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Too little, too late as Stoke survive Fulham fightback

STOKE CITY (3) vs FULHAM (2)

FULHAM boss Roy Hodgson was left to rue a woeful first-half defensive display as Stoke held on for all three points in a snowy thriller at the Britannia Stadium.

Poor defending allowed the hosts to power into a three-goal lead inside 37 minutes thanks to goals from Tuncay Sanli, Abdoulaye Faye and Mamady Sidibe.

Fulham fought back through Damian Duff and a stunning Clint Dempsey effort to set up a thrilling finale, but Tony Pulis’ Potters held on to end a six-match winless run and move into the top half of the table.

Winger Matthew Etherington was the key for Stoke, setting up all three of their goals, starting with a corner for Tuncay’s opener on 12 minutes.

Then, a static defence left Faye unmarked from another Etherington set-piece to stab home a second. Three minutes later, Etherington’s cross was flicked on by Danny Higginbottom for Sidibe to half-volley home.

Hodgson lost Brede Hangeland to injury just before the break, but they were back in the contest on 61 minutes when Duff’s shot was deflected past keeper Steve Simonsen.

Dempsey’s arrival from the substitute’s bench gave Fulham extra verve going forward and the American set up a rousing finale with a dipping long range effort five minutes from time. Sadly for Hodgson, however, it was to prove too little, too late.