Fulham manager Martin Jol delighted with Chris 'Bairdinho'

 

Martin Jol hailed “Bairdinho” for giving Fulham's midfield a new identity following the summer departures of Clint Dempsey, Danny Murphy and Mousa Dembele.

Chris Baird, a converted defender, scored the late winner in Fulham's 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Aston Villa with a deft touch at the near post worthy of a Brazilian striker.

Dempsey, Murphy and Dembele left big shoes to fill at Craven Cottage and, with Mahamadou Diarra having been out injured, Baird has answered Jol's call for help with aplomb.

"This is a new role for Chris. I explained to him that we needed a new identity in midfield and that he could help," Jol said. "He certainly did that. He is a good football player and he is becoming more and more important for us.

"Last season he played right-back and centre-back and I am very pleased that he is so versatile and that he could do that job for us. He is playing for the national team in midfield now too which is good and they got a good result against Portugal.

"He is probably on top of his game and that was exactly what we needed."

Baird's goal, from a low John Arne Riise corner Jol described as "the worst ever", was only the sixth of his career on his 200th league appearance.

Fulham fans christened him "Bairdinho" the last time he was on the scoresheet against Stoke two years ago.

"I think I'm well overdue a goal," the Northern Ireland international said. "I've had a few chances in the previous games so I felt it was time to get on the scoresheet and thankfully it was today.

"We got three points and it's nice to hear "Bairdinho" being sung around the ground and I really appreciated it."

It looked as though Villa would leave London with a battling point until Baird struck, and they still should have only for Christian Benteke to fire wide from close range.

Villa have taken just five points from their first eight league games, their worst start to a season since the relegation campaign of 1986-87, but manager Paul Lambert said: "I am disappointed to lose but I can't be too disheartened with the way they played.

"It is important they don't get their heads down. I have told them that. It is how you bounce back and I think they will be fine.

"I think they are mentally strong enough to handle it. You need a break, you need a little bit of luck along the way. It is deserting us at the minute."

PA

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