Hughes taunted as Fulham drop into danger zone

Fulham 1 West Ham United 3
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The Independent Football

Those West Ham United fans who made it across London despite the Tube strike were rewarded by witnessing their first away victory since the opening day of last season.

Sixteen months without a win on the road is a heck of a wait. But they might have to go as long again to find hosts as generous as Fulham, who threw away their dominant position in the game.

Fulham dominated possession and were on top thanks to Aaron Hughes's 16th-minute header but threw the game away with some inept defending.

West Ham, and in particular Carlton Cole who scored twice for the first time in his Premier League career, deserve great credit for having their wits about them so they were able to capitalise on the home side's errors.

Yet Fulham should never have allowed it to happen, and manager Mark Hughes faces an uphill task lifting his side for tomorrow's trip to Stoke City with the club having slipped into the relegation zone. He left the pitch to chants of "Hughes out" from pockets of Fulham supporters. His decision to replace Clint Dempsey early in the second had prompted chants of "You don't know what you're doing."

Hughes claimed afterwards he had the support of most of the fans. "They are well within their rights to vent frustration because they have seen their team lose at home and that is something that has not happened on regular occasions.

"Deep down the vast majority understand what we are trying to do. We just have to be patient. If we do that, there are good players here and we'll come through the other end."

His opposite number Avram Grant milked the applause, having won again by the skin of his teeth, when he appeared to be heading for the sack.

West Ham's co-owner David Gold said after the match that Grant's position was never in doubt. "I don't think that was the issue," he said. "We are working with Avram, we are desperate to get out of the bottom three. We have to get out of the relegation zone and I think he took us a step towards that goal."

Grant admitted it was not pretty at times, but praised his team: "I am very pleased with the character and spirit we showed. The most important thing today was the three points."

The sense of relief among the West Ham contingent was palpable, given the way game had appeared to be heading when Fulham went 1-0 up inside 16 minutes. Defender Aaron Hughes was unmarked to head home his first-ever goal for the club from a left-wing cross from Simon Davies.

West Ham's heads went down, and Fulham dominated until the 37th minute, when the visitors pulled level.

Freddie Sears, recalled from a loan spell at Scunthorpe United, hit a poor cross from the right, but Dickson Etuhu intervened to inexplicably slide the ball to the feet of Cole, who turned and finished with one touch.

Fulham's profligacy continued into first half stoppage time when Frédéric Piquionne was left unmarked to volley in at the far post and somehow West Ham were 2-1 up. Fulham's normally reliable defender Hughes was then at fault, diverting Danny Gabbidon's cross to Cole who turned and finished.

Subs: Fulham Duff (Dempsey, 53), E Johnson (Etuhu, 53) Unused Stockdale (gk), Baird, Halliche, Greening, Kamara. West Ham Nouble (Piquionne, 89) Unused Boffin (gk), Reid, Spector, Ilunga, Barrera, Obinna.

Booked: Fulham Pantsil West Ham Upson.

Man of the match Upson

Referee M Halsey (Hertfordshire)

Att 25,332.