WEST BROMWICH: Felix Magath shouted so much advice and encouragement in FulHam’s 1-1 draw at fellow strugglers West Bromwich that, at one point, his chewing gum shot out of his mouth.
However, after warning that Fulham needed six wins from their 12 games to stay up, he saw the pressure ratcheted up because that is now 11 games. If he was angry that his new players let victory slip shortly before the end then he did not demonstrate it to the media after the game.
Fulham came within four minutes of a victory which would have lifted them off the foot of the table. They took a 28th-minute lead through Ashkan Dejagah but were denied a first victory in eight league and cup games by an 86th-minute equaliser from Matej Vydra.
That goal kept Fulham in last place but they are now only a point behind Cardiff after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were thrashed 4-0 at home by Hull.
Magath had described the match, beforehand, as “the biggest game in Fulham’s history”. He led the way off the team bus on arrival at The Hawthorns and Fulham followed that example by dictating much of the first half.
Fulham’s third manager of the season, burdened with the worst defence in the Premier League, did not demand anything complex in tactical terms. He deployed hard-working Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell in the centre of midfield, Lewis Holtby in a roaming role, while Dejagah provided a busy supply of crosses from the right wing.
Magath seldom stepped out into the technical area but, when he did, it was usually his ‘old boy’ Holtby whom he used to pass on his instructions. Later Magath said: “Lewis was busy. He was running a lot, running over the whole field.”
Fulham’s players may find themselves running a lot in training this week to step up fitness levels. Their energy levels faded after half-time. The pressure brought yellow cards for Sascha Riether, Parker and Johnny Heitinga as they allowed West Brom to press them back.
Eventually they conceded an equaliser the hosts deserved. West Brom, for example, had 16 shots compared with Fulham’s seven, had 63.9pc possession and made 496 passes compared with Fulham’s 282.
Magath said: “We were so near to a victory, we are disappointed but it was a fair result.
“We have had only a few days together. You cannot change many things. I crossed the fingers but that is not enough. We have to play 90 minutes and try to make no faults. We made too many faults in the second half.
“We lost the ball too early and came under pressure. If you get under pressure, one mistake will cost you a goal. We were away and I think it was not very good but a point is good.”
Magath refused to be more critical of Maarten Stekelenburg for the goalkeeper’s mistake which led to the goal. But as the pressure builds up – Fulham leaders Chelsea next Saturday then go to Cardiff – he may not be so forgiving in future.