An injury ravaged West Brom are overwhelmed as the Whites soar out of the bottom three after their best win of the season.
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No happy hunting ground Craven Cottage for the boys from the Black Country, and so it proved as Hughes at last found some relief at home and gave us all reason to smile. Fulham came into the game without notching a home win since the end of October, the Baggies had lost four straight and were in freefall.
Fulham shaded a tight first half although the visitors had their moments. Indeed they passed the ball from back to front better than us for a spell and pierced the back four a couple of times. What a reassuring presence Stockdale is! He really is pressing Mark hard to be our number one. Kamara was in for hamstring victim AJ and brought an early save from Carson after taking down a long punt from Baird and doing well to get in a shot. I felt he did OK - certainly no worse than the missing midget.
Fulham got their noses in front from a long overdue lucky break at a telling moment. Right on half-time Etuhu muscled the ball away as our attack seemed to falter, fed Davies and his fierce drive from distance fizzed through the keeper's gloves into the top corner. Looked a routine save to me, but how that changed the game.
Two decisive headers within ten second half minutes from left-wing corners and the game was up. West Brom looked ragged after that as Fulham took their foot off the gas while never losing control of the game. So how good a win was this?
We've been waiting a long time for so decisive a win, so let's bask in it while we can. Roberto's side however really were down to the bare bones - they will struggle to beat the drop - but so what, it's a situation we've had to contend with for months.
Not surprisingly there was passing and movement like the Fulham of last year as confidence flooded back into the veins, so dense the congestion in the table, it will indeed only take a short upturn in form to see us climbing clear of the basement teams.
So well done to the likes of Davies, Etuhu and Duff for reminding us they still have something to offer, the back four now looks solid and hopefully bedded in for the rest of the campaign. Just 10 goals conceded on the road this season shows you clearly this is not where our problems lie. As for the iconic Painstil...he was positively showing off at times!
Can I suggest one tiny black mark? We all know the future does not bear the initials E.J. As fans have been clamouring for weeks, please Mr. Hughes start giving our young talent some opportunities in the big time. Why not start with the Cup game Saturday?
To conclude, I'm not saying the pressure's off Hughes yet. We have eight home games remaining where at least 4-5 wins must be found. Not one of those games features a side currently below our 13th place. Chelsea and Arsenal, with our abysmal record in derbies, are two of those in the list. So a couple more road wins, maybe at Wigan or Wolves, also remain imperative if we are to keep our heads above water.
For now, as we pause for breath on FA Cup 3rd round day, the future looks brighter and the return of Dembele and Zamora edges ever nearer. Mark can also go out and find that 'presence in the box' he says we need. Just please dear God do NOT ever think that man is Mido...
COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil (Did you catch me on WorldSoccerDaily???)