|Fulham fail to get any points
Brian Glanville at Sunday Times
Fulham 0 Newcastle 1
This dull and dismal game was stuttering to an appropriately goalless conclusion
when a clumsy rather than malicious tackle by the young Fulham right-back Elliott
Omozusi on Newcastle’s Alan Smith, just before James Milner’s shot was held by Antti Niemi, produced a penalty. Joey Barton, who had been in confident and effective
form all evening, calmly put it away and Newcastle not only had their first away
victory of the season (”Our Achilles heel”, said manager Sam Allardyce) but as he
also pointed out, they had kept a clean sheet for the first time in their away matches.
Even the Fulham manager,
Lawrie Sanchez conceded that it should have been a penalty.
“But I think he [Smith] passed it before contact was made.”
Allardyce also felt that the penalty had to be given: “A challenge which completely
missed the ball and took the man down.” He praised the fervent support of the 5,000
Newcastle fans behind the goal where the winner would be scored.
“Today,” he said, “maybe we didn’t deserve to win. They certainly didn’t.” Somewhat
surprisingly, Sanchez said:
“I felt there was only one team in it in the second
half. The first half was a dead half. The second came to life a bit. With five minutes
to go, I was disappointed we were only going to get a point. Ultimately we were
cruelly beaten . . . we are fighting for our lives. I think that’s the word, isn’t
If Fulham continue to play like this, it probably is. They did sporadically make
chances, then so did Newcastle, for whom James Milner, on the left flank, at least
proclaimed his quality. Well-balanced, elusive, curling in menacing crosses, he
really suggested claims for a
place in the England attack.
Newcastle’s attacking play would eventually improve when they brought the Turkey
international Emre into their central mid-field after 58 minutes. When he was fouled
after 65 minutes, he took the free kick himself, driving it into the Fulham box,
where Nicky Butt tested Niemi with an enterprising header.
The great disappointment in the Newcastle attack was Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins,
such a gifted player, but so ineffectual last night, and eventually to be replaced
after 76 minutes by Australian Mark Viduka.
Newcastle owed a debt to the resilient goalkeeping of Shay Given. He was already
in action in the 11th minute when Fulham mounted one of their few coherent attacks
of the first half. Clint Dempsey, at the second attempt, got the ball out to David
Healy, who has done so much so well for Northern Ireland, partly under the management
of Sanchez. Last night he started a game rather than beginning it, as he tends to,
on the bench and his shot from the right was tipped away for a corner by the alert
Given. Three minutes later, Butt found Milner on the left, he in turn eluded his
man, and crossed accurately enabling Barton to get in a header Niemi desperately
blocked, the ball then being scrambled away. On 57 minutes, when a header by Steven
Davis was missed by the Newcastle defence, Healy got in for his second accurate
shot of the game, but Given saved that one too.
At the other end, Butt made contact with a free kick but his header was competently
taken by Niemi. And at the other end, a hooked shot by Danny
Murphy was held by
the resourceful Given. When Milner put in a free kick from the left, Butt’s attempt
went only just wide. Further evidence perhaps that Fulham had hardly dominated this
second half. There was more on 85 minutes when a long drive from Barton was held
That seemed to be that, but then came that late, late penalty and victory for Newcastle.
Sanchez said with melancholy that this was the story of Fulham’s season. “Myself
and my team,” he said unarguably, “have got to prove we’re good enough.” There was
in fact alarmingly little to admire in the Fulham team apart from the resourceful
display of Niemi.
As for Allardyce, he said emphatically:
“The results will get better as the confidence
gets higher.” He had special praise for Barton, not least the cool manner in which
he put away the decisive and unexpected penalty. “Strength of character,” he said,
“strength of mind. Nothing fazes him too much.”
Newcastle have turned the corner, though you would hardly have thought it during
the early minutes of the first half when they, like Fulham, were ineptly slicing
and swinging at the ball, with the Fulham defence looking all too likely to concede
at any moment.
Fulham: Niemi 7, Omozusi 6, Hughes 6, Stefanovic 6, Bocanegra 6, Davies 6,
Murphy 6, Davis 6 (Kuqi 75min), Bouazza 6, Healy 6, Dempsey 6
Newcastle: Given 7, N’Zogbia 6, Rozehnal 6, Cacapa 6, Beye 6, Geremi 6 (Emre
59min, 7), Butt 6, Barton 7, Milner 7, Smith 6, Martins 5 (Viduka 77min) Star man:
James Milner (Newcastle)
Scorer: Newcastle: Barton 90 pen