Johnson's welcome return primes Fulham firepower

Fulham 2 Stoke City 0
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The Independent Football

While Stoke City gave John Carew his debut on Saturday, after signing the striker on loan from Aston Villa, Fulham have yet to add to their goalscoring strength during the transfer window. But with Andrew Johnson back from a long-term knee injury and Bobby Zamora also within sight of a return, Fulham manager Mark Hughes must feel as if he has already acquired two new top-class forwards – and for nothing.

Clint Dempsey has performed manfully as a stand-in, and scored twice against Stoke to bring his total to eight league goals this season. But Craven Cottage regulars are thoroughly enjoying the return to action of Johnson, who created the opening goal for the American on Saturday with a flash of his old pace, and was a constant thorn in Stoke's side.

"It takes a bit of time after being out 14 to 15 months in total," Johnson said. "Slowly it's started to come. My touch is getting better, my runs are getting better and I've started to feel sharper game by game. I don't go out on the pitch thinking about my knee at all now. I played 90 minutes against Stoke two or three weeks ago when we won 2-0 and I played it again today.

"Bobby helped me, sending me texts all the time, and I've done the same for him," he added. "On and off the field, he's a top, top guy. He's only a couple of weeks away now. He was in great form before he was injured and we are sure he's going to bounce back. We miss him dearly."

While Zamora and Johnson will surely resume their classic "little and large" partnership, Carew's arrival has confused rather than clarified Stoke's strikeforce, although his "large and larger" double-act with Kenwyne Jones over the last 32 minutes of Saturday's games was hard to assess with Stoke a man down, after Ryan Shawcross was sent off for the foul that allowed Dempsey to double Fulham's lead from a penalty.

"It was difficult for [Carew], but he's done all right," Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, said. "He's got a great goalscoring record in the Premiership and we're hoping he'll nick us a few goals from now until the end of the season. With [Ricardo] Fuller and Tuncay, Kenwyne and Jon Walters as well, we've got a bagful of forwards. We can mix and match and they'll do well."

Scorer: Fulham Dempsey 33, 56 pen.

Substitutes: Fulham Halliche (Hughes, 75), Sidwell (Etuhu, 62), Gera (Dembélé, 75). Unused Etheridge (gk), Salcido, Kamara, Davies.

Stoke Faye (Collins, 58), Etherington (Whelan, 63) Tuncay (Carew, 58). Unused Sorensen (gk), Fuller, Pennant, Walters.

Booked: Fulham Murphy Stoke Wilkinson

Sent off: Stoke Shawcross (54)

Possession Fulham 68% Stoke City 32%.

Shots on target Fulham 7 Stoke City 1.

Man of the match Dempsey. Match rating: 6/10.

Referee S Attwell (Warwickshire). Att 23,766.