West Brom 0-0 Fulham: Second-placed Baggies move four points clear of Brentford in race for automatic promotion after stalemate
- West Brom kept their automatic promotion hopes in their own hands
- The Baggies will go up if they win their remaining two league games
- Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak denied Grady Diangana from close range
- Fulham winger Anthony Knockaert struck the crossbar with a dipping half-volley
West Brom have been able to see the finishing line for most of the season but as it draws closer, they are struggling to take those final, decisive strides.
Slaven Bilic’s team have been in the Championship’s top two since October but still they cannot seal the deal.
This point against Fulham, Albion’s second in succession, ensures two more wins will take them up but if third-placed Brentford beat Preston on Wednesday, the gap between the sides will be down to a single point.
Anthony Knockaert rattled the bar in the second-half with a superb volley for Fulham
Had Anthony Knockaert’s late volley dropped an inch lower, West Brom would have ended the day empty-handed.
Luckily for them, it hit the bar, meaning Fulham’s chances of going up automatically have all but disappeared – though their play-off spot is guaranteed.
West Brom travel to Huddersfield on Friday and Bilic is furious at their hectic schedule.
He said: ‘The only thing I’m not happy about is Friday night. From the Hull game to the Huddersfield game it’s five in 13 games. It’s too much. I don’t think it has ever happened before – but so be it.
Grady Diangana was denied by a superb save by Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak
‘I won’t watch the Brentford-Preston game as it will only make me nervous but I will check on my phone. I am going to be a big Preston fan of course.’
West Brom’s best chance arrived midway through the second half when Fulham keeper Marek Rodak got a foot to Grady Diangana’s close-range effort, sending it just wide of the post.
The home side’s first scare came in the 21st minute when Ahmed Hegazi hacked clear from inside the six-yard box after Ivan Cavaleiro had headed Knockaert’s ball back across goal.
Albion playmaker Matheus Pereira struggled to impose himself on the match and was involved in an angry exchange of words with Fulham manager Scott Parker shortly before half-time. Soon afterwards, Albion’s Charlie Austin headed off the line.
Fulham striker Aleksander Mitrovic heads over the crossbar from close range
Season at a glance
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Bilic switched Diangana from right to left for the second half and the move nearly paid off in the 68th minute. Hal Robson-Kanu, on for Austin, flicked on Dara O’Shea’s cross and Diangana turned Denis Odoi, only for Rodak to keep his team level. From the corner, the unmarked Semi Ajayi headed wide.
Then with 18 minutes remaining, Knockaert controlled the ball 25 yards out and sent a dipping volley over the head of Sam Johnstone, who was relieved to see the ball bounce to safety off the bar.
Now the game was opening up. Robson-Kanu played a one-two with Pereira and lined up a shot but Harrison Reed timed his sliding challenge brilliantly.
Bilic’s anger bubbled over in the final five minutes as Robson-Kanu was rightly denied a penalty when he made the most of slight contact from Tim Ream.
The Croatian directed a volley of abuse at a member of the Fulham coaching staff and will learn soon enough whether his outburst has made it into the referee’s report.
‘We came to win the game and up to the first drinks break it was perfect, but in the end it didn’t quite happen for us,’ said Parker.
Fulham know that barring a miracle, it will be the play-offs for them. West Brom must hold their nerve to make sure they do not face the same fate.
West Bromwich Albion midfielder Romaine Sawyers challenges Harrison Reed of Fulha
Fulham forward Anthony Knockaert (left) and West Brom’s Jake Livermore battle for the ball