Fulham adrift in barren place

Fulham 0 Charlton 0
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Charlton extended their distinguished unbeaten record against London clubs to 10 games with a goalless draw at Fulham yesterday, but the game itself was further evidence that mid-table life in the Premiership is a dull affair.

Neither side is likely to be threatened by relegation come May, but nor will they be jostling for a place at the top of the League, and yesterday was a prime example of the mundanity of life in the middle of a three-tiered top flight.

Fulham have now failed to score in five of their last six League games, yet still they cling to a place in the top half of the table. While Charlton, despite their run against London opposition stretching back to Boxing Day last year, can also only boast the comfort of mid-table.

"The key this season is that we don't let any problems linger and we ensure that we continue to pick up points," said the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley. "It is a tight league in the middle and we didn't pick up points last Saturday at Blackburn, but here we were away from home and most would have taken a point before the game. We just need to win our home games this year."

Charlton were quick to make their presence felt and could have taken the lead on 12 minutes when the striker Kevin Lisbie laid off to Claus Jensen in the box, but the midfielder dragged his shot woefully wide.

Fulham's Lee Clark was then forced off with a ligament injury, to be replaced by the controversial winger Luis Boa Morte, who was quick to make an impact as Charlton were caught on the counter. Barry Hayles' surging run released his strike partner Louis Saha, who in turn laid into the path of Boa Morte. The Portuguese striker was brought crashing down under the challenge of Charlton's last man, Graeme Stuart, just outside the area. But Boa Morte's reputation seemingly preceded him as the referee Steve Bennett unjustly cautioned him for diving.

The striker Jason Euell came closest to breaking the deadlock for Charlton after dispossessing the Fulham captain, Andy Melville, outside area before firing against the post having been through on goal.

The second half continued in much the same vein as the first with neither side taking control. The Charlton midfielder Claus Jensen forced keeper Edwin van der Sar into action after 55 minutes drilling low to his right, before Saha saw his free-kick pushed wide by an in-flight Dean Kiely with 15 minutes left.

But it was left to Boa Morte to again provide the talking point of the half with six minutes left, as he broke through on goal and tapped past Kiely before jumping over the keeper and going down in the area. This time Bennett pointed for a goal kick and left his cards in his pocket.

The result left both teams frustrated but the Fulham assistant manager, Christian Dominano, said the game could have turned had Bennett called Boa Morte's first claim the other way. "I saw the tape after and the Charlton player never played the ball," said Dominano. "I watched four or five different angles and everyone has seen the same thing."

Fulham (4-4-2): Van der Sar 8; Finnan 6, Goma 6, Melville 6, Brevett 6; Davis 5, Malbranque 7, Legwinski 6 (Collins 6, 63), Clark 6 (Boa Morte 6, 11); Saha 6, Hayles 6. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Ouaddou, Stolcers.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Kiely 7; Young 6, Fortune 7, Fish 6 (Costa 6, 45), Powell 6; Jensen 6, Konchelsky 5 (Robinson 6, 74), Stuart 6, Parker 6 (Bart-Williams 6, 78), Euell 7, Lisbie 6. Substitutes not used: Johansson, Roberts.

Referee: S Bennett (Orpington) 5.