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 it.

"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 very well 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 experiences 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.