Fulham were without the injured midfield quartet of Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, Simon Davies and Damien Duff for Saturday’s Barclays Premier League encounter against West Brom at the Hawthorns.
Mark Hughes’ revised starting eleven featured three former Baggies in the form of Zoltan Gera, Jonathan Greening and Diomansy Kamara.
Fulham got the game underway in their green and gold Third Kit and Hughes’ Team made a blistering start to proceedings.
Clint Dempsey showed Fulham’s attacking intent early on with a rasping drive that just flew wide of Carson’s far post. Dempsey’s effort was a mere teaser for the main event moments later.
Torrential rain arrived at the Hawthorns after Dempsey’s strike and Zoltan Gera then stunned the Hawthrons with an absolute thunderbolt that handed Fulham the lead after just eight minutes of play.
The Hungarian collected the ball 30 yards from goal and smashed his right footed drive in off Carson’s far post. The ball did rebound off Carson’s back on the way in, but that couldn’t take the gloss off a truly vicious long range strike.
Diomansy Kamara came agonisingly close to doubling Fulham’s lead after 13 minutes, again testing Carson from distance. The striker’s right footed shot across goal from 25 yards clipped the outside post and fell wide. Fulham were looking so dangerous on the counter attack during the early stages of Saturday’s match.
After posing little threat early on the Baggies were back on level terms just before the 20 minute mark when the home side’s patient build up play resulted in Mulumba slipping the ball past Schwarzer from the right hand side of the area.
The Hawthorns erupted as Mulumba peeled away to celebrate. Fulham’s lead had been pulled back by what was West Brom’s first serious attack on goal.
Referee Keith Friend was letting the game flow much to the displeasure of the home support. A series of robust challenges by Fulham’s players were rightfully allowed to stand towards the half hour mark.
Fulham were finding plenty of space behind the Baggies’ midfield during the latter stages of the first half but several crucial interceptions denied the Whites at the final hurdle.
Fulham survived a scare on 38 minutes when Kelly was forced to head the ball off the line at the far post but West Brom were not to be denied when Fortune fired the ball past Schwarzer five minutes before the break.
The assist was provided from Thomas on the left wing, who was proving to be a thorn in Fulham’s side towards the end of the first half. The winger burst down the left flank and fired in a precise cross to set Fortune up for the finish. Fortune made no mistake with his low drive. The Baggies had the advantage at half-time at the Hawthorns.
The driving rain continued unabated at the start of the second half, as did Fulham’s will to reduce the deficit. The Whites were camped in West Brom’s half for the opening ten minutes of the second period, attacking towards over a thousand travelling supporters who had made the trip to the Midlands.
Roberto Di Matteo made a double substitution after 55 minutes. Bednar replaced Fortune in attack whilst Ibanez came on for Olsson at the heart of West Brom's defence.
The home side were looking to cause problems from the flanks and with an abundance of power and pace in the final third Di Matteo's side often looked threatening when the ball was played into a central position from deep.
Mark Hughes made his first change of the game before the hour mark and it was a welcome sight to see Andrew Johnson return to First Team duty. The former England striker replaced Kamara in attack.
It was West Brom’s striking substitute Bednar who was handed a half-chance on 65 minutes. The ball fell to Bednar at the far post but his lack of control allowed Schwarzer time to smother the ball at the striker’s feet. West Brom were beginning to take a firm grip on the game as the final twenty minutes approached.
Bednar then set up Scharner moments later and the midfielder’s strike from the right hand side of the area whistled past Schwarzer’s far post. West Brom had certainly moved up a gear and were looking to kill the game off. Scharner was offered a chance with a free-kick on Fulham’s 18 yard line after Greening had conceded ground just outside the box. Fortunately Scharner wasted the effort with a set piece that ballooned over Schwarzer’s goal.
Mark Hughes made his second change of the game with 17 minutes remaining. Chris Baird made way for Bjorn Helge Riise in midfield. As the game entered the final 15 minutes Fulham were finding opportunities hard to come by but with just a goal in it a point was always within reach.
During the final minutes of the game Andrew Johnson was proving to be a menace to West Brom’s defence in the final third. Even though the striker couldn’t rescue a point for Fulham he looks as sharp as ever judging by Saturday’s performance.