Following Fulham’s European heroics on Thursday evening, Roy Hodgson elected to give a number of players a much-needed period of recovery for the visit of West Ham.
Fulham looked the more inventive early on when Bjorn Helge Riise fired a teasing low delivery across the face of the West Ham six yard box on seven minutes.
West Ham’s forward line was manned by Carlton Cole and Araujo Ilan, they were up against Chris Baird and Chris Smalling in what made for an intriguing battle. Despite the clear disparity in height between Cole and Baird, the Fulham defender won more than his fair share of balls in the air.
Whilst there was plenty of industry on show from both sides in the midfield area, neither side was able to craft an opening of any note as defences were most certainly on top in the opening 20 minutes.
A fast counter-attack from the Whites on 21 minutes saw Kagisho Dikgacoi play the ball into the path of the rapidly advancing Erik Nevland, unfortunately Robert Green was off his line quickly to clear the danger just before Nevland was able to apply the decisive touch. West Ham immediately forged an opportunity of their own when Mark Noble turned on the edge of the penalty area and forced a fine save from Mark Schwarzer.
As the game started to open up Clint Dempsey received a first-time pass from Nevland and struck a shot which just clipped the top of the crossbar. Fulham were certainly attacking with great purpose as the game took on a more direct style.
When not in possession the Whites did well to maintain their shape which resulted in West Ham often working the ball across the pitch in search of a forward pass.
With the first-half seemingly heading for the interval lacking any real incident, Manuel da Costa drilled a powerful 30-yard shot which Schwarzer could only parry behind for a corner. From the ensuing set-piece Radoslav Kovac headed just wide.
Clint Dempsey gave Fulham the lead with the final piece of action before the half-time whistle. Dempsey started the move off by chesting the ball to Simon Davies who took a touch before playing the American in behind the West Ham defence. Dempsey did well to clip a smart finish past Green at his near post.
Fulham started the second-half well and had West Ham on the back foot almost straight off the bat when Jonathan Greening’s powerful 50 yard run down the left resulted in a corner for the Whites.
Fulham doubled their lead on 58 minutes when a half-cleared corner fell to Chris Baird, his shot cannoned offCarlton Cole and flew past Robert Green into the net. Cole made amends minutes later when he got the faintest of touches to Scott Parker’s free-kick, enough to steer it away from Mark Schwarzer and into the back of the net.
The goal certainly injected a greater sense of urgency into the Hammers’ attacking movements as both sides were now looking likely to score.
Simon Davies made way for Stefano Okaka on 69 minutes. Okaka joined Clint Dempsey in attack, allowing Erik Nevland to take up a position on the right flank. It proved to be a shrewd tactical move as Nevland robbed Jonathan Spector of possession in a dangerous area on 79 minutes. With Okaka taking up a fine position at the far post, Nevland played an accurate final pass to the Italian Under-21 international who applied a simple finish.
The goal appeared to subdue West Ham, who up to that point had been threatening to get back on level terms.
David Elm replaced Clint Dempsey on 85 minutes as Fulham looked to see out the remaining minutes with their two-goal cushion intact. But Guillermo Franco set up a nervy final few minutes when he fired past Schwarzer after good work form Scott Parker - but it was too little too late from the Hammers.