London: Fulham, bidding to underpin their top half of the table status in the English Premier League, thanked a late winner from Chris Baird for a 1-0 success over floundering Aston Villa, whose worst start in 15 years shows no sign of ending.
A near post corner from John Arne Riise found its way to Baird in a crowded six yard box on 84 minutes and he made no mistake in securing a win which moved the Cottagers provisionally into eighth spot a point ahead of Arsenal - in action later at Norwich.
Villa, who struggled throughout to find much creativity, ought to have equalised shortly after Baird's goal but Christian Benteke, on target in midweek for Belgium against Scotland and on for Darren Bent, drove carelessly wide after Charles N'Zogbia whipped over an inviting cross.
Fulham, standing ninth at start of play, sent fit again forwards Dimitar Berbatov and Mladen Petric into the fray while Villa had midfielder Stephen Ireland back after missing three games with a broken bone in his wrist.
Despite having their strike tandem back in harness, Fulham initially looked as if they would never find a way through against a Villa side who have mustered just five points from eight games.
Although Fulham enjoyed the lion's share of the possession Villa were not without their chances.
Gabriel Agbonlahor forced Mark Schwarzer into an early save for the visitors, who have not won any of their last 13 away league games before the same striker just failed to get on the end of low cross from Ireland.
At the other end, Hugo Rodallega headed wide midway through the first half before Berbatov screwed an acrobatic volleyed attempt well wide just after the restart.
As the clock ticked down, Villa defender Matt Lowton headed goalwards but Schwarzer stood his ground to save as Fulham made it five home wins in their last six games on home turf.
Story first published on: Saturday, 20 October 2012 23:47 IST