Fulham earn battling point at Birmingham
Fulham halted their losing run with a battling 1-1 away draw against Birmingham at St. Andrew's but still face a difficult end to their Sky Bet Championship season.
Former Chelsea starlet Rohan Ince gave Fulham a crucial first half lead with only the second goal of his career but skipper Michael Morrison rescued a point for Birmingham early in the second half.
The result did neither club any favours. Fulham may have earned their first point from six games but remain close to the relegation area, while Birmingham's hopes of making the top six suffered another setback.
Yet again they struggled to beat a lowly club at home and this has been their major failure in a season which has often promised great things.
There were few early signs of a goal avalanche that occurred in the last meeting between these two clubs when a Clayton Donaldson hat-trick enabled Birmingham to romp to a 5-2 win at Craven Cottage.
Birmingham slowly assumed control and pressurised the suspect Fulham defence which has conceded a lot of goals in recent games to put the Londoners into a relegation dog-fight.
Dan Burn, a former Birmingham loan player, was a late inclusion to deal with the threat of Donaldson and he found himself deeply involved in the early play as Birmingham strived to gain the upper hand.
Fulham's attacks were infrequent and as a result neither of their leading goalscorers, Ross McCormack or Moussa Dembele, received support to be a major threat early on.
Dembele did figure prominently on one occasion when he forcibly gained possession to knock the ball back into the path of Emerson Hyndman but his shot was blocked.
Birmingham's first opportunity came when David Cotterill forced his way through to pull the ball back to Jon Toral only for the on-loan Arsenal player to bustle his effort just wide.
The closest either side came to scoring in the first half occurred in the 23rd minute when Scott Parker decided to move forward into a more attacking role.
Fulham's captain jinked his way almost in slow motion to Birmingham's near post before making a delicate high chip which Jonathan Grounds headed off the line.
There was always a potential threat when Fulham managed to break clear as McCormack demonstrated when he put Dembele in possession only for the French teenager to weakly shoot straight at Tomasz Kuszczak.
But in the 38th minute the experience of McCormack saw the Scot begin the move with a cross-field pass to Tom Cairney who fed it into the path of Ince.
He scored with a low angled shot which Kuszczak fumbled into the net to give Fulham a crucial lead close to the break.
It was an advantage they held on to precariously. Only a brilliant reflex save by Marcus Bettinelli prevented Jonathan Spector equalising with a close range header.
But it was only a temporary reprieve as in the 56th minute skipper Morrison headed low into the far corner to convert a cross from Cotterill.
Following this goal the game became hectic and untidy as both sides strived for the winner.
Neither side needed reminding of the need to break the stalemate and Birmingham substitute Jacques Maghoma hit the foot of the post with a long range shot.
The ball cannoned off the post, hit Bettinelli and bounced over the bar and that was as close either side came to a winner.