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.

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
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
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower