Premier League – McBride hero as Fulham win
The result pulls Fulham to within three points of safety, while Everton suffered a massive blow in their aspirations for Champions League football, staying three points behind local rivals Liverpool.
Fulham looked the better side in a somewhat tepid opening 45 minutes, playing neater, more progressive football but lacking either a killer pass to cap-off tidy midfield play, or pure inspiration from hard-working USA strike duo Brian McBride and Eddie Johnson.
The best chance of the half fell to McBride who, perhaps still rusty after returning from serious injury, could only send his angled volley wide after a superb pass from Simon Davies.
Everton, meanwhile, were sitting deep and looking for the counter attack after being forced to go 4-5-1 following the 14th minute withdrawal of Andy Johnson with an apparent groin strain, Yakubu with the only real opportunity of the half when he was given too much time and space to fire in a rising drive that Kasey Kelley parried.
The Toffees, perhaps mindful of their midweek UEFA Cup exertions, were more focused on being as tough to break down as one would expect of a side who had only conceded twice thus far in 2008.
They did have two penalty claims turned down either side of half-time though, first Leon Osman appearing to take a rap on the ankle from Aaron Hughes and then Joleon Lescott going to ground under pressure from Brede Hangeland when he had escaped his markers to attack a Mikel Arteta free kick.
Everton came out with more ambition in the second half, keeping the ball on the ground and working openings but, like Fulham, lacking the final pass.
Initially starting to control the period, they seemed to tire, the 120 minutes and penalties against Fiorentina on Wednesday clearly taking their toll. Fulham and their fans sensed this, the latter urging the former on as they started finding space and opportunity, particularly through the middle.
Visiting boss David Moyes also sensed the danger, bringing Leighton Baines on for Steven Pienaar in an attempt to shore things up. But it had little effect, McBride soon heading home Davies’s left wing cross after poor defending from Everton.
It was an emotional goal, created and scored by two former Everton players and particularly poignant for McBride, his first strike since returning from a knee injury that threatened to end his career.
Everton immediately tried to hit back, Lescott popping up on the right wing and forcing a corner that the unmarked Joseph Yobo somehow headed wide. But there was space for Fulham to break, Johnson firing over after Yobo’s mis-timed clearance when he really should have made compatriot Tim Howard work.
Fulham’s supporters were chewing their fingers to the bone for the last ten minutes, after so many late goals conceded under the stewardship of Lawrie Sanchez and – while Roy Hodgson’s side looked the more likely to get a second, Davies in particular finding himself in unexpected space on two occasions and mis-kicking his finishes – the relief was tangible when Steve Bennett blew the final whistle and The Whites gave themselves massive hope ahead of a run-in that includes fellow drop candidates Newcastle, Birmingham, Sunderland, Derby and Reading.