Date: 28th January 2007 at 9:13am
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New look Fulham cruise past lamentable Stoke

Leicester and Stoke are close to each other geographically, but miles apart in FA Cup endeavour, judging from this match.

Fulham’s strong week in the transfer market was followed by a dominant performance against opponents who failed to raise their game.

The ease of the Fulham win allowed Chris Coleman to bring on Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey as substitutes, as well as allowing Vincenzo Montella’s starting debut.

Towards the end, with Dempsey and Radzinski up front, the changes being wrought in the squad were evident, even if the formation was experimental.

Montella was in sparkling form, scoring the first poached goal after Radzinski showed some steel to get the ball across to him, and Montella’s through ball to Brian McBride for Fulham’s second cut the Stoke defence open. McBride still had to score, but he doesn’t miss chances like that.

Stoke huffed and puffed at times, but threatened the Hammersmith Flyover more than Lastuvka’s net in the first half. Some brighter passages of play never looked like creating serious threats with a weak strike-force, leaving a noisy 2,000 away crowd little to cheer, although they supported their team to the last.

All in all, a highly satisfactory performance by Fulham, with many high points, including the return of Claus Jensen.

Chris Coleman now seems spoilt for choice in midfield, and it will be interesting to see how he rings the changes for the rest of the season, especially if Bouba Diop really wants his place back, and with the confirmation yesterday of Smertin’s arrival.

For the first time in a long while, it feels as though a squad is being assembled which can aim for more than Premiership survival. Clearly there is still a need for more striking power to replace Montella when his loan period ends, as it is acknowledged that Fulham cannot afford to keep him at the end of the season.

The left side of midfield will no doubt be addressed, too. Tomasz Radzinski represents more nuisance than threat on the left, while working hard to make the most of the position.

Fulham fans can feel optimistic at the end of January. now it’s time to secure safety and build towards next season.

A final word on the attendance: yes, disappointing, but the recency of the Leicester win didn’t give the Club much time to optimise sales. Fulham fans aren’t known for turning out for the Cups, but after the drama of Leicester and yesterday’s performance, they should start to take notice.