Three points for Cottagers lifts them away from relegation zone
A Clint Dempsey and Andy Johnson-inspired Fulham recorded just their sixth league win this season against Stoke City at Craven Cottage as they created more distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
A lively first half started with Stoke on top, keeping possession and not allowing the hosts a foothold on the game. It took the visitors just five minutes to get their first sight of goal and they should have scored.
Matthew Etherington floated a free-kick into the penalty area where Ryan Shawcross beat Aaron Hughes in the air, only to nod just wide of the post.
It didn’t take Fulham long to respond to Stoke’s pressure however, as Damien Duff cut inside from the right and unleashed a screamer, only for the finger tips of Asmir Begovic to tip the shot on to the crossbar.
After a decent shot from 25 yards by Danny Murphy, the match appeared to settle down with both sides wanting time on the ball, but Fulham then went close again through the dangerous Duff, as he once again cut inside and produced a curling shot that Begovic parried away. The ball then appeared to hit Shawcross on the arm, but nothing was given with Fulham seemingly justified in their anger.
The 27th minute produced a rare chance for Stoke with Kenwyne Jones getting on the end of a failed clearance by Chris Baird only to have his shot cannon onto the outside of the right-hand post, and it proved costly as five minutes later, Fulham were one up.
it was the result of brilliant play by Andy Johnson – who appears to be finding form once again – as he turned Ryan Shawcross and then played the ball into the six yard box where Dempsey, Fulham's leading scorer this season, was there to bury it.
The goal was nothing more than the Cottagers deserved as the two teams went into the break awaiting very different team talks, with Stoke looking very lacklustre against a side they would have hoped to beat.
The second half started with a similar pattern to the first half. Stoke began by applying the pressure, but Fulham soon took over.
It all went pear-shaped for Stoke when Shawcross fouled Dempsey in the penalty area, and as the last man, the referee had no option but to give the former Manchester United defender a straight red card.
Dempsey stood up to the challenge of taking the penalty by hitting it fairly centrally, but gave Begovic no chance.
A flurry of substitutions – including John Carew making his debut for Stoke - altered the tempo of the match after Dempsey’s second, but it was Fulham who continued to look the more dangerous with Andy Johnson causing the Stoke backline no end of problems.
A long ball from Murphy was brilliantly brought down by the eight-times-capped England international, but Begovic managed to save his left-footed shot as Fulham refused to let-up the pressure on the Stoke penalty area.
The match continued until the end in a similar fashion with the home side knocking the ball around confidently, whereas Stoke failed to do much right during the entire 90 minutes.
The result moves Fulham four points clear of the bottom three, while Stoke remain in mid-table.