Fulham manager Martin Jol admitted that he was relieved that his side took all three points against a dogged Aston Villa side at Craven Cottage this afternoon thanks to Chris Baird’s late winner.
The Northern Ireland international grabbed the only goal of the game in the 84th minute as he ghosted past three visiting defenders to turn in a John Arne Riise corner just as it seemed as though Fulham were about to rue their lack of a finishing touch in front of goal. Jol was delighted that the Whites did manage to record their tenth win in their last fourteen home league fixtures:
There was a big relief. Of course, if you play against this style with a diamond formation, you have to punish them and we tried to do that.
Certainly on the ball we were great, but off the ball we weren’t as good, especially in the second half. We talked about set-pieces before the game and he (Baird) is not the biggest, but he’s great in the air, so I really thought it was going to be his day today although he scored in a different way.
The Fulham manager hailed the earlier than expected return of midfielder Mahamadou Diarra, who came on as a second half substitute after recovering from a knee injury he picked up on international duty with Mali last month that Fulham feared might have sidelined him for at least another month. Diarra’s introduction – for Mladen Petric just after the hour – give Fulham a little bit more bite in midfield – and Jol was full of praise for his determination to get back to full fitness.
The medical staff thought he was going to be out for three or four weeks, but after the operation it could have been more. He really has made an excellent recovery and played again today.