Bullard shows his value to Cottagers' industry

Fulham 3 Middlesbrough 0
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The Independent Online

Mohamed Al-Fayed will be looking to shift plenty of goods from Harrods this week but one sale he would be wise not to sanction in the new year is that of Jimmy Bullard. Fulham's owner will know Bullard's worth after he and the excellent Danny Murphy pulled the strings to earn theCottagers their biggest Premier League win of the season.

A goal apiece and a rousingovation when both were taken off in the closing moments were just rewards for the pair but for Middlesbrough it was an outing to forget. They were wretched.

Bullard's wage demands could see him take his box of tricks and dodgy jokebook elsewhere in the transfer window but it would be a shame, for he looks right at home at Fulham, a club who have never taken themselves too seriously. He scored Fulham's opener four minutes from the interval, poking home from close range after substitute Bobby Zamora's clever turn and shot had brought a close-range save from Ross Turnbull. "I don't want to put a figure on Bullard's headbecause I don't want to lose him but of course it could happen," said his manager Roy Hodgson, who is about to celebrate a year in the job.

It was a lead Fulham warranted as they had several chances, although Tuncay headed wide for Boro and Stewart Downing, seemingly bound for Tottenham, sent Jérémie Aliadière through with a cute reverse pass but Mark Schwarzer smothered his shot.

Boro's only other noteworthy contribution was an horrendous, studs-high assault by Julio Arca on Johnson that could have resulted in a red card. Arca was withdrawn at half-time and, mercifully, Johnson was up and running again. Southgate said: "The tackle looked horrible but I know he is not that sort of player." He said he did not take Arca off for that reason alone. "We were second to everything and I could have taken anyone off."

Fulham, unbeaten in seven games but ending a run of four consecutive draws, never relinquished control, and they went further ahead seven minutes after the break. Tony McMahon, having survived one penalty shout, was less fortunate when the ball cannoned up off Zamora and struck his left hand. Referee Keith Stroud missed it but his linesman flagged andMurphy was clinical from the spot.

Boro wilted. They are without a win in six games now and the way they opened up to allow Clint Dempsey to score the third will worry Southgate, the ball moving unchallenged from Johnson, to Zamora and Dempsey, who slotted past the luckless Turnbull. It could have been worse, but it wasbad enough.

Attendance: 23,722

Referee: Keith Stroud

Man of the match: Murphy

Match rating: 7/10

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