Premier League correspondent
LONDON // Avram Grant, the West Ham United manager, shook his fists in delight and relief at the final whistle. Fulham’s Mark Hughes stared at the ground as chants of revolt rang around the ground.
A loud chorus of “Hughes out” and “You don’t know what you are doing” swept the Craven Cottage stands.
Suddenly, Fulham are in the relegation mire. The home fans wasted little time in turning on Hughes, who took over from Roy Hodgson at the start of the season.
This West Ham win – their first away from home since the opening game of last season – lifted the London club off the bottom and level on points with Fulham.
What made it all the worse for the Fulham faithful was that they had seen their side take the lead, dominate most of the first half but then give the game to the Hammers with three gifts of goals.
“I can accept the frustration of some of the fans because it’s never good when you lose a home game like that,” Hughes said.
“We had been in control but then gave it away with some bad defending, which is unusual for us.
“I think the majority of our fans understand our big problem, that with [strikers Bobby] Zamora and [Moussa] Dembele having been out for so long and [Andy] Johnson only just back we lack a cutting edge up front.
“At 1-0 we had our chances to score again and control the game but we didn’t. And when you don’t defend as well as you can then you are going to pay.
“It is fair to say that we will be looking to bring a new man up front in the January transfer window. Hopefully, that will sort a few things out.”
Hughes expects to be making the decisions on that front, but Mohamed al Fayed, the Fulham owner, might be tempted to make a change of manager if things continue to go wrong. And situations can so easily snowball over the hectic Christmas period.
Given Grant’s rare display of emotion, he appears to think he is the man to save the Hammers, but even this victory might have come too late for him to escape the sack, not least since the three points came more through luck than good judgment.
In the opening phase, West Ham were weak everywhere: fragile at the back and limp in attack.
Fulham took the lead in the 11th minute when inept marking allowed Aaron Hughes, the centre-half, to head home unhindered from a poorly cleared corner.
The Hammers got their first break in the 37th minute. Freddie Sears, the young striker who has returned from a loan spell in the Championship at Scunthorpe United, added some energy and enterprise on the right.
He lashed over a cross which Dickson Etuhu, the Fulham midfielder, lazily deflected into the path of Carlton Cole. The England forward showed no hesitation to sweep home from close range.
Flat-footed marking just before the interval allowed Frederic Piquionne to side-foot home a Scott Parker cross to make it 2-1.
In the 73rd minute another assist by a Fulham defender invited Cole to score two goals in a Premier League game for the first time in his career. Carlos Salcido, the Mexican right-back, nodded the ball straight into his path.
The big issue for West Ham is how they build on this win at home to Everton tomorrow and then against fellow stragglers Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend.
For Fulham, they have to start turning good performances into points.