Close match sees Fulham edge victory
Fulham edged a narrow encounter against Newcastle, as Damien Duff scored against his former club to propel Mark Hughes's away from the perils of the relegation zone and into twelfth spot in the Premier League.
The Irish international latched onto a crafted cross from skipper Danny Murphy, and patiently waited for the ball to bounce infront of the Newcastle defence before slotting past Harper.
Striker Shola Ameobi was substituted after ten minutes following what revealed to be a fractured cheekbone, which could put the 29-year-old out for at least a month.
After a dramatic week in the Premier League, Fulham, included loanee Steve Sidwell. Eidur Gudjohnson failed to make the bench after joining on loan from Stoke, which has raised questions regarding the Icelandic’s fitness. Fulham’s other January transfer activity, Gael Kakuta, started on the bench following his termporary move from Chelsea.
Fulham got off to a decent start with Duff and striker Andy Johnson pushing down the left flanks, winning two corners and putting the pressure on Newcastle’s back four.
The Cottagers pressed Newcastle nicely on the ten-minute mark after Dembele held the ball up on the 16-yard box before sending Johnson down the right flank, who whipped in curled cross for Clint Dempsey to arrive a fraction late at the back post.
Peter Lovenkrands began warming up on the sides early on as Ameobi failed to shake off a nasty cheekbone fracture, but it was 19-year-old Nile Ranger who was introduced to replace the Englishman – a notable chance to potentially take a step up and replace the departed Andy Carroll.
Newcastle’s first chance came when Joey Barton whipped a beautiful free-kick into the box, but was crucially intercepted by the Fulham defence and headed out for a corner as both Ranger and Best lurked behind.
Moussa Dembele showed his exciting talent at the expense of Newcastle, playing lovely one-two’s with his team-mates but Johnson failed to turn and deliver the end product with a shot on goal.
Sidwell came close to opening the scoring when he was left in acres of space 30-yards out and hit decent low effort on target, but the shot was comfortable for Harper to claim.
Manager Hughes showed his frustration as Fulham had a reasonable penalty-shout turned down when Brede Hangeland appeared to have been tugged down in the box by Mike Williamson.
Close encounter | Match-winner Duff tussles with Gutierrez
Gutierrez continued his good work rate for the Magpies on into the second half, and proved to be a breath of fresh air for Alan Pardew as Newcastle looked to build forward.
Fulham took the lead halfway into the second half through Duff after Murphy crossed a lovely ball through the Irish international, who finished neatly past Harper.
Johnson made way for new recruit Kakuta on the seventy minute mark following a convincing display, whilst Newcastle looked to shake things up by introducing Lovenkrands in for Best.
Fulham looked to sit back and defend their lead for the ending ten minutes, as Newcastle enjoyed a bright spree of possession but tamely failed to really push forward for the equaliser.
Ranger came closest to grabbing one back for Newcastle, after a flash shot on goal within the penalty area forced Mark Schwarzer to provide a reaction save.
Kakuta so nearly opened his Fulham account when latching onto Dembele’s cross from the right, but a decent save from Harper managed to keep the Frenchman out.
A vital three points send Fulham upto twelfth in the table while Newcastle are evidently still reeling from Carroll's departure on the pitch as well as off it.
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