West Brom 0 Fulham 0
It was a nervy affair at the Hawthorns, at least for those watching, but the Baggies secured the point that kept a top two spot in their own hands. A win would have been a great result, but a draw with one of the Championship’s form sides is not a bad outcome.
Slaven Bilić will probably feel that his side edged it, but it could have gone either way. Albion were a little sluggish for the first 20 minutes and the visitors could have easily taken the lead but, after the drinks break, they came more into the game and there was little to choose between the sides at half time.
The hosts definitely had the better of the second half and had some great opportunities with Grady Diangana and Semi Ajayi coming closest to opening the scoring for Albion. Anthony Knockaert struck the bar with a fierce shot but Fulham were otherwise largely kept at bay by a disciplined Albion defence. There were one or two moments at set pieces but Sam Johnstone was generally untroubled.
It was no surprise to see Ahmed Hegazi to come back into the team to marshal Mitrović, and he did an excellent job. Semi Ajayi also put in an accomplished performance alongside him while Dara O’Shea put in the sort of mature, disciplined display that we have come to expect from the youngster.
I must mention Jake Livermore – he has come in for criticism recently but I thought he played very well today, particularly in the second half , His energy, ball winning and intelligent passing were one of the key reasons behind Albion’s overall dominance in the second half.
While Bilić may have got his changes wrong at Blackburn, I think he was bang on tonight. Grosicki looked a little off the pace in the first half, and Matt Phillips certainly added some energy on the right wing while Diangana looked much happier of the left hand side. Austin put his usual 60 minutes in – he worked hard but never really got a sniff.
Matheus Pereira was excellent once again, although his play acting did leave much to be desired, and it is perhaps something that Bilić needs to get him to change – it is definitely part of his footballing culture, but he will quickly gain a reputation in England which won’t help him.
Albion’s second half performance didn’t produce as many clear cut chances as we might have expected, but Fulham defended superbly well. Let’s not forget that this was their fifth successive clean sheet.
While a draw is not a bad result given the opposition, it does mean that Albion cannot afford to drop any more points assuming Brentford win their remaining games. However, should the Bees lose to Preston on Wednesday evening, a win at Huddersfield on Friday night would see the Baggies over the line.
But whatever Thomas Frank’s side do, if Albion continue to play as well as they have in the last five games, they should secure the six points they need from the last two games. The pressure is on, but Slav’s boys are up for it.