Fulham up and running at last as they claim first win and clean sheet at West Brom's expense
Fulham 2 West Brom 0
Bobby Reid’s third goal of the season and a first for Ola Aina in Fulham colours paved the way for a desperately-needed first win of the season.
The double came in a four-minute spell before the half hour mark and was just what the doctor ordered after a grim start to the campaign which has already cast the Whites as firm relegation favourites for many neutral observers. This was a controlled display that should raise confidence levels.
Scott Parker badly needs to find a dependable formula after the defensive catastrophies of the opening weeks and he will draw plenty of encouragement from the fact a much-changed back five offered far greater resistance than previous formations.
There was a sound debut for the Dane Joachim Andersen – on loan from Lyon - alongside Tosin Adarabioyo, the man with the thousand vowels.
And if those two names do not yet readily roll off the tongue for Fulham fans fed a diet of Ream, Odoi and Le Marchand in recent times, it may yet become a partnership that endures.
A first Premier League clean sheet of the season was almost as heartening as the three points, which have lifted the Whites out of the bottom three and above fellow-promotion outfit Albion, who are still without a win after seven matches.
There were other pluses too, including another eye-catching effort from Ademola Lookman on the left flank, and the surging dashes forward from full-backs Robinson and Olna. Aleksandar Mitrovic was not on the scoresheet, but two assists showed his worth, even as he negotiates a dip in form.
Whites stopper Alphonse Areola was almost embarrassed in the opening moments when a drifting cross by Conor Townsend from the left dipped onto the crossbar, but the hosts were soon taking charge of this early-evening encounter.
Moments after Reid had fired a speculative effort wide, he was in just the right place to nod home from a couple of yards in the 26th minute, after Mitrovic had invitingly headed an Antonee Robinson cross back into the danger zone.
And just two minutes later, Aina cracked home his first goal for the club, his left foot shot arrowing sweetly past Sam Johnstone after a neat exchange of passes with Mitrovic on the right edge of the Albion area.
Karlan Krant missed a great opportunity to get Albion quickly back into the game, but fired wide, with the target seemingly at his mercy.
But the Whites kept trying to press home their advantage and a fine Tom Cairney charge from half way ended with Andre-Frank Zamba Anguissa stinging Johnstone’s palms.
Johnstone was caught in no-man's land and almost paid the price when Cairney’s chip beat him and needed clearing off the line, while Reid’s follow-up was blocked. But with the game now in its final 10 minutes, the need for a third goal was not essential.
It must have been a strange evening for former Chelsea great Bransilav Ivanovic – now with the Baggies. Back in west London via St Petersburg. But not even this great warrior could help Albion salvage anything from the night.
Fulham: Areola – Aina, Adarabioyo, Andersen, Robinson – Anguissa, Lemina (Reed h/t), Cairney – Reid (Cavaleiro 84), Mitrovic, Lookman (Bryan 90). Subs not used: Rodak, Odoi, Ream, Loftus-Cheek