Fulham 2 Everton 1
Digging deep into the memory bank, Damien Duff scored a goal from his illustrious past to pull Fulham out of the bottom three and catapult them into the top half of the table yesterday – that's how daft league tables are at this stage of the season and Roy Hodgson, had a point when he said yesterday that he thought they should be ignored for the first 11 or 12 games.
"I've been preaching to the players it's where we are after 38 games that counts," the Fulham manager said. It was as hard to evaluate Fulham on the evidence of this one game as it was the four they have played. After the first half, few would have given them any chance of repeating last season's excellent seventh place finish, but the second half was a different story.
Even so, up until Duff's winner in the 79th minute it looked as if both sides would have been content with the draw that would have lifted both of them out of the bottom three. Certainly, Fulham were pushing the harder for a victory but at that stage there were few seriously alarming moments for Tim Howard in the Everton goal.
Nor did there seem one when the 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international – never a prolific scorer – stepped inside Leighton Baines, but with minimal backlift he arrowed a left-footer past the Everton keeper. It was fitting reward for Fulham's second-half effort if not their first.
"It's important when you move clubs and you are a quality player like Damien that you show the fans early on that, 'I'm a quality player'," Hodgson said.
For a while yesterday it looked as if the legacy of international duty could prove decisive in Everton's favour. Fulham's Mark Schwarzer underwent the long flight to Seoul in order to play in a friendly for Australia against South Korea and for his pains injured his neck, thereby ruling him out of yesterday's match.
Everton's Tim Cahill, on the other hand, was excused duty for the Aussies. Those details may have flashed across Hodgson's mind as Cahill headed past the debutant keeper David Stockdale after 33 minutes, not that the young man could be faulted for the goal.
Schwarzer apart, Everton were the ones who looked as though they might feel the pinch of absenteeism. Already without Phil Jagielka and Mikael Arteta, both of course long-term casualties, they arrived at Craven Cottage without the former Fulham favourite, in-form Louis Saha because of injury. Yet they largely dictated the first half and were deserving of the lead that Cahill gave them, even if Fulham should have been more alert to his aerial threat at set pieces.
To their credit, Fulham came out with serious intent at the start of the second half, although Everton could consider themselves a little unfortunate not to weather the storm.
The award of a free-kick for a foul by Phil Neville on John Pantsil looked dubious to begin with and then Murphy could do no more than strike the wall from it. The rebound fell nicely for Paul Konchesky's potent left foot and his shot benefited enormously from a fierce deflection off Sylvain Distin.
From then on it was much more like the old Fulham and Hodgson was particularly pleased with the way his side stood firm, with Stockdale and Murphy making successive goal-line clearances from Marouane Fellaini and Joseph Yobo.
As for Hodgson's opposite number David Moyes, there was more injury woe and he was not best pleased with a challenge from Dickson Etuhu that saw Neville carried off with what, thankfully, turned out to be nothing more serious than a gashed knee.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Duff (Davies, 85), Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey; Johnson (Kamara, 89), Zamora. Substitutes not used: Baird, Nevland, Gera, Greening, Zuberbühler (gk).
Everton (4-5-1); Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Distin, Baines; Osman (Yakubu, 81), Neville (Heitinga, 64), Rodwell, Cahill, Pienaar; Jo (Fellaini, 69). Substitutes not used: Bilyaletdinov, Vaughan, Gosling, Nash, (gk).
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: Fulham Murphy; Everton Baines.
Man of the match: Duff.