Roman Bednar was West Brom’s hero as he grabbed their winner against Fulham.
Albion raised their intensity after a sleepy first half and went close to breaking the deadlock in a tight contest when Ryan Donk headed against the post. But a below-par Fulham side didn’t heed the warning and Bednar poked home after the visitors had failed to clear a corner and had left the forward criminally unattended in front of goal.
Roy Hodgson’s men did belatedly rally as they looked for a late equaliser but, as throughout the ninety minutes, they struggled for a telling finish in the final third. Danny Murphy saw a drive deflected wide, Clint Dempsey nodded over and Seol Ki-Hyeon’s curler ended up off target as the Whites slumped to another disappointing defeat.
Both sides did play pleasing football but that counted for little as their finishing proved largely inadequate. Jonathan Greening slipped a delightful ball into the diagonal run of striker Bednar, whose tame shot was easily seized by Mark Schwarzer. Greening looked like the Baggies’ most promising source of a goal and the former Manchester United midfielder’s storming run almost created a great chance for Ishmael Miller but Aaron Hughes read the danger well.
Zoltan Gera, who received a rapturous reception on his return to the Hawthorns, squandered Fulham’s best chance against his old club, sidefooting wide from close range after Dempsey had robbed Gianni Zuiverloon and done brilliantly to send an inviting ball across goal.
It was the home side who had the better of the play in the second period – having clearly decided to go on the offensive after the break. Greening was instrumental again and Donk probably should have done better than head his deep cross against the far post. Bednar certainly should have opened the scoring rather than fire over after being brilliantly found by Paul Robinson and Murphy managed to clear a James Morrison header off his own line.
But Fulham were hanging on by this point and their defence caved in from Greening’s corner just after the hour mark. Donk met it firmly at the back post and Bednar reacted quickest to steer his third goal of the season past a helpless Schwarzer with Fulham’s marking almost non-existent. Murphy almost levelled matters instantly when a well-worked free-kick afforded him a shooting opportunity from 20 yards, but Robert Koren bravely blocked the skipper’s strike.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Carson, Zuiverloon, Donk, Olsson, Robinson, Morrison (Cech 79), Koren, Greening, Borja Valero, Miller (Moore 64), Bednar. Subs (not used): Kiely, Hoefkens, Barnett, MacDonald, Pele.
BOOKED: Olsson, Borja Valero.
GOAL: Bednar (61).
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Pantsil (Stoor 82), Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Murphy (Andreasen 87), Bullard, Davies, Dempsey; Gera; Zamora (Seol 71). Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Baird, Kallio, Nevland.
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).