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Fulham 1-0 Norwich Prem 34 1314 The Guardian

last updated Monday 14th April 2014, 9:40 AM

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James Riach at The Guardian

Fulham (1) 1-0 (0) Norwich

Perhaps this should have been billed as the game of the gamblers. Fulham and Norwich have been through five managers between them this season in a desperate attempt to retain Premier League status yet this narrow victory, secured by Hugo Rodallega's strike during a scrappy and frantic game at the bottom of the table, leaves the Canaries' high-risk ploy of sacking Chris Hughton under serious question and their survival hopes hanging by a thread.

They were unlucky to lose here, but that was little consolation to Neil Adams in his first game in charge. Adams, who made six changes to the Norwich starting XI, was appointed in the hope that his presence could inspire a crucial win in this six-pointer, a result that would have been a huge step towards safety. Instead, his side now hold a mere two-point lead over Fulham in 18th and with a daunting run-in to come.

Felix Magath, Fulham's third manager of the campaign, has certainly improved performances but will thank his goalkeeper, David Stockdale, for an outstanding display. Norwich have Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal left to play and Magath, whose Fulham side were rock-bottom and in dire straits before his arrival, may just complete the unlikeliest of turnarounds.

"Suddenly there is now hope," the German said afterwards. "We were very lucky because Norwich were the better team and played very well. We were not so good today but there was a lot of pressure. We played not as well as last week but at the moment three points is the only thing that counts.

"I am kaputt. It was a dramatic 90 minutes. It's always a risk if you take over a team on the bottom. You cannot promise that you will manage the situation but I know that I have had these situations many times."

On his goalkeeper's display, Magath said: " I took [Maarten Stekelenburg] out because David Stockdale is a goalkeeper who talks more with his team-mates, it works better together and today he was the best man."

This was the fourth meeting between these sides this season and, for Norwich, another miserable trip to west London. They should have led at half-time and were denied in the first half only by Stockdale and the woodwork, before switching off at a free-kick and conceding shortly before half-time.

Stockdale superbly denied Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the 28th minute, reacting quickly and sticking out his right arm to keep out the striker's first-time effort from a cross. The Dutchman has still not scored since the opening day of the season in any competition.

From the resulting corner, Stockdale was on hand again, palming away Leroy Fer's header from a Nathan Redmond cross before Bradley Johnson shot wide.

When Robert Snodgrass rattled the crossbar from a free-kick shortly after half an hour, Norwich could be forgiven for thinking their luck was out.

Indeed, Rodallega struck shortly later, sweeping into the roof of the net after Steven Sidwell had flicked on Lewis Holtby's free-kick from the left.

There was more misery for Van Wolfswinkel who, when breaking into the penalty area down the right, laid the ball back to a white shirt when he had options in the penalty area. The incident, in front of the Norwich fans, did not amuse the travelling hordes.

Van Wolfswinkel was withdrawn soon afterwards for Gary Hooper, a move the supporters applauded, before Snodgrass somehow fired wide from six yards out.

"We had chances and didn't take them," Adams said. "The keeper made one fantastic save from Ricky. Ricky needs a goal. He gives you everything you want from a centre-forward but of course they are paid to score goals. He knows that. The keeper has pulled off a fantastic save.

"We know what's at stake here. We've got four huge games against four of the best teams in Europe. But the positive thing to take from this is what we just saw from our 14 players. We just needed a goal.

"It's hard to take. What we've done all week, what we've asked of the players . I couldn't ask for any more, I really couldn't. I think we got it tactically spot-on and I thought we dominated the game for long spells."

Michael Turner had a goal-bound header deflected wide by Rodallega late on and the substitute Ashkan Dejagah could have killed off the game in injury time, instead slicing wide after a quick counterattack. But for Norwich, their self-proclaimed "fate worse than death" moves one step closer to becoming a reality.

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