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Fulham 1-0 Newcastle Prem 30 1314 The Guardian

last updated Monday 17th March 2014, 7:01 PM

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Paul Doyle at The Guardian

Fulham (0) 1 Newcastle (0) 0

Felix Magath was so desperate to see improvement in this match that he even tried changing his glasses. He enjoyed the new view so much that he says his new spectacles are "lucky" and he will wear them again next weekend, when he will need all the charms he can get, as Fulham go to Manchester City. "Everything is possible in football, you can always win, even in Manchester," he said.

But what did he really see here? The emergence of a Fulham team who can escape relegation? Or just the visit of uniquely obliging opponents? Newcastle played with all the urgency of a team ensconced in mid-table and the quality of one missing most of their creative players, especially the injured Loic Rémy and Hatem Ben Arfa. They were also missing their manager but Alan Pardew's enforced exile made little difference to the result even if it felt odd to his staff, who must get used to the experience quickly as Pardew has two more matches of his stadium ban to serve.

"The buildup was normal as it is for every game but it was a bit strange getting on the bus without him," said the man who directed operations from the dugout in Pardew's absence, the assistant manager, John Carver. "He's our leader and rightly so but once you get to the stadium and your workload kicks in it was like any other game. We had a couple of conversation on the phone, but it is strange when your boss is not here. But he said he has a lot of faith in his staff. We have a lot of experience in the technical area so the fact he only contacted us twice during the game meant he must have been happy. So I don't think it was detrimental to the way we played."

Newcastle played the way Fulham have done for most of the season: in spurts and without enough quality. Fulham, in an encouraging development, played with energy and cohesion for the full 90 minutes. Magath believes that was partially due to the injection of youth, as five changes to the starting line-up meant Fulham began with only two players over 30, the lowest number in a season where the club had placed most of its faith in veterans. Magath had started with that foundation too but demolished it after last week's dismal loss to Cardiff City.

His decisions were vindicated as David Stockdale performed splendidly in goal in place of Maarten Stekelenburg and the reintegration of Fernando Amorebieta into the defence coincided with a first clean sheet since December. Stockdale and Amorebieta had played many times already this season and contributed as much to some heavy defeats as they did to this victory so it remains to be seen whether the new-found solidity is durable.

The performance of 19-year-old Cauley Woodrow was a clear positive. He led the line with a zest not seen this season from any of the other six strikers Fulham have fielded, including their expensive recruits Kostas Mitroglu and Darren Bent, neither of whom were in the squad. The 17-year-old striker Patrick Roberts was among the substitutes instead.

Magath is now convinced that youthful audacity and dynamism trump craggy wiles. "I thought in this situation the older players would be more confident but the young players like Woodrow are more exciting," he said. "They give us a good mood, good vibrations. They have nothing to lose."

Woodrow's mobility and link-up play helped give shape to a Fulham side who has too often seemed amorphous this season and he almost claimed the goal that his display deserved when he turned the ball into the net early in the second half after Jonny Heitinga's long-range shot crashed out off the crossbar. But no goal was given as Woodrow has ventured offside.

Another feature of this campaign has been Fulham's tendency to shoot themselves in the foot even when playing well and William Kvist risked a relapse when he inadvertently presented Papiss Cissé with a clear shot at goal in the 66th minute. Stockdale saved and Fulham went straight down the other end and scored the winning goal as a mistake by Tim Krul allowed Ashkan Dejagah's 20-yard shot to find the net. Perhaps that change of fortune was more significant than any of the personnel alterations? Maybe Magath is right about his glasses.

Fulham are still four points form a position of safety - five if you factor in their disastrous goal difference - but their remaining fixtures include potentially pivotal clashes with fellow strugglers such as Crystal Palace, Norwich and Hull. And next weekend Woodrow is likely to come up against Martin Demichiles, another creaking veteran whom the youngster could make look bad.

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