Now this may have been worthy of a conspiracy theory. If Fulham chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed believes someone in high places doesn't want his Fulham team to retain their Premier League status you could offer him some sympathy on this count.
Quite why England's top referee Howard Webb allowed substitute Nolberto Solano's late winner for West Ham is not easy to comprehend. The versatile Peruvian had darted into the area in pursuit of a ball forward chipped in by Hammers' captain Lucas Neill and chested on by Luis Boa Morte, and, as goalkeeper Antti Niemi advanced, raised his foot to touch the ball past him.
It appeared that Solano was guilty of dangerous play; not to mention that the ball finally found the net via the scorer's arm, although that appeared an involuntary act. However, the goal stood as Fulham protested vociferously; in the case of Leon Andreasen too strongly. The Danish midfielder was dismissed for a second caution.
"It was a clear foul, and should have been disallowed," insisted Fulham manager Roy Hodgson. "When you go up with two studs in the goalkeeper's face, and catch him on the shoulder, then you're very lucky if the referee awards the goal." He added, of Andreasen's sending-off: "If you don't protest like that, you've got no interest in winning the game and getting points. I can't justify it, but I can understand all my players' frustration."
It means that Fulham have still not defeated their fellow Londoners at home in the League since just after Bobby Moore had led England to the country's only World Cup triumph. On a day when the 15th anniversary of the death of the England captain, who played for both clubs, was remembered, Hodgson's men exhibited little evidence that they would expunge that wretched statistic from their records. However, in fairness, the Hammers could not have complained if their hosts had claimed a point as Fulham sought inspiration from West Ham's feat of avoiding relegation last season.
Hodgson has acted radically in his attempt to secure Fulham's survival. Only two outfield Fulham players were in the side defeated in the reverse fixture six weeks ago. However, two of those that did not figure that day were midfielder Jimmy Bullard and captain and striker Brian McBride, and their return to fitness at least offers the supporters some cause for optimism. Yesterday, though, McBride never possessed his potency of old and his performance summed up Fulham's dearth of quality once they approach their opponents' area.
Carlton Cole was deployed as a lone striker for West Ham, and went close on three occasions in an uninspiring first half in which Fulham were comfortably held by the visitors' rearguard, with Matthew Upson, being watched by England manager Fabio Capello, and Anton Ferdinand well in control. Fulham had a couple of penalty appeals for hand ball rightly rejected by Webb after the interval before central defender Brede Hangeland sent a looping header narrowly over the visitors bar.
Yet, if Fulham sensed that West Ham, with only a slim chance of Europe to play for, were there for the taking they were mistaken. Such an attitude was not in Mark Noble's mind as his quality threatened to open up the home defence. His one-two with Julien Faubert was neatly executed but Noble placed his effort wide of the post. Then Noble released Cole with a fine pass, but Aaron Hughes dashed over to cover.
In the final minutes Bullard was denied by West Ham's goalkeeper Robert Green. Then Solano struck, conclusively, controversially. Next week: Manchester United here. It doesn't get any easier.Reuse content