Two first-half goals from Bobby Zamora and a strike from Dickson Etuhu helped Fulham secure a valuable win over Blackpool at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
The Whites wasted little time in putting Blackpool under pressure with Carlos Salcido and Mousa Dembele enjoying early success down the left flank. The jolt of attacking action from Fulham seemed to take Blackpool out of their early, more patient pace as they struggled to maintain possession in their half.
The visitors eventually reorganised and danger man Charlie Adam fired off a range-finder from long-range which sailed harmlessly over Mark Schwarzer’s bar. With Dickson Etuhu breaking up play superbly in the middle of the park, the visitors were unable to build from midfield.
Damien Duff struck the post following a wonderful attacking move from the Whites involving Dembele, Dempsey and Zamora. But Richard Kingston produced a stunning reaction save to divert the ball onto the post.
Kingston was called into action again on 20 minutes when he had to get his body behind a fearsome drive from Chris Baird, who looked determined to find the net from distance.
Just as Blackpool looked to be building up a head of steam, Bobby Zamora gave Fulham the lead with a confident finish on 23 minutes. A loose pass from James Beattie rolled into the path of Zamora some 50 yards out. The striker, accompanied by two Blackpool defenders, raced away toward goal and lashed a powerful right footed shot past Kingston from the edge of the area.
Zamora doubled Fulham’s lead five minutes later with a well-placed header from Damien Duff’s pinpoint free-kick.
Blackpool appeared undeterred by the score line and proceeded to produce their most positive passage of play – albeit without forcing Mark Schwarzer into action.
Chris Baird came to Fulham’s rescue on 41 minutes when his alert defending denied a certain goal for Brett Ormerod. With Mark Schwarzer coming out to punch clear a diagonal ball, Ormerod rose highest and beat the Fulham keeper to the punch, sending a header towards goal. Fortunately, Baird was able to get back in time and put the ball past the post.
The second-half got off to a far more measured start than the first, with both sides looking to maintain their shape. Charlie Adam was once again pulling the strings for Ian Holloway’s side in the middle of the park but Fulham were able to successful contain his influence.
Blackpool offered a timely reminder of their attacking threat when James Beattie struck the outside of the post after latching on to a through ball and holding off Carlos Salcido in the area.
Andrew Johnson replaced Zamora on 61 minutes with Zamora seemingly having picked up a knock. The two-goal striker went off to a standing ovation.
Blackpool soon started to frustrate the Whites by maintaining possession well at the back, but without venturing forward with any real commitment. In a bid to get more out of his team, Ian Holloway made a triple substitution on 67 minutes.
Fulham put the game beyond Blackpool’s reach on 72 minutes courtesy of a goal from Dickson Etuhu. The midfielder rounded of an impressive performance tapping in Brede Hangeland’s driven cross after Clint Dempsey’s header struck the post.
Fulham looked to find a fourth and it nearly came on 75 minutes when Clint Dempsey fired wide from close range. Danny Murphy made way for Steve Sidwell and Damien Duff was replaced by Simon Davies as Mark Hughes looked to maintain Fulham’s three-goal advantage and run out the clock.
The Seasiders piled on the pressure late on, penning the Whites back in the final minutes. Aaron Hughes left the pitch in extra time after failing to recover from a heavy knock to the head. That saw the Whites finish with ten men as Chris Baird moved into the centre of defence and Simon Davies took up the right-back slot. But despite their numerical disadvantage Fulham held firm right up to the final whistle.