Fulham 2 Newcastle Utd 1: Fulham grateful for gift from Butt

Coleman's side take advantage of midfielder's mistake to record first victory of the year
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The Independent Online

At least Fulham managed to shake off a growing notoriety as the draw-specialists of the Premiership with this comfortable victory, their first in the League since before Christmas. It was achieved over a Newcastle side who offered little, a performance accurately summed up by the manager, Glenn Roeder, as "flat", after a horrendous mistake by the experienced Nicky Butt had gifted their hosts the lead three minutes after half-time.

Having finished off the first 45 minutes in rousing fashion, Newcastle were entitled to look for brighter things on the resumption. Instead, Butt, surrounded by the white shirts of Fulham and level with his own penalty line, went for football's craven option, the back pass. There is always a "told you so" element of satisfaction when this sort of thing goes avocado-shaped, as Butt's ball did, falling short for Heidar Helguson to seize on and lob coolly over Steve Harper.

The subsequent goals were fashioned by second-half substitutes. Papa Bouba Diop had been on the field less than five minutes as replacement for Moritz Volz when he won possession near the right-side corner flag and used his strength to shoulder aside two challenges before laying the ball back for Brian McBride to turn in.

And when Nolberto Solano came on as a late replacement for a disappointing Kieron Dyer, it was the Peruvian's long ball in added time which was collected by Obafemi Martins and struck home left-footed across Jan Lastuvka's body.

Lastuvka was himself a late stand-in for Antti Niemi, who damaged his back in the warm-up. Newcastle were also missing their first-choice Shay Given, though most concern centred on the debut in the centre of a notoriously rickety defence of the rugged American international Oguchi Onyewu, on loan from Standard Liege.

He overcame a hair-raising first touch, which saw him completely mistime an aerial challenge, to perform competently enough alongside Titus Bramble to frustrate Fulham in the first half. Roeder said of the newcomer: "Considering he has only trained with us since Thursday, I was more than pleased."

Onyewu also helped to bring a mini Super Bowl touch to the afternoon, being one of four United States players on the field in addition to McBride, Carlos Bocanegra and the second half substitute, Clint Dempsey.

Perhaps because they have had so many people in the sick bay, Newcastle lined up with a strange-looking side, with Stephen Carr at left back, the opposite side to his usual position, and Dyer pushed up front, despite having been named as a midfielder in England's squad to face Spain on Wednesday.

The Newcastle pair could make no more impression on Fulham's back line than the home strikers managed, though there were screams of expectation when Martins, from deep in his own half, embarked on a wonderful run. He was still 50 yards from goal when the Newcastle followers urged him to shoot. He chose to pass to his right, and it was typical of Newcastle's day that James Milner let the ball run under his foot and out of play.

Helguson had directed a header wide and Wayne Routledge cut inside to curl his shot past the angle before Newcastle roused the first half from lethargy in the closing moments when from a corner, Steven Taylor forced Lastuvka into a fine save and Onyewu failed to convert the rebound.

Once they had gone in front, it was Fulham who ran the show. McBride, praised by his manager Chris Coleman as "the best £700,000 anybody has ever spent", saw a header turned over by Harper and Bocanegra came even closer when Milner cleared his header from the line. The late Martins strike came as a shock, but not enough to clock up yet another draw for Fulham.

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