Monday, September 11, 2006

No home comfort

Newcastle Utd 1 - 2 Fulham

Once again we battered Fulham at home, only to see the visitors head back to London will all three points. In November 2004 we suffered an almost surreal 4-1 defeat in one of the most one-sided games I've ever witnessed. On Saturday, we once again paid the price for poor finishing, as a game which we dominated for 80 minutes was cruelly taken from us during the last ten.

For much of the game we held sway, and with Fulham losing Jimmy Bullard to a knee injury sustained in an innocuous tackle with Scott Parker, we were able to dominate midfield. Parker was again magnificent, driving the team forward and displaying the energy and spirit which earned him the captaincy. Justifiably, his was the name on the score sheet, as he made a storming run into the box to meet a ball swung in from the right by Emre, and plant a firm header past Antti Niemi.

Thereafter, we were unable to grab the second goal which would surely have guaranteed us the points. With Obafemi Martins and Shola Ameobi up front we were unable to carve out the sort of chance that either could put away - Shola in particular looking laboured (once again raising doubts about his fitness).

In midfield, N'Zogbia and Duff were entrusted with the task of giving us width, Solano dropping to the bench, and Milner (despite a strong showing in midweek for England Under 21s) not even in the sixteen. However, we seemed incapable of wrapping up the game.

Despite looking in control against Brian McBride for most of the game, it was inevitable that as soon as Titus Bramble lost concentration, Fulham scored. Routledge got free down the Fulham right, as a result of Ramage (deputising for the injured Babayaro and unfit Bernard) losing his footing, and his cross went past Bramble (guilty of ball watching) to the waiting McBride, who promptly volleyed home.

With Parker having left the field injured, our spirit looked to have drained away, and with Fulham's tails up there was a depressing inevitability about their second goal. This time, McBride's header hit the cross bar, and fell on to Carlos Bocanegra who shinned the ball in from one yard.

Depressingly, we failed to beat a side whom we dominated for large swathes of the game, and once again our failure to keep a clean sheet cost us any chance of some points. Whilst we looked solid at the back towards the end of last season, we once again have begun to look vulnerable, and Roeder needs to ensure the defence spend some time on the training pitch if this isn't to become a regular gripe.

Highlights: Toongoals

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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