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Fulham 0-0 Watford: Day of woe for Cottagers

last updated Monday 01st January 2007, 11:08 PM
Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi
Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi suffered a neck injury that has required hospitalisation.

Watford survived a ferocious first-half onslaught in an incident-packed Barclays Premiership clash with Fulham to leave Craven Cottage with a point from a goalless draw.

The Cottagers were guilty of wasting a host of chances before the interval when Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Heidar Helguson and Tomasz Radzinski should have broken the deadlock.

Watford had chances, but Fulham could have snatched victory late in the game, while Watford were reduced to 10 men when Tamas Priskin was shown a second yellow card.

The match was marred by a worrying injury to Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi, who landed on his head after jumping high to punch clear a Watford long ball in the second half.

Niemi required treatment for seven minutes before being placed in the recovery position and stretchered from the pitch.

Watford revealed shortly before kick-off that they had signed 19-year-old striker Moses Ashikodi from Rangers for a nominal fee following a successful two-week trial.

The Hornets have suffered from a shortage of firepower with strikers Hameur Bouazza and Marlon King in the treatment room and it was hoped Ashikodi would plug the gap.

Fulham created the first chance, with Moritz Volz, who scored the Premiership's 15,000th goal on Saturday, charging through midfield and feeding Radzinski.

The Canada international rounded Adrian Mariappa and supplied McBride, but the veteran striker could not keep his shot down.

Fulham thought they had scored in the seventh minute, but Helguson's effort was ruled out with the Icelandic striker just offside.

Match Stats Fulham Watford
Goals 0 0
Possession 50% 50%
Goal attempts 16 13
On Target 4 5
Corners 6 7
Off-sides 5 10
Fouls 6 17
Yellows 1 2
Reds 0 1
source: Soccernet

Anthony McNamee headed straight into the stands after Mariappa had made ground down the right as Watford enjoyed a promising spell.

Watford keeper Ben Foster shook his head in dismay as a Fulham corner found Bocanegra unmarked at the far post with the nearest opponent three metres away.

But the USA defender dragged his shot wide and Radzinski squandered another excellent chance moments later after being sent into space by Volz.

Tenacious work from Volz and a slippery run by Franck Queudrue opened up Watford once more, but Radzinski tried to square the ball to McBride when he should have shot.

Radzinski made amends by setting up McBride, whose header sailed wide as Fulham poured forward at will.

Watford were clinging on grimly as McBride nodded off target once again and then Foster arrived in the nick of time to deny Helguson as he was about to connect with Volz's flick-on header.

Helguson was denied by the linesman's flag for a second time in the 34th minute when he stuck the ball in the net, but Michael Brown's slight header appeared to have played him offside.

The only threat Watford posed was on the counter and one fast attack ripped Fulham open, McNamee escaping down the left and then picking out Smith, who nodded a glorious chance over the bar.

Tamas Priskin stabbed wide and then went close again as Watford continued to find space in Fulham's defence.

Watford, buoyed by their success towards the end of the first half, emerged fired-up from the interval and went desperately close in the 52nd minute.

Jordan Stewart set off on a marauding run won the left and delivered a superb ball to the far side of the area, where Bangura was waiting but the midfielder hit the post.

Play was brought to a half in the 54th minute when Niemi suffered what appeared to be a serious head/neck injury.

Niemi went to clear the ball following a minor tussle between Rosenior and Darius Henderson in the area but fell awkwardly and was stretchered off, with Jan Lastuvka coming on as his replacement.

When play resumed, referee Steve Bennett awarded Fulham a free-kick, but there was no hint of foul play for the incident.

Henderson directed a gilt-edged chance straight at Lastuvka, with Watford beginning to gain the upper hand, and Fulham boss Chris Coleman replaced Routledge with Luis Boa Morte in a bid to redress the balance.

Boa Morte sent a ball across the face of goals, but McBride and Helguson both missed, and the Portuguese winger then nearly scored himself following a determined run.

Chances were falling at both ends, with Radzinski missing another sitter, but his blunder was bettered by substitute Collins John, who rounded Foster but then shot wide.

Henderson hit the post, but then Priskin was sent off for Watford after picking up a second yellow card for pulling back Queudrue's shirt, the final meaningful act of a pulsating finish.

Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi has been taken to hospital for X-rays after falling on his head in the 0-0 Barclays Premiership draw with Watford.

Niemi jumped to clear the ball in the second half following a minor tussle between Liam Rosenior and Darius Henderson but fell head-first from a considerable height.

The Finland goalkeeper was placed in the recovery position, received treatment for seven minutes and was then carried from the pitch in worrying scenes at Craven Cottage.

Fulham boss Chris Coleman said: 'We were very concerned about Antti. It didn't look very good from the replay. He fell very awkwardly.

'He's got some damage to his neck but he can feel his arms and legs, so that's all right. He's gone to hospital for an X-ray and we won't know more until the results of that come out.

'It looks worse on the replay than it actually is but we don't know when he will be back. The most important thing is for him to get better. There may be a bit of ligament damage.

'It's a good job he's as agile as he is because it could have been worse.'

Fulham should have been out of sight at half-time with Brian McBride, Heidar Helguson, Tomasz Radzinski and Carlos Bocanegra missing superb chances.

Helguson had two goals disallowed for offside, the second of which was a bad call by the linesman, while Collins John squandered a gilt-edged chance near the end.

Coleman said: 'This was two points dropped. I'm disappointed because we should have finished Watford off.

'It wasn't a lack of effort, just poor finishing. Helguson definitely wasn't offside for the second, it wasn't even close.

'Radzinski and Collins John both missed one-on-ones and the only positive I can take is a clean sheet.

'I knew it would be a tight match because we've had so many games recently and the guys are physically and mentally tired.

'On chances we should have won but it could have been worse. Watford play it long and it's hard not to get sucked into that sort of game.'

Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd revealed he gave his players an interval roasting following a one-sided first half.

He said: 'That was an exciting match for the neutral. From our point of view it was an appalling first half, probably the worst since I've been manager.

'We didn't do that much better in the second half but at least we stayed in there and we hit the woodwork.

'We went for the three points and could have won the game, but we also could have lost it. We deserved the point.

'There were things said at half-time that will remain private. My players have responsibilities and fortunately they tidied up in the second half.

'It's a good start to the new year. Credit to Fulham, I thought it would be a case of 'After the Lord Mayor's show' after they drew with Chelsea on Saturday.

'I thought the emotion of the that game would have affected them but instead they were far better than us in the first half and we had to hang on in there.'

Watford revealed shortly before kick off they had signed 19-year-old striker Moses Ashikodi from Rangers for a nominal fee following a successful two-week trial.

Boothroyd said: 'Moses is a kid from Millwall who comes with a bit of baggage, but he's joined the club where people are rejuvenated and get an opportunity.

'He reminds me of Marlon King. He's one for the future but so was Tamas Priskin and he's broken into the first team.'

Priskin was dismissed for two bookings.

Fulham: Niemi (Lastuvka 61), Rosenior, Bocanegra, Christanval, Queudrue, Routledge (Boa Morte 66), Brown, Volz, Radzinski, Helguson, McBride (John 78).
Subs Not Used: Runstrom, Zakuani.

Booked: Radzinski (66,d).

Watford: Foster, Mariappa, Shittu (Mackay 34), DeMerit, Stewart, Smith (Henderson 46), Mahon, Bangura, McNamee (Francis 90), Young, Priskin.
Subs Not Used: Lee, Doyley.

Sent Off: Priskin (90).

Booked: Young, Priskin.

Att: 19,698

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).











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