Baggies hopeful for great escape
West Bromwich Albion brought their fans new hope that they can beat relegation after a 3-1 win over Wigan Athletic. The Baggies remain at the foot of the table, but are now level on points in the relegation zone with Middlesbrough and Newcastle, who meet on Monday, after sealing a precious victory at the Hawthorns.
West Brom made a bright start and Marc-Antoine Fortune gave them the lead in the eighth minute, pouncing after Chris Kirkland could only parry a powerful effort from Gianni Zuiverloon. It was 1-1 within ten minutes as Hugo Rodallega claimed his first goal in English football after his free-kick took a wicked deflection off Chris Brunt.
But the midfielder made amends on the hour, following up to score at the second time of asking after substitute keeper Richard Kingson had saved his initial penalty. And Fortune wrapped up the win with just over a quarter of an hour remaining to set the home crowd dreaming of yet another great escape after the heroics of 2005.
There was more good news for Tony Mowbray's side, who could have been relegated today if results had gone against them, as Hull City were beaten 2-1 by Stoke City at the KC Stadium. The Tigers remain just three points above the relegation zone after goals from Ricardo Fuller and a screamer from Liam Lawrence extended their disastrous sequence of results since the turn of the year.
Fuller struck in the 40th minute, turning and firing a powerful effort past Boaz Myhill, and Lawrence doubled Stoke's advantage on 73 minutes with a superb dipping volley before Andy Dawson's late consolation. The result means that the Potters, who were promoted with Hull last year, will definitely be playing in the top flight next season.
Elsewhere, Sunderland, who were also fighting for their lives just outside the bottom three, dominated long periods of their encounter with Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium but were unable to find the net. Kieran Richardson was guilty of wasting their best opportunity in the 24th minute, skying his shot from 12 yards when it appeared easier to score, but Martin Fulop's late stop from Gary Cahill saved the Black Cats from a last-gasp defeat and leave them in 16th place, five points above the drop zone.
Blackburn Rovers put an end to any lingering relegation fears with a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth, who will still be looking over their shoulder with two games to go. Morten Gamst Pedersen took advantage of an error by David James to put the hosts in front in the first half and Benni McCarthy settled the issue with a penalty on the hour, while Pompey's John Utaka made a woeful attempt of his spot-kick with three minutes left.
European hopefuls Fulham moved up to seventh spot after handing Aston Villa a 3-1 defeat at Craven Cottage. The hosts went ahead after six minutes when James Milner pushed Diomansy Kamara in the box and Danny Murphy slotted the resulting spot-kick perfectly into the bottom right-hand corner.
Villa equalised on 15 minutes when PFA Young Player of the Year Ashley Young slid in to prod John Carew's cross past Mark Schwarzer. Fulham wrapped up the points early in the second half though through a brace from Kamara, who burst forward to drill the ball home a minute after the restart and executed a cheeky back-heel that deceived Brad Friedel ten minutes later.