Ameobi injury adds to Newcastle's bad week

Fulham 1 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Football

The gloom on Tyneside shows no sign of lifting. Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone and former player Damien Duff scored the winner for Fulham in Newcastle United's first game since the acrimonious sale of Andy Carroll.

Duff was probably the last man the travelling fans wanted to see, or more accurately perhaps the second last given the banner that read "Judas Carroll". They have not forgiven Duff for his last contribution in a Newcastle shirt, scoring an own goal on the final day of the season in 2009 that condemned the club to relegation from the Premier League.

The travelling contingent packed in to the Putney End certainly let Duff know how they felt, and he did the same when he scored in the 67th minute, celebrating enthusiastically in front of the home fans. He caught Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique out of position as he chased down a long pass from Danny Murphy, and slipped the ball under the otherwise excellent Steve Harper.

The damage done by Duff, however, may not prove as devastating as that caused by Steve Sidwell's elbow, which accidentally caught Ameobi's cheek in the 11th minute. The striker is to have further tests today but it seems almost certain he will be out for up to six weeks with a fracture.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said: "The diagnosis is not good. There is a dent in his cheekbone which suggests he has fractured it. I haven't seen the challenge again but I know Steve Sidwell and he is not malicious in any shape or form."

The loss of Carroll will be felt all the more keenly now, should Ameobi be ruled out for the next six weeks, as seems likely. Pardew said he was now expecting rookie pair Leon Best and Nile Ranger to take up the challenge of replacing £35m man Carroll. "Maybe there's some pressure on them but they are going to have to deal with that," Pardew said after Newcastle's first defeat of 2011. "Shola's injury is a blow and we have to make sure we now play a game that suits the strikers we have available. I am delighted with our honesty but we lacked a certain Je ne sais quoi, as did Fulham until their goal."

Fulham were good value for the victory, their fifth straight at home in all competitions, despite a terrible pitch at Craven Cottage. Manager Mark Hughes said: "The pitch isn't ideal but the ball wasn't on it much in the first half, so it didn't make much difference."

The home side raised the tempo after a dire first half, and Clint Dempsey twice forced Harper into fine saves. However, there was nothing the Newcastle goalkeeper could do about Duff's winner, after Enrique had let the Irishman get away from him. Fulham have pulled away from the relegation zone since Christmas and much of that is down to their home form.

Hughes said: "We want teams to come here thinking they are not going to have an easy ride. We want them to be fearful in anticipation, and at the moment that's what we are able to do."

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Baird; Duff (Davies 87), Murphy (Gera 87), Sidwell, Dempsey; A Johnson (Kakuta 71), Dembele. Substitutes not used Stockdale (gk), Salcido, Kamara, Greening.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Harper; Simpson, Williamson Coloccini, Enrique; Barton, Guthrie, Nolan, Guiterrez; Ameobi (Ranger 13), Best (Lovenkrands 72). Substitutes not used Krul (gk), Campbell, Perch, Ferguson, Richardson.

Referee M Jones (Chester).

Man of the Match Dembele.

Match Rating 5/10.

Attendance 25,620.