Baird's unlikely double allows Hughes to breathe easily again

Stoke City 0 Fulham 2

Khaki was a strange colour for Fulham to choose for their away kit. In terms of bloodlust and tenacity their nearest military equivalent has been the concert party in It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

They came to the Potteries not having won away from Craven Cottage since August 2009 while a 3-1 defeat to West Ham United on Boxing Day had seen Mark Hughes take a significant step towards the brink.

And yet such has been the essential perversity of the season that two goals from a footballer who had not found the net in more than three years ensured Fulham would have the game comfortably under control before 10 minutes were up.

Not even when he was growing up at Ballymena United was Chris Baird known for his goalscoring, although Hughes was surprised when he was informed that these were his first for Fulham, a club he had joined in the summer of 2007. At the club's training ground, Motspur Park, Baird is consistently one of his best strikers of a football.

The Stoke City manager, Tony Pulis, thought both were saveable by a goalkeeper of Asmir Begovic's ability. There were just four minutes gone when Danny Collins only half-cleared Simon Davies's cross and Baird responded with a shot that Begovic could only tip on to the inside of the post and see the ricochet finish in the net.

The second was struck just as fiercely, hit low from a free-kick that Danny Murphy pushed to Andy Johnson who held it up for Baird to drive low into the left-hand corner of Begovic's goal. Those Fulham fans peering through the fog that had seen the Britannia's floodlights turned on before noon might have struggled to see it, but Fulham were 2-0 up and almost safe.

In this season of bizarre managerial dismissals you would hesitate to say the same about Hughes. The club were said to be anxious rather than panicky about their league position and Hughes had spoken to Fulham's chairman, Mohamed Al-Fayed on Monday. "This week it was me under pressure, next week it will be somebody else," he said.

"But, if we play like we did today, there will be no problems."

Stoke's response was surprisingly ineffectual for a club with such a fearsome reputation on its own pitch. Murphy, jeered constantly because of his unflattering comments about Stoke's uncompromising brand of football, headed off the line in the first half but Mark Schwarzer's first serious save came in the 71st minute.

Neither manager shook hands at the finish, a dispute between two men from opposite ends of Wales that goes back to a Carling Cup game here in September. Nobody really seemed that bothered and with the game obviously won the Fulham fans launched into a chorus of "Jingle Bells". Usually, there are so few of them that most could be accommodated in a one-horse open sleigh but this win may encourage more to take to the road.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson (Wilson 79), Shawcross, Huth, Collins; Pennant, Whitehead, Delap, Hetherington (Tuncay 69); Walters (Fuller 55), Jones. Substitutes not used Sorensen (gk), Higginbotham, Whelan, Gudjohnsen, Fuller.

Booked Huth.

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Paintsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird; Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; Dempsey, Johnson. Substitutes not used Stockdale (gk), Salcido, Gera, Kamara, Dikgacoi, Greening, Halliche.

Booked Baird, Dempsey.

Man of the match Baird.

Referee K Friend (Leicestershire)

Att 26,954.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect