The 1-0 win against Stoke at Craven Cottage on Saturday was their first since August 17 against Sunderland, and marked their first victory in six games.
But the home side looked anxious in possession throughout, however Bent’s late strike will ease some of the pressure on under-fire manager Martin Jol. Stoke battled hard, and took the game to the Cottagers after the interval but wasted several good chances.
In the end, Fulham made them pay.
With their first home success of the season, Fulham climb out of the relegation zone into 17th spot with seven points, while Stoke are in 16th.
Early on Fulham were composed as they looked to get Damien Duff in down the flanks. But as the half wore on, the home side grew more nervous as Stoke got going.
In the 9th minute there was a potential flash point right in front of the benches, as Pajtim Kasami needlessly flung his hand out at Stoke defender Erik Pieters off the ball. Contact was minimal, and Pieters overreacted, but Kasami was silly to lash out so petulantly.
In the 25th minute came a real turning point, as Johnathan Walters raced clear and Fulham’s Fernando Amorebieta pulled him back right on the edge of the box. The linesman gave the foul and a free kick, as Stoke’s players protested for a penalty, but the foul looked to have taken place just inside the box. A let off for the home side.
And just moments later, Stoke came so close to taking a 1-0 lead as Sascha Riether cleared a header off the line following an out swinging corner.
Both sides battled away for most of the first half, with several careless passes adding to the building tension in Craven Cottage.
However, right on half time Bryan Ruiz was caught in the box as he tried to wriggle free. The home fans cried for a penalty, but referee Roger East turned their protests away. It looked like Marc Wilson tripped the Costa Rican attacker, as the Cottagers finished the half strongly.
At half time Kieran Richardson replaced Brede Hangeland, as Jol tried to change things around for Fulham with Amorebieta switching to center back.
Throughout the game Fulham’s players were severely lacking in confidence, as they searched for their first win in six games. Steve Sidwell worked hard in the Cottagers engine room, but was lambasted on several occasions by the home fans for giving the ball away. Although Fulham’s Macedonian winger Kasami looked a threat throughout.
Mark Hughes’ Stoke side were resilient and ground down Fulham with some late tackles and determined running, but both sides were reduced to speculative efforts.
One of which came from U.S. international Geoff Cameron, as his right-footed shot from distance was arrowing towards the top corner before being deflected wide for a corner.
From that set piece Stoke captain Robert Huth rose highest unmarked, but put his header over the bar as David Stockdale was left flapping. And soon after Oussama Assaidi’s cross found Stephen Ireland who volleyed just wide in the 68th minute.
That mini barrage of chances for Stoke breathed new life into the Potters, and in a few minutes Riether first cleared Huth’s header off the line, again, before running the length of the pitch and forcing Asmir Begovic into a fine save at his near post.
And moments later the game-winning goal arrived, as Bent was Fulham’s hero. The second half sub saw the ball ricochet to him in the box after Kasami’s shot in the 83rd minute and the striker, on-loan from Aston Villa, coolly slotted home to send Craven Cottage wild.
Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland (Richardson 46), Senderos, Amorebieta; Duff, Karagounis (Boateng 60), Sidwell, Ruiz; Kasami; Berbatov (Bent 66).
Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Pieters; Wilson (Whelan 59), Nzonzi, Ireland; Walters (Crouch 83), Arnautovic, Etherington (Assaidi 63).