Gazza versus Fulham! The last time Boston United faced top-flight opposition

A look back at when the Pilgrims hosted the Cottagers in the Carling Cup's second round...

Paul Gascoigne doesn't want to let Alain Goma get on with the game. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Gascoigne doesn't want to let Alain Goma get on with the game. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Gascoigne was certainly no stranger to taking on Premier League stars. Jason Lee had enjoyed his share of battles too.

But as Boston United welcomed Fulham to York Street for a second-round Carling Cup clash, the visitors were comfortable favourites.

Prior to kick off the gulf was obvious, and if the league tables didn't tell a story then the receipts certainly would.

Fulham, with internationals and top-flight superstars, had spent a total of £17m assembling their squad.

That money could have bought them 570 Paul Ellenders, the only player in the home dressing room to cost United a fee.

That contest on September 22, 2004 was the last time the Pilgrims faced top flight opponents in a competitive fixture.

It was also Gazza's final appearance in a Boston shirt, and Dean West's first following his arrival from Lincoln City in a deal which saw Martin Carruthers go the other way.

Boa Morte catches Gazza. Photo: Getty Images

Fulham may have had the pedigree but Boston had hope as the two sides came out of the tunnel

In the previous round Steve Evans' side had beaten Luton Town 4-3 in extra-time, Lee Thompson grabbing the final goal in a thrilling battle.

If they could do it against the League One leaders, then why not Fulham?

The answer to that question was evident early on. The Cottagers, not at full strength but with plenty of household names in the side, were just too good.

Courtney Pitt speeds away from Malik Buari. Photo: Getty Images

Canadian international Tomasz Radzinski opened the scoring in the ninth minute, making the most of a long ball forward that the home side failed to deal with.

Steed Malbranque - who had represented France up until under 21 level - doubled the advantage with an effort Nathan Abbey should have done better with.

The home side were awestruck, the visitors not even out of second gear.

Another attacker with international experience - the USA's Brian McBride - grabbed number three with a 20-yard strike into the top corner. This time Abbey had no chance.

Luis Boa Morte puts pressure on David Noble. Photo: Getty Images

The second half saw Boston give a better account of themselves and they got their consolation with 11 minutes of the second 45 played, from an unlikely sounding move.

Did it involve Gascoigne? Lee? United's very own international, Northern Ireland striker Andy Kirk? No.

Defender Lee Beevers became the first Pilgrim to score a competitive goal against top flight opposition since Jim Conde in 1974's 6-1 FA Cup defeat to Derby County, heading home a delivery from Ellender to beat Mark Crossley, Lee's former Nottingham Forest teammate.

Simon Rusk, now manager of Stockport County, will always be able to tell the story of how he was brought on for Gascoigne after the former England great was substituted in the 67th minute.

But any hopes of a fightback were ended when Fulham hit number four.

Radzinski met Malbranque's cross to complete the scoring in the 70th minute.

Fans file in through the turnstiles. Photo: Getty Images

But there was still time for one final talking point, defender Liam Rosenior dismissed at the death for diving, collecting his second yellow card of the evening.

But seconds later his teammates were following him down the tunnel, a third round tie against Birmingham City secured in comfortable fashion.

UNITED: N. Abbey, West, Beevers, Ellender, McCann, Gascoigne (Rusk 67), Bennett, Noble, Pitt (Thompson 80), Lee, Kirk (McManus 78); Subs (not used) Strong, Holland.

FULHAM: Crossley, Buari, Rehman, Goma, Green, Rosenior, Malbranque (Timlin 81), McKinlay, Boa Morte (John 71), McBride, Radzinski; Subs (not used): Flitney, Ehui, Watkins.

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The flags fly over York Street prior to kick off. Photo: Getty Images
The Cottagers celebrate goal number two. Photo: Getty Images