LONDON // On a day that celebrated romance, Simon Davies ruined the mood for this season's FA Cup fairytale side. The Fulham midfielder scored his first goal in 11 months to end the brave resistance of Notts County, the League Two team who were the lowest-ranked side left in the competition. It took 23 minutes to break them as Davies moved on to a long ball from Brede Hangeland and fired through the legs of John Thompson and into the corner.
Bobby Zamora, Damien Duff and Stefano Okaka added other goals to send Roy Hodgson's side into the quarter-finals. For County, economic survival and promotion are their targets now. Having been taken over for the third time on Friday, finances, not football, have dominated many of the headlines for them season. But their cup run through to Craven Cottage yesterday had lifted the spirits of their followers during the bleak times.
Their side did them proud again, but could not repeat the win over Premier League Wigan in the last round. On that occasion, they took their chances. This time, they could not. Dave Kevan, County's caretaker manager, said: "We thought the scoreline flattered them. We have enjoyed our cup run and had a fantastic time, but promotion was always our aim and that's what we are fully focused on." Ben Davies showed County's threat when he thumped a 25-yard shot that Mark Schwarzer, the Fulham keeper, did not expect, but reacted well to push over.
Lee Hughes, their 22-goal hero, created a bit of space for a shooting chance in the 18th minute, but Schwarzer saved to his left. And the big Australian made the most important save of all in the 39th minute. With his side only 1-0 ahead, Schwarzer stretched a left hand to turn away a low effort from Craig Westcarr after he had cleverly worked an opening by twisting and turning Chris Baird in the box.
With Fulham's next attack, they scored again through Zamora. Nicky Shorey made a good run, found David Elm, who flicked on for his strike partner to volley home his 13th of the season. It was unlucky for County, whose efforts deserved more. The second half was a similar story as County rallied, but were denied and then punished by the clinical Cottagers. The lively Davies was busy and bewitching and had three attempts on goal that might have given the visitors, winners in 1894, a lifeline. It never came and Duff showed how to finish, cutting in from the left before firing a rasping shot inside Kasper Schmeichel's near post.
The Dane, watched by his father Peter, had looked composed in the first half and made a superb block with his legs to deny David Elm. But he could do little when Fulham added a fourth in the 79th minute. Stephen Hunt miscontrolled and Okaka needed no invitation as he latched on to the loose ball and finished calmly. "It was a potential banana skin and we are happy we did not slip on it," said Hodgson, the Fulham manager. "We are in the hat for the quarter-finals and I think we have got as good a chance as the others. It would mean a lot to us to win it. It would be another major step forward in the progression of the club."