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Fulham deserved victory over Blackburn

last updated Thursday 26th November 2009, 2:24 PM
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Nick Szczepanik at The Times

Fulham 3 Blackburn 0

There's no place like home for Fulham. After long trips to Rome, Wigan and Birmingham for the meagre reward of a draw and two unlucky defeats, Roy Hodgson's team enjoyed their return to the cosy confines of Craven Cottage and a first win in November.

Fulham's third successive home league win was neither pretty nor convincing, but it was enough to lift them to tenth place in the table. Hodgson was as pleased with his team's battling qualities and a first clean sheet in seven games as he was by a goal from Erik Nevland at the end of a poor first half and two from Clint Dempsey in a far livelier second period.

"That's a sweet victory, because I've seen us play better football, but you've got to be able to play against teams that don't want to let you play," Hodgson said.

For Blackburn Rovers, it was back to business as usual on their travels. They had lost ten successive games on the road before Saturday's first away victory of the season against Bolton Wanderers. They are especially fed up with trips to London, having lost on their two previous visits to the capital this season - a 6-2 defeat away to Arsenal and a 5-0 loss away to Chelsea.

Yet they could have been ahead after only two minutes but for Mark Schwarzer's rush from goal to block Franco Di Santo's shot, and they continued to make most of the running and all the chances.

Keith Andrews shot high when Jason Roberts touched on El-Hadji Diouf's low cross from the left, and Di Santo headed straight at Schwarzer when Fulham struggled to clear David Dunn's free kick.

Just when two efforts from Roberts with half-time approaching suggested that Blackburn must open the scoring, Fulham took the lead with a goal that belonged in a far better match, started and finished by Nevland. First he exchanged passes with Bobby Zamora, then flicked the ball out to Damien Duff on the right, who returned it for the Norwegian striker to beat Paul Robinson at his near post with a low drive. "The one really good move of the first half and we scored a good goal," Hodgson said.

Fulham came out for the second half with far more purpose, and went 2-0 up after 68 minutes, although there was an element of fortune when Duff cut in from the right and his left-foot shot was deflected wide of Robinson by Pascal Chimbonda's attempted block. Any hope that the goalkeeper had that the ball would go harmlessly past the post was extinguished as Dempsey arrived to score from close range, and the Texan turned Andrews two minutes from time to slip the ball home for his second goal.

It would not have improved the wellbeing of Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager, who missed a second consecutive match while awaiting heart surgery tomorrow.

"He'll be bitterly disappointed because we've lost," Neil McDonald, his assistant, said. "If we'd got the early goal, it would have settled us down. We played good stuff in the first half, but we were poor defensively and they were clinical."

Hodgson sent Allardyce his best wishes. "His team performed well and I'm looking forward to seeing him back," he said. "Credit to Blackburn, they were a threat and we had to show character."

Fulham (4-4-2): M Schwarzer - J Paintsil, A Hughes, B Hangeland, P Konchesky - D Duff (sub: S Davies, 85), J Greening (sub: D Etuhu, 81), C Baird, C Dempsey - R Zamora (sub: Z Gera, 59), E Nevland.
Substitutes not used: P Zuberb├╝hler, Seol Ki Hyeon, C Smalling, K Dikgacoi.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): P Robinson - L Jacobsen, C Samba, R Nelsen, P Chimbonda - K Andrews, D Dunn, V Grella, E-H Diouf - F Di Santo (sub: N Kalinic, 66), J Roberts (sub: B McCarthy, 66).
Substitutes not used: J Brown, M G Pedersen, S Nzonzi, D Hoilett, M Salgado.

Referee: S Attwell.
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