Fulham 0 West Ham 1

Three consecutive away wins - four if you include our Worthington Cup success at Chesterfield - and Hammers are heading up the table after a totally deserved 1-0 victory over Fulham at Loftus Road.

Forget the fact that Paolo Di Canio's winner came from the penalty spot with just two minutes of normal time left. West Ham controlled the first half and should have had the cushion of at least a two-goal lead by the interval.

There was no doubt about the penalty award either, referee Ron Styles pointing straight to the spot after Zat Knight sliced down Jermain Defoe as he prepared to shoot. The England under-21 defender was shown the obligatory red card to add to Fulham's misery.

Di Canio, the two-goal hero at Stamford Bridge recently, showed his liking for west London again by calmly stepping up and side-footing a firm shot low to Van Der Sar's left - no cheeky chip this time.

The Italian had Hammers' only shot of the second half just three minutes earlier - an audacious right-foot volley from 25 yards that was easily held by the Dutch keeper.

But Fulham, who could have gone fourth in the Premiership with a win tonight, mustered only one strike on target themselves all game!

Marlet, who was otherwise well controlled by Ian Pearce and Tomas Repka, fired five yards wide from 20 yards, but more than an hour of the game has passed by then. Jean Tigana decided to shuffle his pack after Saturday's home draw with Manchester United but Fulham never found any rhythm and it was West Ham who looked more like a side eyeing a European place.

Eduoard Cisse for Steve Lomas (illness) was the only change from the side that won by the only goal at Sunderland on Saturday and it was the visitors, with a new variation of 4-4-2, who seized the initiative.

After only six minutes Defoe looked to have given Hammers the lead when he hit a first-time shot into the net after getting behind Knight to receive Joe Cole's clever through ball, but the effort was ruled out for offside.

Defoe should have made sure Hammers went in front soon after Melville blundered badly at the back for Fulham, but the England under-21 striker aimed his volley straight at Van Der Sar.

An even more presentable volleying opportunity fell to Di Canio five minutes later but the skipper completely failed to connect and another excellent chance went begging.

Di Canio, Defoe and Trevor Sinclair (sporting a fetching new pair of red boots) caused Fulham's shaky back four plenty of concern in the first half. A sign of increasing confidence from the East Enders came when Di Canio outwitted Finnan by the left touchline and scooped a sublime pass to Sinclair, whose rasping, scissors-volley had Van Der Sar at full stretch.

Cole, who ran more freely before the break, tested the Dutchman a minute later but the goal still wouldn't come and Fulham surely had to improve in the second half.
But the Cottagers looked anything but at home in Shepherds Bush.

Glenn Roeder seems to have found his most effective central defensive pairing in Pearce and Repka, while Christian Dailly provides height at right-back. With Scott Minto also solid, Fulham never really looked like troubling David James.

Now let's hope those successive away wins against Chelsea, Sunderland and Fulham can transform Hammers' home form when Everton visit Upton Park this coming Sunday.


4 - After Sinclair is fouled on the left, Di Canio's inswinging free-kick is met by Cisse, whose downward header is held comfortably by Van der Sar.

5 - Hammers look to have taken the lead as Cole's measured through-ball releases Defoe and the young striker fires the ball past Van der Sar into the roof of the net. However, the celebrations are halted by the raised flag of the linesman, who awards a very tight offside decision.

9 - Repka booked for foul on Boa Morte.

14 - Defoe misses a glorious opportunity to give Hammers the lead, as he takes advantage of Melville's slip to latch on to David James' long punt upfield but, perhaps not realising how much time he has as the ball drops in the penalty area, snatches at a right foot shot that Van der Sar blocks. After the loose ball isn't cleared, Cole then sees his shot deflected just past the post for a corner.

21 - This time it's Di Canio's turn to waste a golden chance, as Knight can only head Defoe's cross into the path of the Italian, who is unmarked in front of goal. Unusually, though, Di Canio completely misses his attempted left-foot volley, and the danger is cleared by Finnan.

28 - After Minto is fouled by Boa Morte on the edge of the penalty area, Di Canio touches the free-kick to Defoe, whose shot is charged down by a defender.

32 - Boa Morte booked for foul on Di Canio.

33 - Sinclair dives to head Di Canio's free-kick from the right, but the ball flies just the wrong side of the post.

36 - A moment of sheer magic, as Dailly's raking crossfield pass finds Di Canio on the left wing. The Italian cuts inside and scoops the ball up for Sinclair, who bursts into the area and jumps to volley a stunning first-time effort that is somehow kept out by a magnificent reflex save by Van der Sar on its way to the top corner.

37 - Cole sees Van der Sar deny him a piece of brilliance this time, as he runs from the halfway line, beating three players on his way into the box before firing in a low shot that is well held by the Fulham keeper.

42 - Cisse booked for foul on Boa Morte.

43 - Fulham register their first real effort on target, as a dangerous corner from the left is only half-cleared by Dailly and Hayles leaps to fire in an overhead volley that is comfortably held by James.

Added time: 1 minute.

Half-time: Fulham 0 West Ham United 0.

Second Half:

46 - Substitution for Fulham, Djetou for Inamoto.

53 - Boa Morte's dangerous cross from the left looks to be dropping perfectly for Hayles until Repka's excellent defensive header thwarts the attack.

59 - Boa Morte latches on to a mistake by Cole and cuts the ball back for Marlet, whose goalbound effort is well blocked by Pearce.

63 - Marlet collects a pass from Malbranque on the edge of the area and fires in a rising shot that just clears the crossbar.

73 - Dailly booked for foul on Boa Morte.

78 - Substitute for Fulham, Stolcers replaces Boa Morte.

85 - Di Canio almost pulls off another goal of the season contender as he instantly volley's Defoe's nod-down goalwards from 30 yards out, but Van der Sar is positioned well to deal with the effort.

86 - Malbranque skips into the area and turns well past Sinclair before unleashing a fierce shot that flies across the goalmouth and just past the post for a goal-kick.

88 - Defoe takes advantage of another slip from Marlet and races into the area before being blatantly brought down by Knight as he prepares to shoot. Referee immediately points to the spot and adds insult to injury for Fulham by sending Knight off for a professional foul.

89 - GOAL! Paolo Di Canio steps up and fires the spot-kick into the corner of the net for what must be a deserved winner. Fulham 0 West Ham United 1.

Added time: 3 minutes.

Full-time: Fulham 0 West Ham United 1.