Murphy's Law brings a sense of Déjà Vu
St James' Park
The Cottagers of Londinium headed north for what was only the third Saturday 3pm home fixture for Newcastle United so far this season. After a frustrating midweek loss at home to the ante-football presented by Blackburn, it was important to get back to winning ways.
Pre match, the bookies seem to have cottoned on to our inability to break down hard working, compact teams, and we were odds against in some places to win. The stats were no clearer. Fulham had won on three of their previous four visits at St. James', but had also failed to win away in the league for 24 matches. You can guess where they last won. They must have been devastated we weren't in the Premiership last season.
Hughton was forced into two changes, with Lovenkrands replacing Ameobi, who was busy in the Algarve looking at specialist retirement homes for those with premature hip problems. Barton's rumble in the jungle with that lemon haired ponce, Pedersen, meant that the FA dusted down their rule book and thanks to the use of TV technology, promptly threw it at him. Guthrie came in to play that right sided, central midfield combo role Barton has carried off so well recently.
Fulham included former Magpies Aaron Hughes and Damien Duff who returned to St. James' with differing results. Duff, roundly booed every time he touched the ball put in an ineffective, lacklustre performance we'd come to expect whilst wearing the black and white.
However, we knew what to expect, as Fulham are a hard working, well organised outfit. Whilst they don't seem to win away, they don't often lose. Two losses in 6 away games, the latest one restricting free scoring Chelsea to a narrow 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
So then, our nemesis yet again came to town. A club likely to finish out of the top eight, with a collective work ethic. Discounting Sunderland, as they didn't even work, all we've had to show against four of these teams at home is one 94th minute equaliser.
Could we break them down and repeat some of the form that has seen us demolish Villa 6-0 and Sunderland 5-1, or would it be a repeat of the Blackpool, Wigan, Stoke etc. debacles?
Newcastle started off the better, without really threatening to dominate their opponents, but after 10 minutes or so, Fulham started coming back into it, and started to create.
In a pretty dull first half Fulham had probably the first decent chance, with the giant Hangeland making a knock down, falling to the clever Dempsey, who tried to flick it round Krul, who had came rushing out, resulting in a brave save by the Dutchman
A breakaway by Lovenkrands who was surrounded by four men, saw him push the ball out to Jonas on the left. He tried to make a first time cross, but hit it straight into the defender, with the follow up being err.. hit straight into the defender, for a corner.
Dempsey troubled Krul with a curling shot which was palmed away by the keeper.
Before half time, from a Newcastle corner taken by Guthrie, a decent volley from Carroll hit Nolan three yards out, and a point blank save by Schwarzer from a quick Lovenkrands follow up gave you that feeling it wasn't going to be our day. A follow up shot from outside the box by Gutierrez was disappointingly dragged left of goal without troubling Schwarzer. That seems to sum up Gutierrez these days. Plenty of running, dribbling and getting into positions, but ultimately, no end product.
In the second half, a teasing cross from the centre of the pitch by Guthrie was headed out, which fell to Carroll, who unleashed a cracking 25 yard volley. Schwarzer made a superb save low down to his left.
Gutierrez brilliantly beat two men in his own half, then drifting into the centre, surrounded by defenders, he released the ball out to Guthrie on right who put in a great cross onto Lovenkrands head, but he was too far out to make it anything more than a routine save. We can only wish it was Carroll had been on the end of it.
A lovely ball over the defence by the excellent Danny Murphy, to Andy Johnson, saw Williamson either switch off for a second or misjudge the flight of the ball. Johnson broke away on goal, but as good as the ball was to him, it was bettered by what is now becoming Williamson's forte, a superbly timed redeeming tackle, before Johnson could manage a shot.
With Murphy continuously pulling the strings for the Londoners, Fulham began to look threatening again. A corner by Davies was flicked on by Etuhu, and Dembeli flashed a volley onto the crossbar.
With 15 minutes to go, Hughton made changes, swapping Guthrie & Lovenkrands for Ranger and Routledge. It was hoped an out and out winger on the right would make a difference, with Rangers giving more of a presence than Lovenkrands.
Routledge from the touch line made a bit of space for himself and somehow spooned a cross in, which caused Hangeland to panic and head away from the hands of Schwarzer. Carroll tried a difficult volley which went wide of the post.
For all the endeavour of both teams, a special mention to a referee (Lee Probert) who yet again had played too much of a part in things. Fulham continuously wasted time in the second half, with player after player going down with non existent injuries, which he bought each and every time. A bizarre free kick towards the end, given against Carroll simply for breathing, summed things up. Clueless.
To make matters worse, he had earlier booked Tiote for having the audacity to win the ball in a fair tackle. That was his 5th booking and our midfield enforcer now misses the Bolton away match.
The game petered out to a nil nil draw. Possibly a fair result.. We huffed and we puffed but couldn't blow the cottagers down. They were organised and looked occasionally sharp going forward, troubling Krul occasionally, but never really looking like they'd score. We were fairly similar, but had the clearer chances, with Schwarzer making a couple of class saves.
Still, our problem at home against the lesser sides continues.