Hodgson looks to defence for positives

West Bromwich Albion 0 Fulham 0
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The Independent Football

Only those whose idea of a rewarding afternoon is escaping or evading the bottom of the table would derive satisfaction from this stalemate. Not since October 2009 had West Bromwich Albion registered a 0-0 League draw, their disappointment at not using home advantage to begin repairing their unhappy start being matched by opponents seeking a first Premier League victory.

Fulham struck the woodwork twice and Albion once in a much-improved second half in which Peter Odemwingie also fluffed a one-on-one chance. Two managers who have each enjoyed happy times on the other's current patch did their best to draw positives, the Premier League debut of 31-year-old summer signing Gareth McAuley providing a ready crutch for Roy Hodgson.

Albion's manager made three changes, including the rare demotion of Paul Scharner, and saw his free-transfer capture produce two excellent blocks to deny Orlando Sa. "Gareth was very good," Hodgson said. "He played well at Everton in the cup and he and Jonas Olsson took their chance together. We didn't play at all well in the first half but dominated the second."

Odemwingie, pushed forward after half-time in a switch to 4-4-2, should have tested the excellent Mark Schwarzer much more than he did when played clear on his left foot by the game's outstanding performer, Youssouf Mulumbu. The goalkeeper saved well, having previously denied Mulumbu, and was relieved when Chris Brunt's unfavoured right foot struck the foot of the post in stoppage time.

The preservation of only Albion's second home League clean sheet in more than a year owed much to split-second moments. The first, early on, was a brilliant spot by the assistant referee Sian Massey, who ruled that Pajtim Kasami had strayed marginally offside before tucking away a rebound when Ben Foster failed to gather in Clint Dempsey's raking 25-yarder.

Foster covered himself in much more credit 11 minutes from time when he not only got down to a fierce free-kick by John Arne Riise but recovered to force Fulham's lunging substitute Bryan Ruiz to poke the loose ball against the outside of the post.

When Sa's shot in the dying seconds disappeared high and wide, Martin Jol had even greater cause to regret the loss of Bobby Zamora through illness and Damien Duff for personal reasons. "I thought we looked the better team," Jol said. "It's disappointing to have drawn four games."

West Bromwich Albion (4-3-3): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt, Mulumbu, Dorrans (Morrison, 79); Odemwingie, Long, Thomas (Tchoyi, 82).

Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Grygera, Baird, Hangeland, JA Riise; Kasami (Ruiz, 75), Sidwell, Murphy (Etuhu, 88). Dempsey; Dembélé; Sa.

Referee Stuart Attwell

Man of the match Mulumbu (West Bromwich).

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