Time is quickly running out for Fulham. Needing nothing less than victory to revive their survival hopes, Scott Parker’s side passed up a series of opportunities that will only have increased their manager’s feeling of frustration.
Up against a team that were hoping to match a club record of four successivestraight Premier League away wins, the former midfielder who was crowned the Football Writers’ Association’s player of the year in 2011 despite West Ham being relegated watched his side dominate for large parts without ever quite finding the killer blow.
Instead it was David Moyes who left west London feeling the slightly happier of the two managers despite a controversial late red card for Tomas Soucek, as his side kept up their impressive start to the new year and moved three points clear of sixth-placed Chelsea.
“It was an embarrassing decision,” Moyes said of Mike Dean’s call to send off the Czech midfielder after his elbow appeared to accidentally catch Aleksandar Mitrovic in the face. “I’m amazed Mike chose to do something with it. I don’t think anyone in football management is convinced by the system we have at the moment.”
Fulham’s chances of avoiding relegation for the second time in three seasons look slimmer by the week as they stretched their winless run to 12 matches. Eight of those have been draws but after Newcastle’s victory over Southampton and Burnley’s draw with Brighton earlier in the day, Parker’s side now find themselves eight points adrift of the last safe spot with only 16 games remaining.
The visitors had scored at this ground in their last 16 visits and, given that Fulham had also conceded a goal in each of their last 28 London derbies, Moyes must have fancied his chances of recording yet another victory. But aside from a chance for Jarrod Bowen in the 12th minute when he just failed to connect with Aaron Cresswell’s superb cross, West Ham’s attacking players struggled to find their rhythm. Jesse Lingard provided a rare moment of quality just before the half-hour mark when his cross picked out Soucek but the Czech’s header was way off target.
A flowing Fulham counterattack that featured a brilliant run infield from Ivan Cavaleiro ended with Ademola Lookman’s shot from outside the area just missing the near post with Lukasz Fabianski beaten.
The former Everton forward looked the most likely source of a goal and it was his clever backheel that allowed Antonee Robinson to pick out Cavaleiro on the stroke of half-time, although his header was straight at Fabianski.
Any Fulham fans hoping for a change of fortune in the second half were left disappointed. Bobby Decordova-Reid could have made more of a brilliant pass from his captain, Joachim Andersen, but directed his volley just over the crossbar. Even more culpable, though, was Ruben Loftus‑Cheek, whose dinked finish after a defence‑splitting pass from Lookman missed by some distance when it seemed easier to score.
At the other end, Vladimir Coufal’s header that skimmed the crossbar after a deep cross from Declan Rice was the closest West Ham came to finding a breakthrough against the run of play. Tosin Adarabioyo also spurned a great chance with his head as Fulham pressed forward, before Cavaleiro lifted another effort hopelessly over the bar soon afterwards. Even the introduction of Mitrovic and Josh Maja – the former Sunderland striker signed on loan from Bordeaux – could not provide the moment Parker so desperately craved, with Loftus-Cheek’s shot in the dying minutes just inches away from deservedly sealing the points.
“We were superb from start to finish,” said Parker. “I don’t think we could have dominated the game any more than we did. We’ve taken some huge steps but the next one is the most important one.”