Newcastle tasted defeat for a fifth time in six Premier League outings as a Fulham side fired by former Magpie Damien Duff dispatched United at Craven Cottage.
No defeat is good, but at least we once again showed improvement in terms of performance and actually looked threatening in attack with Hatem Ben Arfa causing the most problems for Fulham before his planned withdrawal due to lack of training on 65 minutes.
However ultimately it was mistakes in defence which cost us the game once more and it’s those mistakes that need to be eradicated if we are to start picking up the points required to drag us away from the relegation zone. I’m not worried yet, but with a tough run of fixtures to come there is a sense of danger around St James’ Park although if our performances match the level we saw at the start of the second half we’ll be fine and will avoid being drawn into a relegation battle.
The hosts started off brightly applying pressure and looking dangerous. Danny Simpson had to be on hand to clear an early cross whilst Alex Kacaniklic had tentative claims for an early penalty waved away by Lee Mason.
Another slow start proved costly in the 19th minute when Damien Duff played in Steve Sidwell who saw his shot at goal deflected past Tim Krul and into the back of the net via Mike Williamson and the crossbar. Krul would have saved it comfortably but such is the way things are going for us at the moment it proved costly and Fulham grabbed a deserved lead.
It could have been worse minutes later when Cheik Tiote gifted possession to Fulham forcing Tim Krul into a smart save from Dimitar Berbatov. It was one of a number of occasions where Tiote gave the ball away in dangerous areas by simply just not looking at what he was doing.
However United did start to offer a threat themselves as the half went on. Fabricio Coloccini saw his well worked header from a Hatem Ben Arfa corner cleared off the line by Sascha Riether before Demba Ba saw himself denied by the same player on the line after Mark Schwarzer flapped at a cross.
Half-time: Fulham 1-0 Newcastle
The threat intensified after the break as United turned the screws. With Hatem Ben Arfa proving ever more purposeful the away side had the bulk of the possession but were unable to find that killer ball. That was until the 54th minute when Ben Arfa unleashed a shot at goal which took a slight deflection off John Arne Riise before wildly dipping in off Mark Scwarzer’s crossbar to level the scores.
Further chances followed for Demba Ba, Vurnon Anita and Papiss Cisse and at this point it looked as though the away side might actually end a run of failing to win away from home.
However Fulham still offered a threat on the break and Hugo Rodallega could have put the hosts ahead once more but was unable to capitalise after breaking from the halfway line. However the former Wigan man wasn’t to be denied and after a needless foul was given away on the corner of our penalty area Rodallega found himself unmarked at the near post and in an ideal position to nod home Damien Duff’s cross. Two assists for Duff on the night, which equal the two he had for us during his entire spell at United.
Papiss Cisse hit the post, albeit from an offside position, while Fabricio Coloccini was unlucky not to restore parity after cutting in from the left and seeing his curling effort bounce back off the frame of the goal and while United continued to press they were unable to take advantage and couldn’t really muster anything but weak shots at Schwarzer’s goal.
At the other end Fulham could have extended the lead as Newcastle committed men forward but they were unable to capitalise and the closest they went was through substitute Mladen Petric who struck the frame of the United goal with a fierce effort.
Full-time: Fulham 2-1 Newcastle
I’ll probably get slated for saying this (I’m used to it by the way) but I was quite happy with the performance last night. It was another improvement after recent improvements against Stoke and Wigan and we certainly offered more threat going forward which I believe was one complaint voiced by a lot of fans not so long back?
We tried a different formation again, which was another complaint I recall from some fans, and apart from a slow start we played well enough to deserve at least a point in my view.
Thing is what you get and what you deserve can be completely different in football. If we are to start robbing points again we need to sort out our defensive side. How many goals in recent weeks have been because of defensive howlers? I don’t mean who made the last howler as quite often that player is trying to cover for another loose pass/loss of possession by another player. I mean as a unit we need to be more solid.
Manchester City at home next this Saturday. Not a good place to start either…
Fulham: Mark Schwarzer, Sascha Riether, Aaron Hughes, Brede Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Chris Baird, Alexander Kacaniklic, Dimitar Berbatov, Hugo Rodallega
Subs: Neil Etheridge, Kieran Richardson, Philippe Senderos, Giorgos Karagounis, Mahamadou Diarra, Ashkan Dejagah, Mladen Petric
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Vurnon Anita, Cheik Tiote; Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez; Demba Ba
Subs: Steve Harper, Shane Ferguson, James Tavernier, James Perch, Gael Bigirimana, Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi