| Fulham boss bemoans bad luck
Nick Townsend at The Independent
Fulham 0 Newcastle 1
The goal arrived late, cruelly so, for the Londoners and their teenage full-back
Elliott Omozusi. Talk about from hero to zero. For 90 minutes Fulham's academy product,
who turned 19 yesterday, was his manager's man of the match. Then one false move,
a naive challenge on Newcastle's Alan Smith in added time, and he became the teenager
who not only lost Fulham this match, but may ultimately contribute to Lawrie Sanchez
losing his job. The manager concedes that his team, now occupying one of the relegation
places, are "fighting for their lives". He was asked what Fulham could do about
"Win football matches," he retorted. "Myself and the team have got to prove we're
good enough." The man who has overseen only three victories from 22 matches since he succeeded Chris Coleman towards the end of last season, and that despite a significant
summer outlay, added: "This was symptomatic a little bit of our season. We played
right up until the time they scored. Only one team was going to win it
in the second half."
Well, the uncommited could well take issue with that. In a contest of precious few
opportunities, it was always likely that this would go neither side's way until
that late intervention. In truth both these sides deserved nil points for subjecting
their audience to such mediocrity. On a freezing evening by the Thames -- it must
have been; even Newcastle owner Mike Ashley wore an overcoat -- both managers were
feeling the heat, but bookmakers had the former Northern Ireland man, Sanchez, their
favourite to depart the Premier League next. This will do nothing to ease him in
the market. Still, Sanchez should take heart from his Newcastle counterpart's recent
After Joey Barton's first Newcastle goal, converting the penalty that
resulted from Omozusi's tackle, Sam Allardyce could not only reflect on his Newcastle
remaining undefeated in three games, but a second victory in that sequence as his
team's away form - just one victory from seven attempts before this all season --
took a dramatic upturn. "I enjoy every victory - it doesn't matter how you get it
sometimes," said Allardyce.
United began well enough. Barton, a constant menace behind Alan Smith and Martins,
headed downward from Milner's cross, only for goalkeeper Antti Niemi to scramble
the ball away. Earlier, David Healy, making one of his infrequent starts, forced
Shay Given into a save with a curling shot from Clint Dempsey's pass. But in a wretched
first period, one which gave the lie in every respect to the boast that the Premier
League is "the envy of the world" they were the only goalscoring attempts. The biggest
cheer was an ironic one, when the ball was thumped out of the ground.
Allardyce delayed the start of the second as he departed late from the dressing
room and scampered inelegantly across the pitch to the dug-out.
Within seconds, the smile that had been on his face as he acknowled 4,000 travelling
supporterss, swiftly disappeared as Hameur Bouazza forced his way through two defenders
and crossed fiercely. Dempsey just failed to connect. The chance marked an improvement
in Fulham's play. But a goal stilleluded them. Healy didn't quite catch a volley
cleanly when the ball fell to him just outside the area and Given made the save.
Geremi replaced by Emre, and the captain's armband was passed to Smith, and it was
the Turkish midfielder's free kick which offered an opportunity for Nicky Butt.
The former England man directed his header straight at Niemi.
But Fulham still possessed the more potent threat. Demsey headed over and Danny Murphy went close.
Finally, it was on with the attacking heavyweights. Shefki Kuqi for Fulham and Mark
Viduka for the visitors. The Australian striker nearly made an immediate impact.
James Milner's free kick was cut back at the far post by David Rozenhal, but somehow
eluded the waiting Viduka, directly in front of an open goal. That appeared to be
it, but in added time, 19-year-old Omozusi felled Smith after the striker had been
put through by Viduka, and Barton did the rest. Allardyce praised the midfielder's
"strength of character" for accepting that responsibility. From Sanchez there was
no disputing of the award. "There was contact, no doubt," he said. He could rightly
feel there was no justice, either.