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Fulham 0-0 Wolves FAC 3r 1415 The Guardian

last updated Sunday 04th January 2015, 2:03 PM

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Ed Aarons at The Guardian

Fulham (0) 0-0 (0) Wolves

An inspired display from Fulham's Marcus Bettinelli ensured a replay will be required next Tuesday to settle this tie but in truth it was the result neither team would have wanted.

Wolves were by far the better team and on another day would have recorded their first FA Cup victory in London since 1979 had it not been for the goalkeeper with the Italian-sounding name who was actually born in Camberwell and is the son of the club's academy coach.

The 22-year-old, who has kept the Hungarian veteran Gabor Kiraly warming the bench for most of the season, produced two world class saves either side of half-time, first to tip Bakary Sako's strike onto the post before denying James Henry after the break.

Yet the story of the afternoon could have been very different had Leon Clarke taken advantage of an open goal on the rebound following Sako's effort.

Manchester City loanee Seko Fofana almost made him pay in the final three minutes when he raced onto Scott Parker's through ball but the Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme was equal to his rather tame effort.

"Marcus was excellent and made a couple of really good saves at important times," acknowledged the Fulham manager Kit Symons.

"He has been very good all season and since I took over I've been delighted with his development and the way he has conducted himself. He is an important part of our team and was ready when we needed him today."

Fulham have seen their progress under Symons stall in recent weeks having at one stage looked in danger of successive relegations when they were beaten 1-0 by Kenny Jackett's side at this ground back in August.

Before that, the last time Wolves visited Craven Cottage had been in March 2012 when they were thrashed 5-0 at the start of their rapid descent to League One.

Nearly three years on and Jackett has taken the club back to the brink of the playoff positions in the Championship courtesy of a five-match unbeaten run over the festive period.

Whether they can maintain that lofty position may depend on how they replace the Mali international Sako, who was playing in his last game before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations.

He was a constant thorn in Fulham's side with his direct approach and Jackett admitted they are bracing themselves for bids for a player whose contract expires at the end of the season.

"Every window there is constant speculation because he has been very consistent for us, in League One and in the Championship," said the manager.

"Anybody would miss him. He's very popular with the players and the fans but the plus side is the window is open so we have to look into what we can do now."

For Fulham, this was a third game without a victory and Fofana's late effort made it just three shots on target in that run.

Having taken over from the mess left behind Felix Magath earlier in the season, Symons knows there is still plenty of hard work to do.

"I'll look at the bigger picture and it's shaping up OK. It's probably what I expected," he said. "I knew it wasn't always going to be sweetness and light but things will take time."

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