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Fulham 2-1 West Ham Prem 20 1314 The Guardian

last updated Thursday 02nd January 2014, 4:49 PM

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Paul Doyle at The Guardian

Fulham (1) 2 West Ham (1) 1

The last thing a manager needs when he is fighting for survival is for his most trusted lieutenant to shoot his team in the foot. So Sam Allardyce was dismayed when West Ham's captain, Kevin Nolan, earned a senseless red card in this bottom of the table battle and, in doing so, helped Fulham to prevail as West Ham were plunged deeper into trouble.

Nolan was sent off in the 44th minute with the score at 1-1 and a makeshift West Ham side still confident of ekeing out a win. That prospect receded when Nolan, frustrated at having a run blocked off by Fernando Amorebieta, booted the defender to the ground, obliging the referee Mark Clattenburg to reach for the red. Fulham dominated thereafter and secured victory through Dimitar Berbatov.

Allardyce's fondness for Nolan is such that he has signed him for three clubs - Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United as well as West Ham - so he was as perplexed as he was vexed by the 31-year-old's folly, especially as it came only three weeks after Nolan was sent off at Liverpool for an equally foolish tackle on Jordan Henderson. He faces a four-match ban.

"I don't quite understand why he's lost his cool," Allardyce said. "I know the centre-half has obstructed him and Mark Clattenburg didn't give a free-kick but it's still not an excuse for what Kevin Nolan did. He is responsible for us losing the game . and it has happened straight after what happened at Liverpool. There's certainly something wrong with his mentality at the minute. I haven't seen this type of reaction [from him] before . We'll deal with the situation internally."

The match had started well for West Ham even though a long casualty list forced Allardyce to field an unfamiliar three-man central defence featuring no specialist central defenders, the deal to sign Jonny Heitinga from Everton not having been completed. Fulham have defensive frailties too, and they were exposed in the seventh minute when Mohamed Diamé was allowed to take down a long free-kick from Jussi Jaaskelainen, turn 10 yards from the home goal and lash into the net. Although Fulham enjoyed the majority of possession Nolan nearly made it 2-0 with a close-range header in the 23rd minute but David Stockdale saved superbly.

Jon Arne Riise and Adel Taarabt threatened from long range for the hosts before Jasskelainen was forced into his first difficult save, clutching a volley from Berbatov. Moments later Modibo Maïga cleared a header by Amorebieta off the line. West Ham's injury woes worsened when Mark Noble suffered a calf strain and had to be replaced by Razvan Rat in the 32nd minute.

The visitors were still adapting to that change when Fulham equalised, Sidwell heading a Damien Duff corner into the net. Taarabt struck the post from 18 yards as Fulham threatened to take total control. The last thing West Ham needed was for their captain to lose his head but that is precisely what Nolan did.

The pressure from Fulham became relentless and in the 66th minute West Ham's defences burst. The substitute Alexander Kacaniklic delivered a low cross from the left and Scott Parker helped it on to Berbatov, who gleefully tapped into the net at the back post.

The result hoists Fulham out of the bottom three, four points ahead of West Ham in 19th place, for whom the urgency of recruiting well during this month's transfer window has just been underlined.

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