Following Wednesday night’s FA Cup Quarter-Final Replay defeat at White Hart Lane, Roy Hodgson made six changes to his starting eleven to face Hull City at the KC Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In defence Chris Smalling and Nicky Shorey came in for Aaron Hughes and Stephen Kelly respectively, whilst in midfield Kagisho Dikgacoi, Chris Baird and Bjorn Helge Riise featured alongside Simon Davies. Zoltan Gera was partnered with Clint Dempsey in attack.
Saturday’s match was Iain Dowie’s inaugural match in charge at the KC Stadium following his recent appointment as Hull’s football management consultant and former Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard lined up in central midfield against his former club.
Fortune certainly favoured the home side during the first half as Hull took the lead against the run of play and Zoltan Gera had two goal-bound efforts cleared off the line. Fulham also had a valid penalty appeal turned down.
It was Gera who fashioned the first serious attempt on goal; the Hungarian’s searing effort from outside the area after four minutes of play forcing Myhill to parry the ball away to safety.
Fulham soon silenced the boisterous home crowd during the early stages with some calm, assured play and the most promising football was directed towards Myhill’s goal.
Then, against the run of play, after 15 minutes, Smalling wrestled with Altidore for possession inside the area. The striker tumbled to the ground and Referee Chris Foy had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Jimmy Bullard stepped up for the set piece and rifled his right-footed spot kick in the top right hand corner of the net. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Hodgson's side after Fulham had made a comfortable start to the game.
The contest opened up following Bullard’s opener and whilst Fulham dominated in the possession stakes, attempts on goal were few and far between leading up to the half hour mark. There was plenty of neat work in the final third by Fulham, with interplay between Gera, Dempsey and Davies catching the eye.
Fulham looked to be back on level terms after 27 minutes when Gera fired passed Myhill, following Hangeland’s knockdown from a Riise corner. Gera’s low shot across goal from 10 yards out had Hull’s keeper beaten, but Boateng, positioned on the line, managed to block the ball away to safety.
Hull were posing no serious threat from open play but Bullard’s ability from a set-piece situation almost earned Hull a two-goal lead after 31 minutes.
First Schwarzer was forced to parry Bullard’s 25-yard free-kick behind the goal for a corner. Bullard delivered the resulting set piece, which saw Schwarzer make another fine save at close range from Marney’s shot.
As the break approached Gera had a second shot cleared off the line before a worthy penalty appeal for the Whites was dismissed. To rub salt into the wound, Gera was then booked for an apparent dive.
Whilst competitive, there was certainly no malice in the game, despite the fact that six players booked during the first 45 minutes.
A minute before the break Shorey played Riise in on goal down the right hand side of the area after a superb return pass from the by-line. The angle was tight and the Norwegian midfielder’s shot across goal failed to find the target.
Quite incredibly, the Whites went into the break a goal behind after having two goal-bound efforts cleared off the line and a valid penalty appeal denied.
Fulham were dealt a severe blow at the start of the second half when Fagan doubled Hull’s lead after 47 minutes.
Marney’s deep cross from the left flank found Fagan on the six yard line and the striker’s headed effort towards goal looped over Mark Schwarzer and into the far corner of the net.
Facing a two-goal deficit, Roy Hodgson revised his attacking line-up. On loan Roma striker Stefano Okaka was introduced to the fray in place of Riise, with Gera taking up position on the right hand side of midfield.
The next serious threat on goal came from the home side, when Altidore’s square pass from the left by-line forced Schwarzer to intervene before the ball reached Fagan, waiting to finish on the six yard line.
Fulham made a second change moments later, bringing on Greening for Dikgacoi on the hour mark.
Immediately following Greening’s introduction Stefano Okaka fired in Fulham’s first goalbound effort of the second period, a close range shot on the turn, which was comfortably saved by Myhill.
Fulham persevered and looked to create opportunities for Dempsey and Okaka from the flanks but the rub of the green was certainly not in Fulham’s favour on Saturday. However with 25 minutes remaining the game looked far from over.
The deficit was almost reduced after 73 minutes when Greening earned Dempsey a half-chance after crossing to the striker from the right flank. Dempsey’s chance then fell to Okaka whose back-heel towards goal failed to connect.
As the game entered the final ten minutes the Whites continued to rain in crosses and shots from outside the area but a clinical edge was lacking. Iain Dowie replaced goalscorer Bullard five minutes from time as Hull looked to lock down the three points during the final minutes of the match.
Fulham could not find a way through to goal during the final stages of the game and can consider themselves unfortunate not to have left the KC Stadium on Saturday evening without at least a point.
Roy Hodgson’s Team return to the European stage on Thursday night when they challenge Wolfsburg at the Cottage in the Quarter-Final (first leg) of the UEFA Europa League.