Loanee Ince makes his point...
FORMER Chelsea kid Rohan Ince’s second league goal of his career wasn’t enough to stop worried Fulham dropping a place closer to danger.
Ince, on loan from Brighton, put Fulham ahead on 38 minutes, his first league goal for 14 months, but still the Whites dropped to only a point ahead of third-bottom MK Dons.
Ince, a cousin of former England star Paul, did put a dent into Birmingham’s promotion hopes though because they could only fight back with an equaliser made by impressive winger David Cotterill for captain Michael Morrison.
Fulham have not won for six games and have taken only three points in that time, a desperate slump that boss Slavisa Jokanovic admits is worrying him.
“In front of us is a very important period,” he said.
“We need to forget what has happened in the past and fight for every point now until the last second of the season.
“I will need every player for this.We need to be all together for the fight ahead of us. It is my job to check where we are in the table, but in fact it doesn’t matter.
“What matters it what we do from now on.”
Five games without a win had left Fulham nervous and the growing tension wasn’t helped by an enforced last-minute change as Dan Burn came in to replace Fernando Amorebieta, who injured his ankle in the warm-up.
With Fulham’s defence suspect, Birmingham were keen to give it an early examination, but they got nowhere early on and it was the visitors who threatened.
Emerson Hyndman had a powerful drive blocked by Morrison and by the 23rd minute they should have been ahead.
Scott Parker took a mazy path through Birmingham’s defence and waited what seemed an age before chipping the ball over Blues keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, only to see Jonathan Grounds head clear on the goal line.
Birmingham managed nothing anywhere near as exciting and by the 38th minute they had paid for it.
Ross McCormack’s crossfield pass found Tom Cairney and he set-up Ince for a powerful drive that Kuszczak allowed to squirm free and over the line.
Three minutes into first half added time though the Blues nearly got a reply when Cotterill’s free-kick was met by Jonathan Spector, but his header was turned away superbly by keeper Marcus Bettinelli.
But defensively Fulham let themselves down yet again. They didn’t deal with a corner when Cotterill swung the ball back in and Morrison got to it first, heading past Bettinelli to make the keeper’s first-half wonder save redundant.
From that point it became a familiar story for Fulham, if with a slightly better ending.
They managed to hang on despite increasing Birmingham pressure that peaked in the 83rd minute when David Davis’ volley smacked against the post, deflected off Bettinelli and fell perfectly for Clayton Donaldson, only for the striker to lift his shot over the bar.
Birmingham are now six points off the play-off places with a game in hand.
“It was a mistake, Kuszczak should have got the ball in his hands and he let it get away,” said Birmingham boss Gary Rowett.
“Teams are moving away from us but we are still in with a shout and we are still pushing hard.
“If we can make it, fantastic. If we don’t, we have had one hell of a season trying. The players are positive about it.”
POINT GAINED: Birmingham defender Michael Morrison celebrates his equaliser and, inset, Fulham midfielder Rohan Ince after his strike