Fulham 0 Watford 0: Niemi's neck injury overshadows Fulham's fourth straight draw

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The Independent Online

Four points from four draws over Christmas and New Year is not what Chris Coleman would have wanted as he seeks to guide his team away from the relegation zone but he will be grateful that things have not turned out a lot worse after what happened to Antti Niemi.

With 54 minutes gone, the Finnish goalkeeper ran out of his penalty area to head the ball clear from Darius Henderson but in falling he landed directly on the top of his head. The former Southampton player was then treated on the pitch for seven minutes before he was stretchered off, although the Fulham manager confirmed that the injury may not be as bad as it looked. "There is some damage to his neck but he can feel his arms and legs," he said. "He's gone to hospital for an X-ray and there could be ligament damage possibly. It could have been a lot worse. I don't know when he will be back but I'm not thinking about when he's fit, as long as he's OK."

Fulham's Heidar Helguson, who scored when the side's last met in October, likes playing against his old side. Here the Icelandic international was twice denied another goal against the Hornets by a linesman's flag, both times in the first half, once correctly but the second time erroneously.

With only seven minutes gone, Liam Rosenior drifted in a high free-kick that Helguson headed past Ben Foster only to see the official's flag raised correctly.

However, with 11 minutes remaining of the first half, and after successfully connecting with Moritz Volz's cross, the flag went up again although the right-back Adrian Mariappa was keeping Helguson onside, causing Coleman to berate the official concerned. "It's not a tough call," he said.

Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd took scant consolation from that good fortune, as he was too concerned by his team's initial showing. "That was the worst first half since I've been here. We were appalling," he said, correctly.

Boothroyd felt his men improved after the break but then enjoyed no luck in front of Fulham's goal. With 52 minutes gone, Anthony McNamee crossed for Alhassan Bangura and his shot beat Niemi only to hit the far post. Later, with the game deep in injury time, Darius Henderson then hit the opposite post with a fine strike from distance, making it 17 games without a goal for the hapless forward.

Not that that was the only chance that went begging in the nine minutes of stoppage time, as Franck Queudrue found Collins John, who went around Foster but shot wide of the empty net.

Watford have showed an interest in the Dutchman although Coleman joked later: "Maybe they won't want him after that miss." Strangely the time added on provided the most excitement of the entire match and Tamas Priskin formed part of it as he was sent off, although Watford held on for their first point and first clean sheet in four games.

Fulham: 4-4-2: Niemi (Lastuvka, 61); Rosenior, Christanval, Bocanegra, Queudrue; Routledge (Boa Morte, 67), Volz, Brown, Radzinski; McBride (John, 79), Helguson Subs not used: Runstrom, Zakuani

Watford: 4-4-2: Foster; Mariappa, Demerit, Shittu (Mackay, 34), Stewart; Smith (Henderson, h/t), Bangura, Mahon, McNamee (Francis, 90); Young, Priskin Subs not used: Lee (gk), Doyley

Referee: S Bennett (Kent)

Booked: Fulham: Radzinski; Watford: Young, Priskin

Sent off: Priskin

Man of the Match: Brown

Attendance: 19,698.

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