It was a Baltic evening at the Britannia on Tuesday night when Fulham challenged Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League.
Roy Hodgson had an almost fully fit squad to choose from, with Andy Johnson, Danny Murphy and Brede Hangeland all featuring in Fulham’s starting eleven.
Stoke got Tuesday night’s game underway as the snow drifted into the Britannia Stadium and the home side punished Fulham with ruthless efficiency in front of goal during the first half.
Tony Pulis' side had the ball in the back of the net after two minutes of play but Etherington was adjudged offside as he rifled the ball past Schwarzer from the left hand side of the area.
The Stoke midfielder was a constant menace down the left flank and delivered exceptional deliveries from set plays during the first half.
Fulham looked to get a grip on possession during the early stages of the match with Murphy, Duff and Johnson looking particularly bright on the counter attack.
However opportunities were few and far between until the 10th minute of play when the Whites earned a free-kick 25 yards from goal.
Danny Murphy found a gap between Stoke’s wall with a low right-footed curling effort but the ball flew just wide of Simonsen’s post.
Barely sixty seconds later Stoke took the lead through Tuncay, who headed home at the far post from Etherington’s corner. Huth helped to ball on to Tuncay, heading the ball across goal to the striker who had the simplest of tasks just three yards from goal.
Despite the early setback Fulham were offered encouragement by several half chances following Tuncay’s goal. Brede Hangeland went close with a header from sixteen yards before Zamora almost latched on to a loose ball as Stoke failed to clear from defence.
Until the half hour mark Tuesday night’s contest was an evenly matched affair amid testing conditions. The incessant bout of driving snow made conditions underfoot testing but to their credit both sides were clearly up for the battle.
Fulham were dealt a crushing blow in space of six first half minutes when Stoke extended their lead to 3-0. Faye drove home Stoke’s second from close range when he latched onto Etherington’s set piece delivery before Sidibe volleyed the ball past Schwarzer just three minutes later.
Before half time Tony Pulis was forced to replace Tuncay with Fuller following an injury to the striker. Fuller’s direct approach to goal had the home crowd on their feet before the break as Stoke ended the half with a 3-0 lead over Fulham.
Roy Hodgson made one change for the second half, replacing Brede Hangeland with Chris Smalling in central defence. After a tepid start things got worse for Fulham when Bobby Zamora was left writhing in agony following a challenge with Faye as the pair chased a long ball up field.
Zamora appeared to injury his shoulder as he tumbled to the ground and was immediately replaced by Dempsey in attack.
Despite the hefty deficit Fulham battled hard at the start of the second half and were rewarded for their efforts on the hour mark when Damien Duff drilled a 25-yard effort past Simonsen to earn Fulham a foothold in the contest.
Barely a minute after Duff’s goal Clint Dempsey almost had the measure of Simonsen with a headed effort from 12 yards.
Dempsey had a further opportunity in front of goal after 69 minutes. Latching on to a long ball up-field the American turned his marker in the area before firing his volley over Simonsen’s cross bar.
At the other end Schwarzer produced a superb reflex save to deny Fuller’s deflected drive from the right hand side of the six-yard box after 74 minutes. The ball was flying inside Schwarzer’s inside post before the towering Aussie intervened with a truly instinctive save.
After 84 minutes play Clint Dempsey reduced the home side’s lead further with a stunning strike from 30 yards to take the score to 3-2. Dempsey latched onto a long ball up field before firing a vicious dipping volley over Simonsen’s head and into the back of the net.
Fulham were now within touching distance of claiming a remarkable draw at the Britannia Stadium but time was against them. During the five minutes of added time the Whites continued to attack in waves.
Stoke’s lead remained intact despite a valid penalty appeal that was denied when Shawcross appeared to handle the ball in the area. In the end Stoke were fortunate to walk away with all three points following an admirable second half rally from Fulham.