STRANGE BUT TRUE FOR KIT’S CRU­SADERS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Steven Chicken

FUL­HAM’S hopes of sur­vival took a mas­sive boost as they won the strangest Foot­ball League game of the sea­son – not that manager Kit Sy­mons was com­plain­ing.

The match was a pa­rade of odd­i­ties from the mo­ment Alex Ka­caniklic scored straight from a cor­ner af­ter 66 sec­onds.

Ful­ham then had the wrong man sent off for a hand­ball on the line, with the fourth of­fi­cial putting the ref­eree right af­ter he had al­ready shown the red card.

Hud­der­s­field striker Nahki Wells had the re­sul­tant penalty saved – and then hit the post when given an­other chance from the spot 11 min­utes later.

The first penalty was just one of sev­eral heroic mo­ments for Ful­ham goal­keeper Mar­cus Bet­tinelli, who made a num­ber of fan­tas­tic saves as Town poured for­ward.

Sub­sti­tute Seko Fo­fana then added a sec­ond on the break with the last kick of the game.

With fel­low strug­glers Mill­wall and Rother­ham both drop­ping points late in their re­spec­tive games, there was no doubt that this was Sy­mons’ day.

He said:“It’s prob­a­bly the most bizarre game I’ve been in­volved in, it’s fair to say.

“On Wed­nes­day night against Leeds we played ten times bet­ter and were on the end of a 3-0 de­feat.

“This was like the ex­act op­po­site. Ob­vi­ously we scored di­rect from a cor­ner in the first minute and got the sec­ond one in the last minute of time added on.

“In be­tween, Hud­der­s­field were by far the bet­ter team and had by far the bet­ter chances.

“We mas­sively rode our luck and Mar­cus made a few great saves, and a few un­ortho­dox saves.

“Some­times things go your way. We’ve not had a lot go our way lately at all, so I’m not go­ing to be­moan a bit of lady luck.”

The game took an ex­tra­or­di­nary turn straight away as Matt Smith’s dis­trac­tion al­lowed Ka­caniklic’s cor­ner to sneak past Alex Smithies at the near post.

Bet­tinelli set the tone for his ex­cel­lent day on 40 min­utes, turn­ing Wells’ flick onto and around the post.

He con­tin­ued his hero­ics in the 61st minute, deny­ing Wells from the penalty spot af­ter Shaun Hutchinson’s hand­ball on the line stopped Ish­mael Miller’s drive.

Ref­eree Richard Clark erro- neously dis­missed Cauley Woodrow for the in­frac­tion, be­fore be­ing cor­rected by fourth of­fi­cial Mark Hey­wood.

Wells demon­strated the fine line be­tween brav­ery and fool­har­di­ness by step­ping up to the spot once again af­ter Ash­ley Richards pushed Sean Scan­nell, only to ham­mer the ball against the post.

Town mid­fielder Ja­cob But­ter- field put a screamer to­wards the top cor­ner on 85 min­utes that Bet­tinelli in­cred­i­bly pushed onto the bar – the third time he had de­nied But­ter­field.

Fo­fana then rounded off a breath­less sec­ond half, waltz­ing into a Town half con­tain­ing only Smithies and con­vert­ing the re­bound af­ter hit­ting the post with his first ef­fort. That lifts Ful­ham eight points clear of the drop zone and drags Hud­der­s­field just a point ahead of them.

Baf­fled Hud­der­s­field boss Chris Powel said: “This game never ceases to amaze me.

“What went on af­ter minute two and be­fore minute 96 was ba­si­cally one-way traf­fic.

“To hit the post, hit the bar, miss two penal­ties, their keeper claw­ing ev­ery­thing away, ev­ery re­bound fall­ing to their player – I mean, we just couldn’t get it in.

“We can’t start games like that giv­ing away a cheap goal as we did, but we did re­spond in a pos­i­tive man­ner.

“We had nu­mer­ous crosses, nu­mer­ous through balls, nu­mer­ous chances. It was just one of those days where ev­ery­thing that went at their keeper, he got some­thing on it. It was quite an amaz­ing game.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

GIVE US A KISS: Seko Fo­fana cel­e­brates with the fans and team­mates af­ter scor­ing his side’s sec­ond goal and, inset, Fo­fana knocks the ball past a stranded Alex Smithies

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