Sam Allardyce has been the proud upsetter of many an opponent during his time in charge of the Trotters, yet there is a curiosity in his record against Fulham. In his seven years in charge the Bolton manager has never won at Craven Cottage, although he came within a minute of ending that slightly anomalous statistic last night. Having taken the lead undeservedly with 17 minutes to go and courtesy of a penalty, Fulham through a spot-kick of their own created the result the match deserved.
Fulham's penalty was through a handball by Abdy Faye, a substitute, which left Allardyce enraged. "It was childish and immature. It's unacceptable and unprofessional and hugely disappointing. I can't understand why he did it," he said.
It was not a game anyone will look back on fondly, least of all Faye, although Jimmy Bullard was the hosts' best player. On his home debut the midfielder, signed from Wigan Athletic in May, started brightly and then faded like the rest of his team-mates, but he kept his nerve in the last minute to slot his penalty low to Jussi Jaaskelainen's right.
The last quarter of an hour at least produced more excitement than what had gone before but, given the way Fulham began the season, they need not be apologetic about that.
The start they endured at Old Trafford on Sunday was nightmarish and simply not conceding a goal inside the first half, let alone four inside 20 minutes as against Manchester United, was progress. At the same time, in Bolton they were facing a team rather more buoyant after their comfortable 2-0 win against Spurs last weekend.
Bullard appeared set on raising the standard. With 13 minutes gone he floated a free-kick that dropped between Bolton's centre-halves but Brian McBride's header was straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Then came the shock the match needed. El Hadji Diouf reached the byline and hit a cross more in hope than expectation. Luis Boa Morte was covering back and clipped Gary Speed's heels, which the referee, Alan Wiley, deemed worthy of a penalty. Diouf gave Antti Niemi no chance.
Almost immediately the hosts were denied a penalty of their own when Collins John fell under a challenge from Jaaskelainen but when Faye handballed Wiley could not resist the claims. Bullard was the epitome of calm to give Fulham at least a toehold near the bottom of the nascent league table.
Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Christanval, Pearce, Queudrue; Brown, Bullard, Diop, Boa Morte; Helguson (John, 69), McBride. Substitutes not used: Drobny (gk), Volz, Bocanegra, Radzinski.
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Ben Haim, Meite, Fortune (Pedersen, 66); Nolan, Campo, Speed; Vaz Te, Davies (Faye, 60), Diouf. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Giannakopoulos, Tal.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).Reuse content