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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:51 24th September 2011

ALBION were left ruing a missed opportunity as they bagged their first home point of the season in a hard-fought goalless draw.

Fulham were by far the better team in the first half but Roy Hodgson's men improved after the break and created the game's best chance in the 64th minute, which Peter Odemwingie spurned.

More Albion agony came in the first minute of stoppage time when Chris Brunt hit the inside of the post from 20 yards.

In-between, the Cottagers wasted a great opportunity to bag their first league win of the season when sub Bryan Ruiz stabbed wide from close range.

Gareth McAuley was handed his Barclays Premier League debut after being preferred to Craig Dawson alongside Jonas Olsson in central defence.

Hodgson, facing his former employers for the first time, made two other changes from the 3-0 defeat at Swansea seven days ago, with skipper Brunt and Graham Dorrans replacing James Morrison and Paul Scharner.

Shortly before kick-off, the teams lined up in the centre-circle to join the fans in performing a minute's applause in memory of Academy player Blake Melbourne, who lost his brave battle against a long-standing illness two weeks ago. The Baggies also wore black armbands during the game in honour of the 14-year-old right-back.

Albion made a bright start and created their first chance inside two minutes, with Brunt heading Nicky Shorey's centre straight at Mark Schwarzer from 12 yards after neat build-up play.

But Fulham went close themselves in the ninth minute. Danny Murphy beat Steven Reid with a sublime lofted ball which Orlando Sa controlled on his knee before seeing his goalbound volley diverted wide by McAuley's outstretched leg.

A minute later, Schwarzer was called on to make his second save of the game, diving low to his right to hold Youssouf Mulumbu's 25-yard grass-cutter after the Baggies midfielder had dispossessed Pajtim Kasami.

Fulham thought they had taken the lead on 12 when Kasami slid the ball home after Ben Foster had spilled Clint Dempsey's 30-yard drive - but the effort was ruled out for offside. It was close, but TV replays proved the officials got it right.

Fulham were beginning to keep Albion pegged back and Foster did much better on 16 when he held Mousa Dembele's low 20-yard strike. Moments later, Steve Sidwell fired well over from the edge of the box.

The West Londoners were very much the better side as the half passed its midpoint - and it wasn't until the 26th minute that Albion threatened again. Chris Baird misjudged Foster's long kick and Shane Long ran at Brede Hangeland before seeing an 18-yard curler loop just over the bar.

Albion at least looked settled at the back and, in a half of few chances, Dembele was off target with a 25-yard drive on 32.

Foster also had little trouble holding onto Sa's stooping header from Zdenek Grygera's cross.

McAuley was enjoying an excellent league debut and it was his block on 36 which prevented Sa's shot from inside the box troubling Foster.

There were two more efforts at goal before the break - both at Albion's. Olsson denied Dempsey a tap-in by stretching one of his long legs to cut out Dembele's cross. Moments later, Dempsey directed a fierce header straight at Foster from Murphy's centre.

Fulham picked up from where they left off after the break and almost snatched the lead through fortuitous circumstances in the 48th minute.

Dempsey's volley from John Arne Riise's centre was going well wide until it clipped Olsson, hit the right-hand post and bounced to safety.

Seconds later, Dempsey was off target with an 18-yard snapshot after Reid could not get enough purchase on his attempted headed clearance.

Albion finally mounted some pressure of their own and also had a goal disallowed for offside - again correctly - against Peter Odemwingie.

And the home hordes were very much on their feet when Long headed Brunt's free-kick across the face of goal - but there no was no team-mate on hand to clip it home and Fulham cleared.

Albion had loud penalty appeals turned down on 63 when Long went down in the box after being challenged by Baird, but TV replays again suggested the officials were correct as there was minimal contact.

Then, on 64, came the best chance of the game.

Odemwingie was put clean through by Mulumbu's through-ball but, with all the time in the world, he fired straight at Schwarzer and Hangeland cleared.

It was now Albion asking all the questions but Fulham's well-drilled rearguard was standing firm.

However, the hosts had a huge let off on 78. Foster did well to keep out Riise's stinging 20-yard free-kick but sub Ruiz looked certain to score as he stretched out his leg towards the loose ball. But Foster did enough to put him off and the forward somehow stabbed wide of the open goal.

Albion were soon back on the attack and Baird denied sub Morrison what looked a certain goal when he blocked his 15-yard shot from Odemwingie's pull-back.

And there was further agony in the first minute of stoppage time when Brunt smashed the inside of the post with a 20-yard shot.

ALBION (4-3-3): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt, Mulumbu, Dorrans (Morrison 78); Odemwingie, Long, Thomas (Tchoyi 82). Subs not used: Fulop (gk), Scharner, Jones, Dawson, Cox.

FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Grygera, Baird, Hangeland, J Riise; Kasami (Ruiz 74), Murphy (Etuhu 88), Sidwell, Sa; Dembele; Dempsey. Subs not used. Subs: Etheridge (gk), Kelly, Senderos, Gecov, Briggs.

GOALS: None.

BOOKINGS: FULHAM - Hangeland (foul 50), Grygera (foul 60), Baird (foul 65).

REFEREE: S Attwell (Warwickshire).

ATTENDANCE: 23,835.

ALBION STARMAN: Gareth McAuley.
    Data provided by Press Association

    QUICK FACTS

    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.