It is 42 years since West Bromwich last won a league match at Craven Cottage and the Premier League’s bottom club never looked like ending that sequence yesterday. Fulham had enough chances, especially in the first half, to win by a landslide. What an enigma Roy Hodgson’s team are. On their travels, where they can look unimaginative they are still without a league win. Yet how strong they are on their own patch where their form has now propelled them up to eighth.
Not that West Brom put up much of a challenge. Four times the woodwork came to their rescue – three in the first half. When it did not, Scott Carson had one of the days when he justified his status as an international goalkeeper.
On paper, Albion still have a chance of hanging on to their top-flight status. But it is hard to see how. Mowbray refuses to compromise his principles and prefers his side to pass their way to victory. But to succeed playing like that, you have to have enough quality, and Albion patently do not.
After their midweek devouring at Old Trafford, Fulham looked in greedy mood. The game was just five minutes old when Danny Murphy curled a terrific free-kick over the wall, only for Carson to tip it on to the post before excelling himself again by parrying Dickson Etuhu’s 25-yard thunderbolt. As his team went for the jugular, Clint Dempsey crashed a strike against the post and before they had the relief of half-time, Albion again rode their luck when Murphy collected Bobby Zamora’s short pass and curled the ball on to the bar.
The on-loan Jay Simpson looked a player who would thrive with the right service but Albion made far too many mistakes when in possession.
Hodgson had a notable spring in his step as he walked to the dugout after the interval. It was almost as if he knew it would only be a matter of time and cometh the hour – 61 minutes to be precise – cometh the man. Murphy’s raking pass picked out John Pantsil and from his cross, Andy Johnson glanced a header into the path of Zamora, who prodded home for his first league goal since mid-September.
A brief West Brom rally came to nought and when Zamora rifled Hangeland’s free-kick straight at Carson, Johnson converted the rebound for 2-0. Albion’s misery was complete in stoppage time when Hangeland was wrongly adjudged to have fouled Roman Bednar, only for the Albion substitute to have his penalty well saved by Mark Schwarzer.
“I’ve always believed in Zamora,” said Hodgson. “There must have been an element of mental pressure but it’s a tribute to his character and determination that he’s been able to ride through it.” Hodgson had a stern word with the officials after the final whistle: “I was animated because I wasn’t happy with the penalty. Any long ball into your area after that can bounce unkindly and it’s suddenly 2-2. That would have been a travesty.”
Next comes the FA Cup replay with Swansea tomorrow. Hodgson is not happy at the timing. “We play a high-energy game and with only one day’s rest I’m not sure we can give the same level of performance.”
Tony Mowbray insisted he had no specific points target to stay up. “We’ll win some games at home against teams in the bottom half, and they are the games that will define our season.”
Goals: Zamora (61) 1-0; Johnson (72) 2-0.
Fulham (4-4-2) Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey (Dacourt, 84); Johnson (Kamara, 80), Zamora (Nevland, 80). Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Gray, Kallio, Baird
West Bromwich (4-4-2) Carson; Robinson, Barnett, Meite, Zuiverloon; Morrison (Mensequez, 76), Valero, Koren, Teixeira (Brunt, 49); Simpson, Fortune (Bednar, 81). Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Cech, Moore, Menseguez, Martis.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
Booked: West Bromwich Robinson.
Man of the match: Murphy.
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