Fulham finished off a physical Tranmere Rovers outfit this afternoon at Craven Cottage to preserve their ten point lead at the top of the First Division.

Jean Tigana rang the changes after his side took Liverpool to extra time in the League Cup in midweek with French midfielder Nicolas Sahnoun and Latvian international Andrejs Stolcers, who scored on his debut at West Brom last weekend, handed their first league starts for Fulham. The Frenchman also restored Luis Boa Morte to the starting line-up in place of Barry Hayles.

The alterations appeared to suck the life out of the hosts, who were slovenly in the early stages, and fell behind to a fantastic individual goal from rumoured long-term Fulham target, Jason Koumas. The Welsh midfielder showed off all his silky skills as he beat four defenders during a mesmerising individual run and found the bottom corner with a brilliant low shot to give Rovers the perfect start.

Fulham’s football was largely flat, with only Sahnoun offering a spark with a sighter from distance but the greater danger was coming at the other end. The lively Koumas was at the heart of each promising Tranmere attack and nearly put the away side two goals up with Taylor having to turn another goalbound effort from the mercurial midfielder aside for a corner. The prospect of conceding a second seemed to bring the Cottagers to life.

They levelled matters on twenty minutes when Fabrice Fernandes found some space on the left wing. The French winger’s deep cross was headed out by Richard Hinds but the loose ball fell kindly for Lee Clark on the edge of the area and his fiercely struck half-volley flew past Thomas Mhyre in the Tranmere goal. It took just seven more minutes for the Whites to hit the front when Stolcers supplied Rufus Brevett and the full back’s low cross was tucked home by Boa Morte for his seventh goal of the season.

The contest was then disrupted by a number of yellow cards, with Saha nearly extending Fulham’s lead when he almost caught out Mhyre from a quickly-taken free-kick. Tigana introduced Sean Davis for Sahnoun and at half time and the hosts were soon in complete command. Steve Finnan found Clark in the middle of the park and the midfielder’s perceptive pass released Boa Morte, whose pace took him clear of the Tranmere defence before he held off a tackle and powered a finish past Mhyre.

Tranmere’s entire five-man defence was booked by the end of what became a feisty affair and, although Fulham fashioned further chances, they couldn’t add to the scoreline in the closing stages.

FULHAM (4-4-2): M. Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Coleman; Sahnoun (Davis 45), Clark, Stolcers, Fernandes (Goldbaek 72); Saha (Hayles 56), Boa Morte. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Symons.

BOOKED: Fernandes, Sahnoun.

GOALS: Clark (21), Boa Morte (28, 50).

TRANMERE ROVERS (5-3-2): Mhyre; Yates, Roberts, Allen, Hazell, Hinds; Henry (Aldridge 77), Koumas, Parkinson (Hume 68); Rideout, S. Taylor (Allison 68). Subs (not used): Murphy, Sharps.

BOOKED: Roberts, Hazell, Hinds, Allen, Yates.

GOAL: Koumas (7).

REFEREE: Roy Pearson (County Durham).