Caution is the watchword as Bartlett fails to stir the senses

Fulham 0 - Charlton Athletic 0
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The Independent Online

The way to a first-ever Uefa Cup campaign seemed a little closer and a little easier for Charlton at kick-off than at any time this season. Middlesbrough had just lost at Aston Villa which meant a win for the Addicks would take them into joint sixth place. That position in May would take them into Europe.

The way to a first-ever Uefa Cup campaign seemed a little closer and a little easier for Charlton at kick-off than at any time this season. Middlesbrough had just lost at Aston Villa which meant a win for the Addicks would take them into joint sixth place. That position in May would take them into Europe.

However, there was nothing easy about the south Londoners' performance in this poor game, epitomised by Shaun Bartlett's staggering miss after four minutes, in front of an open goal. Paul Konchesky drilled in a cross that Bartlett stood on rather than tap into an empty net. Thereafter their chances - including a second spurned soon after by the South African thanks to Edwin van der Sar's save - were less frequent and from greater distance.

As for Fulham, the sum total of their attempts on goal came from Zat Knight's missed header and a volley by his fellow centre-back Alain Goma saved low down by Dean Kiely.

Their failure to create chances for Andy Cole meant he did not have a single shot of note, but Chris Coleman is not for turning from his single-striker system, despite the jeers from the crowd shouting for 4-4-2.

It was such a popular system they have even incorporated it into their club phone number but it is a shame they are not talking telephone numbers in their goals scored tally. This was the west Londoners' third successive game without scoring and Coleman confessed to ongoing relegation concerns, with just six points between them and the drop zone.

The Fulham manager believes it is the players who are to blame, and not his tactics. As he said: "Last year we had this system and we finished ninth. There was no mention then of the formation. But I will hold my hands up and admit we're not always producing exciting football." There was also no mention of the much-missed pace of Louis Saha.

Yet in this London derby, the visitors should have forced the issue more after Bartlett's misses. However, Alan Curbishley's conservative approach was summed up when he took off Jerome Thomas and put on Jonatan Johansson - a striker - but stuck him out on the right wing, when Fulham were on the back foot.

Curbishley admitted his confusion as to what was expected of his club these days: top-10 respectability or Europe? He said: "If we're not in Europe people will say it was a disappointing season. Yet if we finish in the top 10 that will be our average Premiership position over five years." Reaching the Uefa Cup would raise expectancy even more.

Fulham (4-5-1): Van der Sar; Rosenior, Knight, Goma, Bocanegra; Malbranque, Clark, Diop, Jensen (John, 73), Boa Morte; Cole. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Volz, Legwinski, Radzinski.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young, El Karkouri, Perry, Hreidarsson; Kishishev; Thomas (Johansson, 75), Murphy, Holland, Konchesky; Bartlett. Substitutes not used: Anderson (gk), Fish, Euell, Jeffers.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Fulham Cole, Boa Morte, Goma. Charlton Kishishev, El Karkouri.

Man of the match: Van der Sar.

Attendance: 18,290.

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