Fulham 1-0 Newcastle

How sweet that must have felt for Damien Duff.    For an hour his every touch was jeered by his old audience; then his winning goal shut them up.    As we so often find ourselves saying, football, eh?

The highlight of the first half was my peanut butter sandwich.   So substantial was it that it took 25 minutes to work through, by which time nothing at all had happened on the pitch.    Newcastle squeezed the game and slammed into our players, closing them down super-efficiently and creating a mess of a match.    It felt like watching a Sam Allardyce side on a particularly determined day.

All of which left much for Fulham to do.  Murphy and Sidwell were keeping their heads above water, but only just.   AJ ran hard again, Dembele seemed to draw an awful lot of contact and everything seemed to be going through Duff rather than Dempsey, who barely had a touch.   Duff was going well, but so insistent were Newcastle’s defenders that chances simply didn’t materialise.

We saw a much better tempo in the second half and soon found ourselves in dangerous areas.   Dempsey started to lean on the last man looking for Murphy’s balls over the top, and Sidwell and Murphy started to command the middle of the park.   Dembele, in a very different way to Sunday, really showed his worth; he has subtle leadership skills, and his presence is like having the coolest kid from the year above at school join in with your kick around.   Good things were starting to happen, notably when Dempsey went charging through on the inside left channel and fired off a shot which somehow ended up with Duff close in.   Regrettably the latter could only stab the rebound wide.    Gasp.

Then we did score.  Newcastle had been playing chicken with Murphy for a while, a daring high line that needed their midfield to keep up their frenetic work in denying our midfield time.   Perhaps they got tired, but the through balls started to come, and here was Duff clean through and there we were, 1 up.    No less than we deserved either.

Dempsey brought a couple more good saves out of Harper, who was having an important match for his team.   Newcastle didn’t really have a counter-plan, and it really became a case of whether we’d get another.  Gael Kakuta was brought on to try, and looked lively enough, but that ended up being that.

Much to enjoy in the end, a slow burner that initially didn’t seem to have lit at all, but which grew into a fair old tussle.   The referee didn’t help, petty whistling giving the match an uneccessarily stop-start feel, but another important three points to keep this momentum going.   We feel like a good side again.

35 thoughts on “Fulham 1-0 Newcastle

  1. Something’s clicked. We seem to be playing more like we did last season, but with a bit more style and movement, mainly thanks to Dembele. There was a time when it looked like Hughes was abandoning everything that Hodgson had taught the team, trying to impose his new style. Now it seems that either (a) he’s taken a step back and decided to let the players do their thing; or (b) this is what he always wanted and the players weren’t getting it and were going over the top to be an all-action side. Of course, it could just be that players are returning from injury and things are starting to turn in our favour. But whereas it felt like we didn’t have much of a plan a month ago, now it feels like we do and have some contingencies ready for good measure. Add to that the fact that we have the best defense outside of the sides in the champions league places and that our attack is growing in strength and things really are looking up.

  2. I thought that Newcastle looked an awful footballing side, really horrible. But in midfield they were strong and aggressive. We had to win the midfield battle before we could begin to play. That only really happened in the second half. In the first, we looked like we were missing a fired up Etuhu. But eventually we got a grip and I thought we played pretty well second half.

    Dembele is wonderful. The only impressive thing about Newcastle were their fans.

    1. A bit unfair on Newcastle. They were toothless, but defended well and competed well. As we did. The game took a long time to come to life and was at no stage a classic, but there was plenty to admire in a fierce battle that never got nasty and in which there was virtually no whingeing or play-acting. Something of a throw-back you might say. Our extra quality told in the end, as it should, but we needed steel and endeavour to back it up. We are looking very much a top ten side now.

      1. I think I was quite fair – I described them as strong and aggressive, which they were. They did indeed defend reasonably well (though they looked vulnerable to pace) and were competitive, but in terms of the football they played I thought they were awful. From the brief bit I heard of him on MOTD, Pardew seemed to pretty much agree.

        It was quite amusing to hear the Newcastle fans get hugely excited whenever Gutierrez got the ball, only for him to do his inevitable trick of running really quickly in a straight line before giving the ball away. You’d think they’d be used to it by now.

        1. Football quality not up to much on the night from them, no dispute, but I differ concerning the flavour left in the mouth. If they are to be described as horrible then we need something even stronger for Wolves the day they visited and Stoke on many occasions (not actually their recent visit, when they were merely inept). Cynical spoilers maybe. Newcastle weren’t that, and the game was highly competitive in a sense that was refreshing. I liked it that people got flattened by, on the whole, mere robustness, and, on the whole, just got up and got on with it. Not an every-week sight and a bit of a throwback.

          1. Yes, agree there. It was also encouraging that for the most part, our players dug in and relished the battle. This is what impressed me with Demebele, he wasn’t at all worried about receiving the ball in an area of the pitch that was full of Newcastle players ready to batter him. He’d take the ball, take the contact, then spin away and make good use of it. Really good play. AJ was brave enough, too, and Murphy and Sidwell worked really hard to wrestle control (although I’m sure Newcastle tired in the end; you don’t play a high line without pressing hard, and Murph had a lot of room to pull strings in the second half).

            I wish the referee had let things flow a bit more though.

  3. Spot on with your view of newcastle, they were horrible to watch, breaking up play with lots of niggly tackles etc. I worry for them now if their tactics tonight continue for the rest of the season, they offered nothing in attack. Is that how good Carroll was for them? Was it Carroll that made Newcastle rather than the team making Carroll? Looks like it.

    As for Fulham. Dembele is class. Duff worked hard, I thought he had a very average game and then he popped up and scored the ‘Simon Davies’ manoeuver. Kakuta looked class, his pass to Dempsey was sublime. Defence was solid as always but thought we lacked a little width. Overall a workmanlike performance that showed we do have some class.

    1. Why were their tackles “niggly” and ours not? As I’ve just alluded to above, Wolves when they visited kept “breaking up play”, by shirt-pulling, body-checking, time-wasting, whingeing at the ref. Last night was a significantly different kind of contest. Yes, they didn’t pass well, but tackling, intercepting and rushing to fill in space when you’ve not got the ball are all part of football too. In the right sense you should be trying to break up your opponent’s play, and I didn’t spot a difference in the way the teams set about it. That both too often succeeded meant the game was scrappy, true.

      1. Well I guess it’s that we had most of the ball and we seemed to be trying to play football, while they were trying to stop us and did get physical in so doing. They were almost entirely legal in so doing though, and it did make for a strange game. We sit quite near the pitch so couldn’t quite get a handle on the two sides’ setups, but it looked like a case of cancelling each other out and Newcastle squeezing space, making the pitch smaller and giving our players very little time. As noted earlier, this seemed to change a little after half time, Dempsey became much more dangerous (he was persistent in his left-wing to centre-forward running and could have scored three) and Newcastle lost a bit of their intensity.

        Should be noted that the pitch didn’t help either; looking very lumpy now.

      2. Niggly as in irritating rather than fouling. In the first half at least, they seemed content to tackle and hoof the ball up field repeatedly. We therefore struggled for possession and could not get going. In this case niggly is a compliment to them rather than a criticism.

        They were the polar opposite of playing spurs (especially a 10-man spurs team) in that Sidwell and Murphy had to work really hard to create space. There were a lot more balls out to the full backs and it wasn’t until the second half when it opened up a bit that we were able to make decisive passes through the middle. Maybe this was why we struggle in the first half?

        1. I have to agree with the original comment about Newcastle. If you love watching football, you sure must have a hard time watching Newcastle. Their bully-esque strategy lacks the skill and pace to back it up. So, in the end, they ended up just body-checking us and then quickly giving it back only to take the same approach again, and again, and again.
          Glad we got all 3!
          COYW!

  4. Newcastle well rested with free wk/end. Fulham inevitably jaded after Sunday. Huge credit to manager and team for change of pace in second half. My guest from Ipswich was quick to notice the difference and rated Dembele as good as any player he has seen this season. Important for Duff to score after so many near misses since Christmas.Back to back wins at last.

  5. What a pleasure this team is to watch now. And we still have Zamora on the way. What felt like a skeleton crew even a month ago will soon feel like an embarrassment of riches. I thought our midfield was a little sloppy the first half. Uncharacteristically, Murphy was struggling to maintain possession. In his defense, though, the Newcastle midfield was pretty relentless. Second half was an entirely different story, as Murphy regained his usual crisp form. What a ball to Duff. The Pantsil/Duff combination has been a pleasure to watch the past several games, as has Johnson/Dembele. Can’t wait for the next game.

  6. I’d love to give thoughts on the match… but, Rich, having read this blog for a a few years now, I’d have to say that…

    “The highlight of the first half was my peanut butter sandwich. So substantial was it that it took 25 minutes to work through, by which time nothing at all had happened on the pitch.”

    …is the best bit of writing I’ve seen you pull off. Laugh out loud funny and apt for the proceedings. Excellent.

  7. Was this peanut butter all natural or the jif/peter pan/whatever you call it in England variety?

    That all natural stuff is like molasses.

    1. I spent a month in London and we had a hard time finding peanut butter. Sounds like a great sandwich. Did you use a nice thick potato bread? What sort of jelly did you use?

      These are the important questions.

  8. rich, hilarious peanut butter line.

    its so nice to finally get a scrappy win. we would’ve lost or drawn this game earlier in the year.

  9. … “his presence is like having the coolest kid from the year above at school join in with your kick around.”

    Nice one.

    1. Yep. That desciption of Dembele really struck a cord with me. He’s quite a player, and as Rich said elsewhere, didn’t seem at all concerned about the physical nature of our opposition.

  10. Cookie and Lee Clark in the Sky box were convinced we should have had two penalties from Williamson’s man-handling of Brede Hangeland at free kicks. As Clark pointed out, anywhere outside the penalty area and they would have been given.

    In the last few games we have looked really solid. Difficult to break down and with enough of a threat going forward to keep opponents on the back foot. I feel good about our chances at Villa as long as we don’t run out of gas. Dembele is a terrific signing. Will Hughes be tempted to move him to wide midfield to accommodate AJ when Bobby’s back?

    1. That’s the trick isn’t it? Rock solid at the back, rotation and unpredictability up front. It’s a tricky balancing act but if we can get it right we’ll be a good team.

      Zamora and AJ are probably still either/or. I don’t know that they necessarily work playing together, and you can’t drop any of the midfield or Dembele anyway. It’ll take Zamora a time to get fit, by which time AJ might have run out of steam or someone else might be injured.

    2. Gentleman Jim thought the same, but I wasn’t sure how seriously to take that because is a bit prone to… hyperbole, let’s say?

  11. Yes because Fulham are one of the spectacles of the league away from Home arent they ???

    We are still ahead of you in the league last time i checked and trust me we were never carried by Carroll, We were dire last night but Barton, Nolan, Enrique, Tiote and Coloccini have played as important a role if not more so than he ever did.

  12. I don’t have any problem with the way Newcastle played and I was impressed that we matched them physically.

    The referee might have helped by being less random in what he deemed to be a foul or a situation meriting an advantage.

    In the end quite an absorbing game and we are improving at a rate of knots.

  13. Newcastle fan here and I think both teams cancelled each other out first half. Personally I thought only Newcastle were trying to play football in the first half whilst Fulham were breaking up the play. Second half you came out with more purpose and got the one goal that was always going to win the game.

    In midfield I thought Barton was the outstanding player, but as far as our team was concerned he was the only one, whereas in Murphy, Dempsey, Duff and Sidwell you had the better unit and that was a major factor in why the game ultimately turned your way. One (Barton) against four was eventually going to mean he tired.

    Spot on about Gutierrez, the guy is so frustrating with his persistent wrong decision making. He can get the ball and evade the very close attention of the nearest marker almost every time, but then when he has time to run with the ball he runs stright into opponents.

    Up front we were toothless, not helped by Sidwell’s flailing arm, and you have to admit that if Barton had done that, accidental or not, you would have been baying for blood.

    I’m sure you find the booing of Duff amusing, but you have to remember at Newcastle, in our relegation season, he was one of the overpaid, overhyped players who thought it wasn’t his job to battle to win games, along with Owen, Viduka, Martins, N’Zogbia, Beye and Bassong. When you see his form for Fulham I hope you can understand why many feel he cheated us with so many under par performances.

    As for him getting Man of the Match last night, now that is amusing. He wasn’t even Fulhams best player, never mind MOTM.

    1. thanks, MJ.

      I make you right on a lot of that, but the Duff thing is interesting. He’s been a model pro since arriving at Fulham (as best we can tell), has given 100% every game and been a very fine player for us. I’m at a loss to understand why Newcastle fans would have seen a different player. Are we lucky to have had two managers who can get the best out of him, or was he (like so many, it seems) just not able to play successfully for Newcastle? Why does this keep happening to players up there? Why have Newcastle teams so often been less than the sum of their individual parts?

      1. I have to agree with Rich. Duff has been quite the fighter since being at Fulham and always puts a shift in, even if sometimes it’s more to help out the right back. Duff was unfortunate at Newcastle as his first season was blighted by injury (one career threatening apparently) and in three seasons had four managers, one of whom asked him to play at left back. I think he’s done so well at Fulham because he had time to adapt his post-injury game, which is no longer about speed.

        1. No denying he has been excellent for Fulham, and I hear what you say about him getting an injury. But obviously when he got the injury he wasn’t playing for us.

          It was when he did “play” that he was disappointing, all too often appearing lazy and disinterested.

          Now he may have been carrying a knock, or he might have just have been blighted by the general malaise that seemed to affect too many of his team-mates that season.

          I have no doubt if even a couple of them had bothered their backsides we would not have gone down – we only went down by one point with a better GD than all around us.

          Got to say though that he came out of the blocks at Fulham and given his last few pathetic performances for us that was hard to understand

          1. I think the key is the “his post-injury game” that Bad Andy is talking about. How often at Newcastle was he played on the right? Duff has been nowhere near as effective for us when playing in his traditional position wide on the left. It seems that ability to challenge the defender on his wrong side by turning inwards and threaten goal has been crucial in compensating for whatever Duff has lost through time or injury. I can only think it must be that because from everything I’ve seen of him on the field and everything I’ve read about him in his personal life, he seems one of the least likely footballers of his generation to shirk responsibilities and not put in a shift.

            1. Actually you are correct there. He was almost always played on the left at Newcastle. I guess the simplistic idea of “He’s left footed, play him on the left wing” must have been applied by the various managers that season.

              Certainly seems far more effective at Fulham, whether that is down to position or motivation.

        2. I don’t want to be over-harsh but I do think Duff is pretty hopeless defensively. It’s OK if he’s on form going forwards but there were definitely times last night (and generally this season) when I thought he looked lost.

          I can certainly understand how playing with the expectations that would have existed at Newcastle and in a side that was struggling he could have looked like he wasn’t pulling his weight. I don’t think that’s entirely his fault, he was outstanding under Hodgson given the confidence to perform and having the backing of a very organised team around him.

          He also scored the own goal that put them down.

          Still I was very pleased he got the goal that won the game. Nice to see him come and show his thanks to the home end for cheering him on.

  14. Thought Newcastle were noticeably slow on restarts and free-kicks, sure sign of a tactical intention to break up the game and try to while the time away for a draw.

  15. Somewhere I read an interview by Duff and he said how nice it was to be away from the media spotlight at Fulham. He appears to be a private, hard working footballer who didn’t enjoy the ‘fishbowl’ that is Newcastle or any other so called ‘big club’. Fulham suits him and others like him …hangeland for example. The guys get on with their football quietly at Motspur Park and I for one am delighted by their performances and professionalism. If only all premier cubs were run a bit more like our beloved Fulham.

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