Plucky Pools nearly caused FA Cup shock against Kevin Keegan’s Fulham

Craig Midgley celebrates after putting Pools level at Fulham.
Craig Midgley celebrates after putting Pools level at Fulham.

It may have ended in defeat, but Pools took the plaudits in a battling away-day FA Cup tie at Fulham back in December 1998.

And if it was not for a final 10 minutes of Fulham pressure, it could have been a day at Craven Cottage to have gone down in Pools history.

Denny Ingram clears under pressure from Paul Peschisolido.

Denny Ingram clears under pressure from Paul Peschisolido.

In this FA Cup second round tie, it was Kevin Keegan’s Fulham who boasted all the big-name signings, with Barry Hayles, Paul Peschisolido and Geoff Horsfield in the strike force.

And that line-up almost gave Fulham the lead on 11 seconds when Peschisolido found Hayles in the box.

His first-time volley seemed destined for the top corner until Pools keeper Martin Hollund flew across the goal to push it wide.

Pools seemed nervy and didn’t settle at first. Peschisolido was next to go close when he headed a chance wide.

The old National Lottery slogan was ‘It could be you’. Well Hartlepool United will reflect on the fact that it could have been them as they were minutes away from striking it rich.

Hartlepool Mail reporter, 1998

On six minutes, Fulham took the lead when former Sunderland player Paul Bracewell crossed for Horsfield, whose looping header found the net.

Pools started to gain more possession after that and strung together decent moves.

And just as it seemed Fulham had weathered the storm, Craig Midgley worked an angle for himself and his low drive seemed to take a deflection before beating Maik Taylor on 43 minutes to make it 1-1.

After the break, Pools were behind once more when Gus di Lella headed clearanceflew past his own goalkeeper to put Fulham 2-1 up.

But Pools were still fighting hard and Paul Stephenson went close with a low shot which Taylor had to get down well to save.

Fulham were pushing to gain supremacy, but Pools were having none of it.

They equalised for a second time, and what a well-worked goal it was. Midgley and Miller were involved in some slick passing before a cross reached Steve Howard, who rammed home the ball for his fourth goal of the season.

Fulham responded with a series of attacks in which Gus Uhlenbeek, Chris Coleman - now Sunderland’s boss - Steve Hayward and Horsfield all went close.

But as the game entered the last 10 minutes, substitute John Salako floated a corner which Simon Morgan got on the end of.

It lacked power, but somehow found its way into the net to make it 3-2 to Fulham

The Fulham fans in the crowd of 6,358 were “delirious and relieved,” said the Hartlepool Mail reporter at the time.

Worse was to come when Horsfield found space in the box to volley home his second of the game, to make the final score 4-2.

But Pools emerged with lots of credit for a battling performance.