Fulham 0, Derby County 0: Niemi steps up to spoil Derby's day in relegation dogfight

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The low autumn sun that shone over Craven Cottage on Saturday meant those watching in the Johnny Haynes Stand had to shield their eyes if they wished to see any of the action. At times, they needn't have bothered. For two teams supposedly battling for their lives it was a decidedly underwhelming affair, which only came to life when Fulham's Paul Konchesky was sent off just before half-time.

A first clean sheet away from Pride Park saw Derby gain their first point on the road, which moved them off the bottom of the table. Had it not been for the goalkeeping of Fulham's Antti Niemi, they would have comfortably had all three.

The Derby manager, Billy Davies, agreed that Niemi was the difference between the sides. "With all due respect to Kasey Keller [who suffered an arm injury in training on Friday and will be out for three months], bringing Niemi in was a blessing for Fulham," he said. "He was inspired, but we can't be too disappointed." Had Niemi not been in such form, Derby would have overtaken Fulham to join a host of other clubs on eight points in what's already looking like a mammoth relegation scramble.

Sanchez reflected on his side's position. "Eight points from 10 games isn't great, but amazingly there are another six or seven teams who have the same or worse. It's a strange season. If we'd have won today we would have been 10th."

Fulham were closer to losing with Niemi making three fine saves before Konchesky gave the referee no option but to give him a red card when he swung an elbow at Craig Fagan, who received a yellow card for his part in the incident.

Kenny Miller should have won it in injury time but dragged his shot wide. Derby were happy with their away point, but may never get a better chance at all three.

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