Fulham 2 Birmingham City 0: Hodgson cautious as Fulham edge away from the trapdoor

To some this result, and the probable destiny of these two clubs, may have been decided by either a freak injury or the intervention of one of the game's more charismatic figures. Roy Hodgson, Fulham's manager, was more inclined to ascribe it to the prosaic virtues of good coaching and hard work on the training ground.

The injury came shortly before half-time at Craven Cottage on Saturday when Liam Ridgewell fell and turned his ankle. He and Radhi Jaidi had ensured that Fulham's midfield superiority had gone unrewarded, but Ridgewell failed to reappear for the second half. His replacement, makeshift centre-half Franck Queudrue, was at fault for both Fulham's goals.

Fulham thus lifted themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time since Christmas. Birmingham were left needing to better both Fulham and Reading's results on Sunday to survive.

That was the aim of Mohamed Al Fayed when he addressed the players before kick-off. In recent weeks the Fulham chairman and owner has thrown himself into saving the club from relegation with regular visits to the training ground and dressing room. Not every manager would accept this but Hodgson has worked with the Internazionale president Massimo Moratti, and, as he adds, "it's not my club, it's his".

Fayed said: "I fired them up." His methods appear to be carrot and stick. "I made sure that I tell them that if we go down, they are down with us – and I have promised each one of them they will have a £5,000 hamper full of caviar and smoked salmon [if Fulham stay up]."

There is more, however, to turning a team round than threats, tub-thumping and blandishments. Hodgson is an equable man but he bristled when it was suggested he had been just what Fulham needed, "an older head, to put an arm round them."

he said: "I think you underestimate the work that's gone on on the training pitch. I am first and foremost a coach. I'm not the type of manager who sits in the office while others give them a five-a-side. I get out on the field every day. If I was to be given any credit for anything during the last four months, it would be for the way the team's played."

Under Hodgson Fulham have developed an expansive passing game, no mean achievement given the circumstances. Courage in sport takes many forms but one of the more overlooked is the bravery Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard showed in getting on the ball. They did not always find the right pass, but they were prepared to try.

Bullard said: "Roy is a football man. He wants us to play the ball on the floor. He's great with the players, he doesn't take any crap, and doesn't tell you crap. He hasn't missed a training session since he's been here, which tells you everything."

Since Hodgson took over at the turn of the year Fulham have taken 18 points from 17 matches. Prior to his arrival they had 15 from 20 and were 19th. Birmingham have also improved statistically since Alex McLeish took over at the end of November, but not as much as the teams around them, which is why they have slipped to 19th.

McLeish spoke of "the frailties of the human mind'"when considering his team's lack of self-belief, and admitted Queudrue in particular will have been "disappointed". The Frenchman failed to cut out Bullard's free-kick, which Brian McBride headed in for Fulham's first. He then made a hash of clearing Paul Konchesky's clearance allowing Erik Nevland to secure victory.

Birmingham must get a result against Blackburn on Sunday. Their home record is decent, but Reading are at Derby while Fulham play a Portsmouth who appear to be thinking only of their FA Cup final date.

The Scot spoke of a long-term rebuilding job and, whatever happens next week, his record with Hibs, Rangers and Scotland suggests he should be given time to stamp his own mark on the club.

But it is not over yet. Hodgson did his best to remind everyone of that. He looked somewhat uncomfortable when Fulham did a lap of honour. Fate may yet have a card to play, however hard he works this week on the training ground.

Goals: McBride (52) 1-0; Nevland (87) 2-0.

Fulham (4-4-2): Keller; Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies, Bullard (Andreasen 88), Murphy, Dempsey (Healy, 90); Kamara (Nevland, 67), McBride. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Bocanegra.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Taylor; Kelly, Jaidi, Ridgewell (Queudrue, 46), Murphy; Larsson, Muamba, Johnson, Kapo (Zarate, 58); Forssell (Jerome, 74), McFadden. Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Parnaby.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Fulham Stalteri, Davies; Birmingham Muamba, Queudrue, Jerome, Jaidi, McFadden.

Man of the match: Murphy.

Attendance: 25,308.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea