Goodwill in short supply as Coleman's men booed off

Fulham 2 - Birmingham City 3
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The Independent Football

The natives are getting restless in London SW6. This deserved defeat for the Thames-side club was their sixth in eight league games and you could fully understand why the home support was so keen to leave before the final whistle. Instead of Christmas chimes ringing out, it was to a chorus of boos that Chris Coleman's side left Craven Cottage.

The natives are getting restless in London SW6. This deserved defeat for the Thames-side club was their sixth in eight league games and you could fully understand why the home support was so keen to leave before the final whistle. Instead of Christmas chimes ringing out, it was to a chorus of boos that Chris Coleman's side left Craven Cottage.

There was just one goal between the teams at the end but the narrow margin was deceptive as Tomasz Radzinski's tap-in was virtually the last kick of the game. Prior to that Fulham were as poor as their recent form suggests and the relegation zone is within dangerous proximity as they have slipped to 16th place.

In a game that had five goals, it seemed unlikely there would even be one, such was the standard of play in the opening phase. When Emile Heskey struck after 25 minutes it was totally out of keeping with what had gone before in terms of quality and was all the more welcome for that. Just as matters on the pitch were degenerating into a messy, shapeless display, a three-man move put the visitors ahead. Robbie Savage, who was to score later with a fine finish of his own, played a neat pass to Heskey. The England international then worked a one-two with his strike partner Clinton Morrison before he let fly from 20 yards with a left-footed shot that flashed past Edwin van der Sar.

Heskey's manager, Steve Bruce, sung his praises, saying: "There's still no better English-type forward around than big Emile." Nevertheless, Bruce is still pursuing Burnley's Robbie Blake, for whom he has bid £1.25m.

Despite playing with four men in attack it was one of Fulham's two midfielders who restored parity nine minutes later. Radzinski, out on the left, slipped a pass across goal to Sylvain Legwinski who smashed his shot past Maik Taylor from 12 yards.

Soon after, Radzinski then had a chance of his own to give his side the lead but scuffed his shot. His miss proved costly as four minutes before the break, the visitors retook the lead.

Darren Carter has come up through the ranks at St Andrews and showed what he can do. Moving forward from midfield, a cross from Savage was headed on by Heskey to Carter who converted at the far post.

If Fulham were to stop Birmingham's run of four consecutive wins, then Andy Cole had to be on sharper form than he displayed here. Just two minutes after the break Radzinski found the former Manchester United forward and he was allowed to play on despite a suspicion of handball. However, his shot was too close to the goalkeeper and Taylor saved with his feet.

Once again, Birmingham had enjoyed a reprieve and once more they made Fulham pay for it. With 53 minutes gone a Fulham clearance ran to Savage. There should have been no concern but the Welsh international teed the ball up with his right foot and volleyed home with his left while Radzinski's strike came too late to worry the visitors.

Fulham (4-2-4): Van der Sar; Volz, Pearce (Rehman, h/t), Knight, Bocanegra; Diop, Legwinski; John (Hammond, 57), McBride (Malbranque, 57), Cole, Radzinski Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Pembridge

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Tebily; Johnson, Savage (Anderton, 86), Carter, Clapham; Morrison (Clemence, 82), Heskey (Gray, 76) Substutuites not used: Vaesen (gk), Martin Taylor

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear)

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