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Fulham given no quarter - The Times

last updated Thursday 05th December 2002, 9:26 AM
Wigan Athletic 2 Fulham 1
Blackburn will be familiar with the name of Nathan “Duke” Ellington, but that does not mean they will be able to stop him in the Worthington Cup quarter-final. Ellington added to his burgeoning reputation as a slayer of opposition from the Barclaycard Premiership last night as Wigan Athletic added Fulham to their growing list of scalps and, as an admirer of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, he is determined to impress once again.

Little more than 30 minutes after celebrating this fourth-round success, Ellington sat in front of a television to witness the fate of his club. Wigan, the leaders of the Nationwide League second division, with a single defeat in the past 21 matches, were first out of the draw and their leading scorer muttered “Manchester United, Manchester United” before ball No 6 was identified as representing Blackburn Rovers.

Fulham keeper Maik Taylor
Fulham keeper Maik Taylor kept the score down with two good blocks late in the game
“I am quite happy with that,” Ellington said of a tie against the Cup holders. “Possibly it will be our hardest game so far. When we played Manchester City people asked about Anelka, then Boa Morte for Fulham. Now it is Cole and Yorke, but we just have to keep playing the same way and we will have a chance.”

Wigan have also dispatched West Bromwich Albion — with Ellington scoring a hat-trick — on a run that has taken them farther than before in their history. Not that officials at the club are getting carried away; Chris Hutchings, the assistant manager, said that they would be in for training this morning.

Given their recent form Wigan were entitled to feel confident of adding another scalp at the JJB Stadium. But the sight of Jean Tigana’s team sheet must have heightened optimism even more. There were ten changes from the game against Blackburn at the weekend and, if some of the white shirts looked as though they had not played together before, then there was a good reason.

Perhaps as few as two would warrant selection if the manager chose his first-choice side and there was an inevitable ring-rustiness about them as they tried to gel. Wigan were allowed no such luxury and, ultimately, their hard work in the opening 45 minutes proved enough to win the night. They snapped in to tackles when they did not have possession but also displayed a composure on the ball that must have surprised the visiting side.

Tigana acknowledged that the better side won. “I do not know how far Wigan can go in the competition — I am more interested in finding a solution for my side,” he said. “We were horrific in the first half, we made many mistakes. I just have to accept the result now, I don’t have the choice of being angry or disappointed.”

There was no better example of Wigan’s style than the back-heel from Neil Roberts in the twentieth minute that wrong-footed the defence and teed up Ellington, who once scored an FA Cup hat-trick for Bristol Rovers against Derby County, to beat Maik Taylor with a low shot from eight yards. With his short stature and sandy hair, Roberts bore a striking resemblance to David Speedie for the way he punched above his weight — metaphorically, of course.

Like a comedian delivering his catchphrase, Roberts pulled his back-heel trick out for a second time just six minutes after the goal, and saw Fulham fall for it again. This time Peter Kennedy shot wide, but Wigan required only three more minutes to extend their lead. Abdeslam Ouaddou looked like a little boy lost as he failed to deal with a clearance. Ellington wriggled behind him, held off the despairing Zat Knight and poked the ball beyond a helpless Taylor.

Injuries forced Tigana to make a double substitution at half-time and the introduction of Sean Davis to break from midfield at last gave them impetus. The young midfield player ought to have scored in the 57th minute when Junichi Inamoto found him in space, but in leaning back he did not even force John Filan to save.

Although Taylor denied Ellington a hat-trick not long afterwards, Wigan were gradually being forced in to their own half. They were fortunate when Andrejs Stolcers was offside when he slotted in a pass from Inamoto after Fulham had scythed through. The crowd palpably sensed that victory might not be as secure as they once thought.

Such fears were confirmed four minutes before the end when Louis Boa Morte finished clinically after rare hesitation at the heart of the Wigan back four, but there was really no need to panic. Hutchings did not feel the relative paucity of the Fulham side should detract from the result. “They still have people who played in the World Cup,” he said. “They are quality.” And so, last night, was Ellington.

J Filan — N Eaden, J de Vos, M Jackson, S McMillan — S Green (sub: P Mitchell, 76min), J Jarrett, T Dinning, P Kennedy — N Ellington, N Roberts (sub: N Flynn, 90). Substitutes not used: D Beasant, D Teale, I Breckin.

FULHAM (4-4-2):
M Taylor — D Leacock, A Ouaddou, Z Knight (sub: S Davis, 46), P Wome — J Inamoto, L Clark, M Djetou, J Collins — F Sava (sub: L Boa Morte, 46), A Stolcers. Substitutes not used: M Herrera, B Goldbaek, M Hudson. Booked: Inamoto, Ouaddou.

Referee: M Halsey.

Source The Times by Richard Hobson
Since 1998
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