League Cup in the second round (the first game for most Premiership sides), having put out a team mainly of second-stringers against a full strength Man City at Eastlands. Understandably, with a game the previous week in Sofia and ahead of the visits of Arsenal and FC Basel, Hodgson was not going to risk tiring out the first team in such a game.
But this season there are no European distractions, and we know that we have a squad capable of a good cup run, so it was heartening to see the first team out last night. Dembele was starting his first game, young Michael Briggs was in for Konchesky (who is apparently seeking a move to Anfield to reunite with Hodgson), and Stockdale is still serving in goal to cover an injured Schwarzer, but otherwise the starting-11 were all familiar names.
Port Vale could have been a difficult team to play on a wet Wednesday night, and as Mickey Adams is their manager there was the worry that he’d find a way to put one over on his old employer, but clearly Mark Hughes got the team to treat the game as any other.
The first goal saw Briggs run up the wing to put a superbly weighted cross into the box, where Gera headed the ball (and then a Vale boot) cleanly in. Dembele got his first as a Fulham player, getting the ball with his back to goal and turning to slot it in along the ground.
Zamora then made it 3-0 in amazing style. He dummied over a pass that went to Gera, who then tapped it forward for Zamora to take towards the byline. Instead of trying to pass, Bobby shot across the goal, sending the ball into the top corner at an incredibly tight angle. Gera got his second of the night in a similar way to Dembele’s goal, a spin in the area to face goal, and straight in.
Being 4-0 up at half time allowed Hughes to take off a few players, Dembele and Briggs getting a well-earned rest. The game was understandably a little quieter in the second half, but Fulham did not rest on their laurels. Zamora scored from a free kick half-way through the period, and Gera and Dempsey linked up with superb one-two play before the American smashed the sixth goal of the night home.
I’ve been trying to work out when the was last time Fulham scored this many goals. I remember them losing 10-0 to Liverpool in the League Cup in 1986 (and 5-0 to the Scousers in 1993), and the club record win was 10-1 against Ipswich in 1963, but I can’t recall in all my lifetime seeing Fulham win a competitive game by such a margin.
Fair play to Port Vale, they didn’t play badly, and it must have been galling for Mickey Adams, who took Fulham up from the basement in 1997 only to be sacked by the new owner (a Mr Fayed) a few months later.
Now, the main thing is to keep the momentum up and get some away wins going. Starting up at Blackpool on Saturday.
Edit – I’ve just remembered the last 6-0 win by Fulham, it was five years ago in the last game of the season against Norwich. Had the Whites lost, they could have been relegated, depending on other results, but instead it was the Canaries who ended the game bound for the second division.