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Predictable Fulham - Sunday Telegraph

last updated Sunday 08th April 2001, 8:03 AM
ON THIS evidence Fulham would be well advised to tear up their plans for a rebuilt Craven Cottage, for their stay in the Premiership would be brief if Jean Tigana's team always played as unimaginatively as against the play-off candidates from the Black Country.

True, Gary Megson's side were well-organised and industrious, but aspirants to elite status should have worried them more. Fulham still require six points from seven matches to be sure of promotion from Division One - in the unlikely event of Bolton winning their final seven - and they might have to be compiled in singles if the fluency and penetration that have distinguished their season cannot be rediscovered, at Blackburn on Wednesday or soon after.

Indeed Blackburn are looking better equipped for the step up at present. The excellent Steve Finnan apart, no Fulham player stamped any authority on the largely dismal proceedings, despite a lively 25 minutes as substitute from Karlheinz Riedle, who brought the save of the match from Russell Hoult near the end. So there seems plenty of action ahead for Mohamed Fayed's cheque book and, at least from the distance he prefers to keep, he appears undaunted.

Good judges assessing Fulham's prospects in the Premiership have pointed to the need for a big centre-forward to take some pressure off Louis Saha. So what happens? Fulham go for the biggest centre-forward in Europe, Anderlecht's Jan Koller, for whom they would have to double their record outlay of £4 million.

That figure was paid recently for the Newcastle defender, Alain Goma. The Frenchman is not yet fully fit, however, and missed this match, Tigana continuing with the central partnership of Kit Symons and Andy Melville, who from the start were troubled by the wiles of the 34-year-old Bob Taylor.

From a corner he had forced himself, Taylor had a header fingertipped over by his namesake Maik. Another high ball, nodded on to him by Tony Butler, was cleverly backheaded by the veteran, obliging Maik Taylor to make a diving catch. With the interval approaching, Lee Hughes laid the ball off to Bob Taylor, whose shot hit the outside of a post.

This was about the sum of the goalmouth incident created by West Bromwich in the first half. But Fulham created even less (a euphemism for nothing). Tigana's men were almost painfully predictable and West Bromwich had found it profitable to put pressure on the 21-year-old Sean Davis, who was charged with distribution from his station in front of Symons and Melville. On one occasion Davis was robbed by Jason van Blerk, who he felt impelled to foul on the edge of the penalty area; fortunately for Fulham, the notional advantage of the ensuing free-kick was wasted by Jordao's wild swipe.

The resumption was marked by greater urgency from Fulham, even though Hoult's first save was simply a matter of stooping to field Lee Clark's low drive. Saha nearly curled one in and while Finnan - surely among the best right-backs in any English division - was showing aggression, the momentum was sustained.

In the 66th minute Davis, chasing Saha's through-pass, finally made Hoult move sharply. By now a third forward, the venerable Riedle, was on and, after he had scissor-kicked just wide, the German forced Hoult into his most tricky stop.
Source sport telegraph by Patrick Barclay
Since 1998
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