Fulham beaten in last moment
Conrad Leach at The Observer
Fulham 0-1 Newcastle
The people who know these things say that the credit crunch is coming and with it
a return to the economic bad old days of the early 1990s. Does the trickle-down
effect apply to football? Because if so, we are getting a taster of things to come.
This was possibly a new benchmark in boredom. To say both teams displayed gross
ineptitude is being kind and Joey Barton's penalty two minutes into stoppage time
should not hide that fact.
Somehow, the Newcastle midfielder bucked the trend of the previous 90 minutes by
actually converting the spot-kick, earning Newcastle a second consecutive win earned
with last-gasp goals.
It made Sam Allardyce, the manager of a Newcastle team described by his opposite
number Lawrie Sanchez as 'resurgent' before this game, a relieved man. Clearly,
in Fulham-land, going two games without losing is worthy of comment. Then again
that's not surprising, given the form of the Londoners at the moment. Sanchez is
feeling the pain of three consecutive defeats; his side now lie in the relegation
The Fulham manager had no complaints about the penalty, when Elliot Omozusi, on
his 19th birthday, fouled Alan Smith, but said of losing so late: 'To call me pig-sick
is an understatement.
'That's been symptomatic of our season,' he added, with more than a touch of melodrama:
'My staff and I have got to prove we are good enough. We are fighting for our lives.'
The win had Allardyce reeling off the stats. This was Newcastle's first clean sheet
in a year and only their second away win of the season. But statistics are often
the last refuge of the desperate, a word that could have described Allardyce's situation
until very recently.
Yet in his view, Barton's penalty was at least some sort of
justice for playing better at Blackburn recently and 'getting nothing'.
Nothing is what both sides deserved here. Even Sanchez said the first half was best forgotten before somehow arriving at the conclusion that Fulham were in control
after the interval. All they had to show for such supposed dominance was a
David Healy shot that screwed diffidently into Shay Given's hands. Barton could have gone
way to alleviating the boredom if he had scored after 15 minutes. James Milner
hit a cross to the
far post where the midfielder was waiting, but his downward header lacked pace and Antti Niemi got down to palm it away.
As Allardyce put it, 'We waited for opportunities and when they came we missed them.
We may not have deserved it but Fulham certainly didn't deserve a win either. We've
let a lot of points slip this season but today we put it right.'
Fulham have not been helped by the long-term absence of striker Brian McBride and
midfielder Jimmy Bullard. But one might have thought they would have displayed more
urgency than they did, especially as before kick-off they had dropped into the bottom three.
They announced at the end that the local tube station was not working. That and
Antti Niemi, Carlos Bocanegra, Aaron Hughes, Elliot Omozusi, Dejan Stefanovic, Simon
Davies, Steven Davis (Shefki Kuqi), Clint Dempsey, Danny Murphy, Hameur Bouazza,
Shay Given, Habib Beye, Claudio Cacapa, David Rozehnal, Joey Barton, Nicky Butt,
Njitap Geremi (Belozoglu Emre), James Milner, Charles N'Zogbia, Obafemi Martins
(Mark Viduka), Alan Smith