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Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 17:12 UK

Fulham 1-0 Stoke

By John May

John Pantsil and Stoke's Danny Pugh duel in the sun at Craven Cottage
John Pantsil and Stoke's Danny Pugh duel in the sun at Craven Cottage

Substitute Erik Nevland kept Fulham on course for their best top-flight finish with the winner against a hard-working but one-dimensional Stoke.

Nevland led a swift break and then got on the end of Andrew Johnson's cross to notch his third goal of the season.

Stoke offered plenty of endeavour but rarely stretched a well-organised Fulham defence.

The result left Stoke still searching for the point they need to probably ensure their Premier League status.

The Potters still have home matches against West Ham and Wigan to come and will be confident of staving off the threat of relegation in their first season back in the big time.

Europe would be 'incredible bonus' - Hodgson

Rory Delap might have put Stoke ahead inside the opening minute but the midfielder volleyed over from 12 yards after being left in an alarming amount of space at a corner.

Johnson whipped in a dangerous cross from the right flank but neither Bobby Zamora nor Clint Dempsey were able to make contact as they raced in.

Delap fired the ball into the crowd for a second time as he burst from midfield into a promising shooting position.

Stoke kept a compact, well-organised shape, presenting Fulham with two solid banks of four, preventing the home side from threading passes through.

Fulham were forced into an early substitution with Nevland replacing Zamora and he maintained his reputation as an impact player by putting his side ahead on 31 minutes.

We're still not safe - Pullis

Delap's long throw into the Fulham box was cleared and Stoke were desperately under-manned as Nevland led the break. The Norwegian slipped the ball wide to Johnson and made ground into the box to get on to the end of the cross.

It was Johnson's last action before he limped off and Diomansy Kamara came on as Fulham lost both their starting strikers.

Stoke almost provided an instant reply when Liam Lawrence rifled a powerul shot inches wide.

Fulham should have doubled their lead with a well-worked free-kick straight from the training ground, but Dixon Etuhu contrived to shovel Paul Konchesky's cross over the bar from six yards.

Abdoulaye Faye remained cool enough after winning a race with Dempsey to tidy up but his under-hit backpass sold Thomas Sorensen short and Nevland's challenge for the ball on the keeper earned the Fulham striker a yellow card.

606: DEBATE
Boothenbrother

Fulham had done their homework and by detailing the giant Hangeland to attack the ball annulled the threat not only from Delap's long throw but from all the set-plays which often prove so fruitful for Stoke.

Stoke eventually loaded in enough men at a set-piece but Ryan Shawcross headed down powerfully and the ball bounced over the Fulham bar.

As the Potters searched for an equaliser and the point that would probably seal their Premier League status Liam Lawrence's goal-bound shot was bravely blocked by Konchesky.


Fulham boss Roy Hodgson:
"There's no guarantee we'll be in the top seven in four games time, a lot can happen before then.

"It would be an honour and a tribute to the work the players have put in if we could sneak seventh place.

"But four other teams, plus ourselves can take it and it depends on who can keep their season going to the death and get the right results."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis:
"I don't think either team created a lot of chances, we certainly didn't.

"Ryan Shawcross and Ricardo Fuller had the best of ours but we didn't hit the target.

"We're desperate to get to 40 points, we had a go but Fulham have a very good record at home."


Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky (Baird 82), Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Gera, Zamora (Nevland 20), Johnson (Kamara 34).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Dacourt, Gray, Stoor.

Booked: Nevland.

Goals: Nevland 29.

Stoke: Sorensen, Kelly (Sonko 83), Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Pugh (Dickinson 87), Lawrence, Whelan, Delap, Etherington, Fuller, Cresswell (Camara 83).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Cort, Tonge.

Booked: Lawrence, Shawcross.

Att: 25,069

Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Fulham's Brede Hangeland, 8.83 (on 90 minutes). Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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