Manchester City 1 Fulham 2: Fulham lean on Malbranque to stay

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The Independent Football

It is not injury that will keep Steed Malbranque away from the World Cup. It is his continued overlooking by France coaches. But Chris Coleman hopes Fulham's spring stockpiling of points and players will persuade the powerful midfielder to stay on at Craven Cottage.

His stoppage-time goal - a fifth in six starts against Manchester City - unburdened the Londoners as the only side in all four divisions without a 2005-06 away League win.

It also raised the ante at a time when Coleman fears the international lure might hinder contract negotiations. The manager believes Malbranque would have played for France by now had he been at a sexier club and it still rankles that Louis Saha was summoned for the first time the week he left Craven Cottage.

Fulham have done good business on and off the pitch of late: consecutive wins and capturing Jimmy Bullard after Luis Boa Morte signed a five-year deal. And, with prize money from League position the incentive for beating Sunderland and Middlesbrough this week, the sales pitch is under way.

"Signing Bullard sends the right vibes out," Coleman insisted. "We're saying we're trying to spend more than we have before in my reign.

"That should help when it comes to convincing Steed. We can't let his contract run down because we would end up losing a lot of money. Something has to give. If he doesn't want to stay, there's nothing we can do but he has never given us that signal. You saw today he was full steam ahead."

Fulham were spirited contributors to a surprisingly entertaining encounter of sparse significance, trailing with six minutes left until Boa Morte, who also helped make the winner, set up substitute Collins John's equaliser.

The City manager, Stuart Pearce wants new signings, too, his search for a harder edge galvanised by a withering run of seven defeats in eight.

"When I leave this club, I will have done everything in my power to make it successful," he said. "One thing I can't stand is to walk away thinking I haven't done everything I can.

"I'll be the only one for the chop if we don't get results, so I have to put pressure on those below me and above."

City led through Richard Dunne's exquisite finish and might easily have won, but the new Rooney-orientated spotlight on the substituted Darius Vassell was discouraging.

The World Cup? "He has to play better than that," Pearce added.

Goals: Dunne (69) 1-0; John (84) 1-1; Malbranque (90) 1-2

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Sommeil, Dunne, Richards, Distin; Sinclair, Barton, Reyna, Riera; Sibierski (Flood, 80), Vassell (Samaras, 66). Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Musampa, Jihai.

Fulham: Niemi; Rosenior, Knight (Christanval, 28), Pearce, Bridge; Malbranque, Elliott, Diop, Boa Morte; Helguson (John, 66), McBride. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Volz, Radzinski.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Bookings: Manchester City Barton; Fulham Christanval, Diop, Malbranque.

Man of the match: Rosenior.

Attendance: 41,128.