Fulham still suffering travel sickness
Jason Mellor at The Observer
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Middlesbrough 1-0 Fulham

Considering they go to pieces when venturing beyond even the North Circular, Fulham must have mixed feelings about Premier League games around the globe. Frankly, their away form is not worth crossing the street to watch.

It is 17 months since they mustered a league win outside the confines of Craven Cottage. They are three points adrift of safety and on the evidence of this spirited, but limited, display any hope of being part of the English top flight's ambitious worldwide road show in three years' time is likely to be fulfilled via a stint in the Championship.

Middlesbrough, unbeaten in seven games since losing to Everton on New Year's Day, look a safer bet to trade Teesside for Toronto or Tokyo, although after their Uefa Cup exploits, the self-styled moniker of being a 'small town in Europe' might have to be upgraded to match the league's hoped-for expansion.

It is five months since Middlesbrough enjoyed a league victory by more than a single goal. Their refusal to press for a second after Jérémie Aliadière's early strike could have been punished had long-range second-half efforts from Paul Konchesky and Leon Andreason hit the target.

The hosts waited until the final half hour of the contest before introducing the club's record £12.7million signing, Afonso Alves. His six-week playing hiatus meant the Brazilian enjoyed a subdued debut, although his presence on the bench seemed to bring the best out of Aliadiere.

'The importance of the result took over from how we were playing in the second half, and we sat back too deep,' said Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate.

Fulham were brittle at defensive set-pieces and could have been in arrears, thanks to a Robert Huth header, before they surrendered parity in the 11th minute.

With Konchesky awol from his left-back berth and Brede Hangeland employing his own laissez-faire approach to covering the space, a routine pass down the line from Gary O'Neil met Aliadière's unmolested run into the box.

With the angle diminishing, the Frenchman retained his composure to thread a low shot through the legs of Antti Niemi for his third goal of the season, and second in three league games. 'Jérémie's been outstanding all season,' said Southgate. 'Now he's starting to finish his chances with an air of confidence.'

The visitors probed for a way back. Danny Murphy stabbed a shot through a crowd of players but was blocked by Mark Schwarzer, and Simon Davies saw an effort fly wide. But, as with most of Fulham's efforts, it was hit from long range more in hope than expectation.

They have won just once in the past three months and manager Roy Hodgson said: 'We let ourselves down by giving them something to protect. There were encouraging signs, but this is a major setback and I'd have thought this result takes Middlesbrough out of the relegation equation.'

Mark Schwarzer, Robert Huth, Emanuel Pogatetz, David Wheater, Luke Young, Julio Arca, Stewart Downing, Gary O'Neil, Fabio Rochemback, Jeremie Aliadiere (George Boateng), Dong-Gook Lee (Martins Afonso Alves)

Antti Niemi, Leon Andreasen, Chris Baird, Brede Hangeland, Paul Konchesky, Paul Stalteri, Jimmy Bullard, Simon Davies, Danny Murphy, Diomansy Kamara (Clint Dempsey), Erik Nevland (Brian McBride)

Referee: Dowd, P

Attendance: 26,885