Fulham returned to winning ways after recording just their third victory in 16 Premier League games thanks to a 3-1 home victory over West Ham.
They had Hugo Rodallega to thank after the Colombian striker’s fine header stalled a strong West Ham revival that threatened to extend Fulham’s misery at Craven Cottage. Kevin Nolan had cancelled out Dimitar Berbatov’s early opener and the visitors appeared in the mood to inflict more damage to Fulham’s survival hopes as they poured forward at the start of the second period, but Rodallega’s aerial ability ensured the hosts had some breathing space, which was added to in the last minute when Joey O’Brien scored an own goal under pressure from Mladen Petric.
Fulham, whose midfield is looking one-paced, had Emmauel Frimpong on the bench and prospective Dutch loan signing Urby Emanuelson waiting in the wings, but here Jol shuffled his pack with three changes from the line-up hit 4-0 by Manchester United in the FA Cup, with Aaron Hughes replaced by Philippe Senderos.
Allardyce made four changes from the team so badly humiliated in the 5-1 drubbing at Arsenal that the players were summoned to the training ground at 7am the following morning. New recruit Emmanuel Pogatez was on the bench alongside Carlton Cole.
With both sides nervously looking over their shoulder at the wrong end of the table, this was a scrappy encounter that was largely devoid of quality. Berbatov pounced to mark his 32nd birthday with a goal after ten minutes – when he stooped to head home unattended at the back post after Damien Duff’s free-kick from the left had travelled all the way across the penalty area. West Ham produced a real riposte with Matt Jarvis and Kevin Nolan spurning good headed chances before the former Bolton midfielder burst onto Mark Noble’s quickly-taken free kick to drive through Mark Schwarzer’s legs and level matters.
That looked like a lifeline for West Ham, who began the second half on the offensive. But they were undone by a clever move down the Fulham left. John Arne Riise found Duff and the Irishman’s excellent cross was fabulously headed home by Rodallega after he had outjumped three Hammers defenders. It was a header that Brian McBride would have been proud of – and the former Wigan forward’s third goal of the season settled a few nerves around Craven Cottage.
Schwarzer saved well from Nolan with twenty minutes to play as Fulham sat on their lead, but the hosts wrapped up the points when the unfortunate O’Brien put through his own net with Petric bearing down on goal.