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Fulham could do better - S. Telegraph

last updated Sunday 25th November 2001, 8:38 AM
This battle between Fulham and Bolton, last season's First Division champions and the play-off final winners, offered an opportunity to assess how well both had adapted to the higher grade. After this goalless, yet often entertaining draw, their respective mid-term reports would be identical: keep up the good work but there is room for improvement.

Particularly at home in Bolton's case where Sam Allardyce's team are without a Premiership win in three months, a lean period of five games, four of which they have failed to score in.

It was not for want of trying for a Fulham side who had won their previous three games and on which an outlay of £27 million has been lavished in an effort to raise their standards to the Premier level. Bolton have spent a pittance in comparison but, in spite of worrying shortcomings in front of their fans, are still happily holding their own in the top half.

After their recent good run, Jean Tigana resisted the temptation of recalling Luis Boa Morte to the side following his suspension for a sending off against Ipswich. He saw no need to alter a winning formula and Fulham, who retained Louis Saha and Barry Hayles as the strike partnership, were unchanged.

Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar
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However, it was Bolton who offered the first threat, leading scorer Michael Ricketts finishing off a neat passing interchange by attempting to loop a header over Edwin Van der Sar but he could not get enough power behind it.

In response Saha and Steed Malbranque combined to set up Sylvain Legwinski whose shot from 30 yards could be described as no more than speculative. Saha's pace posed a danger to the home defence and, as they tried to tighten their rein on him, Mike Whitlow received a lecture from the referee for a crude challenge from behind.

Bolton could be equally sharp on the counter and, after Ricketts laid back Paul Warhurst's incisive pass forward, Per Frandsen whipped a low left-footer too close to the right hand upright for Van der Sar's comfort.

Van der Sar was in further trouble when he foolishly elected to dribble the ball round Rod Wallace and lost possession. Fortunately for the Dutchman, the resulting cross across the untenanted goal came to nothing.

Fulham's goalkeeper redeemed himself to an extent, however, when clawing a Kevin Nolan drive away for a corner when it could easily have sneaked inside a post.

Bolton's approach play, with Warhurst underpinning most of their moves in the holding role, was at times impressive and all that seemed lacking was a little self-belief in the final ball.

Frandsen, their chief playmaker, did his best to correct this tendency, picking out Ricardo Gardner just after the interval with a superb crossfield pass only for the Jamaican international to run out of room as he took aim.

Hayles blazed over at the other end after turning cleverly but the visitors were mainly forced onto the back foot. Boa Morte was eventually brought on to inject fresh impetus into their attack and, soon after his arrival, he nipped past a floundering Jussi Jaaskelainen and coolly pulled the ball back for Sean Davis but the latter hit a wild shot into the crowd.


Bolton: Jaaskelainen, N'Gotty, Whitlow, Bergsson, Charlton, Nolan, Warhurst, Frandsen (Farrelly 84), Gardner (Holdsworth 76), Wallace, Ricketts.

Subs Not Used: Poole, Barness, Johnson.

Booked: Holdsworth.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Finnan, Goma, Melville, Brevett, Collins, Malbranque (Clark 69), Davis, Legwinski, Saha, Hayles (Boa Morte 68).

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Symons, Goldbaek.

Booked: Brevett.

Att: 23,848

Ref: M Dean (The Wirral).
Source S. Telegraph by Steve Thomson
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