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Fulham come back against Birmingham City thanks to Clint Dempsey
James Callow at Craven Cottage - 3 years ago

Having spent more than half an hour making a one-goal deficit look like a lost cause, Fulham stirred from their slumber to take a point off in-form Birmingham City and ease the pressure on Mark Hughes.

In a game between sides with differing styles, the greatest contrast was between the limp home team cut to ribbons by Alexander Hleb in the first half, and the vibrant, purposeful group that dominated the second and equalised through Clint Dempsey.

The point leaves Fulham in 17th position, although Hughes was quick to place the draw in context: "We are very aware of where we are but we are only five points away from seventh," he said. "We just need to get some of our injured players back but I've been happy with the guys who have come in. I expect Birmingham are far happier with a point than we are."

Not that Alex McLeish is paying much attention to his side's away form, despite going without a win on their travels since early March, at Portsmouth.

"I couldn't care less, if we keep winning at home," he said. "Some day we'll win away from home, maybe not in the next two years but as long as we stay in the Premier League I'll be delighted."

Birmingham's five-man midfield suggested an inclination for containment but they took the lead with a counterattacking goal of incisive simplicity.

Danny Murphy was harried off the ball by Liam Ridgewell, who played in Hleb on the left-hand side. The Belarussian still had 30 yards to travel, but managed to hold held off the attention of Chris Baird and Aaron Hughes before stopping dead and playing a beautifully weighted pass to his former Arsenal team-mate Sebastian Larsson, who fired a crisp shot into the far corner.

Fulham struggled to get behind Birmingham, a problem against a side whose central defenders rarely let a high ball go by. In mitigation, Hughes's side were without their three most incisive strikers, Moussa Dembélé, Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson, but an agitated home crowd were far from sympathetic at half-time.

That Fulham could equalise was down to a remarkable boost in spirits and a canny piece of improvisation. Simon Davies bent his corner away from Birmingham's sentry of giants and towards Zoltan Gera, who had peeled away at the far post. The Hungarian headed back towards Dempsey, who vaulted over Keith Fahey to head home, unfairly according to McLeish.

"Dempsey had both hands on [Fahey's] shoulders so there was no way he could have jumped. I can't believe it was given," he said.

Fulham continued to press forward and were lifted further when Hleb was taken off shortly after the hour, but Dempsey and Eddie Johnson failed to convert chances to seal victory.

THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT CHRIS LLOYD, Observer reader I'm disappointed we didn't win the match, we controlled the game and had loads of chances. It should have been two- or three-one. Their goal was a gift -we really shouldn't concede goals like that. The game shows how we lack a real killer punch without Zamora and how influential he was last season. Murphy had an OK match, whilst Dempsey worked his socks off as always. Johnson was dreadful and Hughes must be frustrated with him, given the goals he has scored in previous seasons. We've been unlucky with injuries this season - which reflects our poor position.

The fan's player ratings Schwarzer 6; Baird 6, Hangeland 6,Hughes 7, Salcido 4 (Pantsil 24 7); Davies 6 (Johnson 73 4), Murphy 6, Etuhu 6, Dempsey 7; Gera 6; Kamara 4

JON BERRY, Observer reader We have to be reasonably happy because it's a good point away from home. As always it was a hugely competent and very efficient performance from a disciplined McLeish team. The senior players continue to hold us together, and its amazing what they continue to do us for every week. The goal we scored was absolutely beautiful! And uncharacteristically, we conceded by a set-piece, I'm not too concerned about that, though. Despite the result, I would like to see us try to be a bit more adventurous - particularly against the league's lesser teams.

The fan's player ratings Foster 7; Carr 7, Dann 7, Johnson 8, Ridgewell 7; Larsson 7, Ferguson 7, Bowyer 6, Hleb 7 (Zigic 61 4), Fahey 5 (Murphy 85 6); Jerome 6

To take part in the Fans' Verdict, email sport@observer.co.uk

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

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