Wounded Wolves lack bite in finish

Fulham 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
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A strange experience, this. For Chris Coleman, of Fulham, it was a rare match in which he was in charge of the favourites. For Dave Jones it was a surprising chance to wrench his Wolves team off the Premiership's base. In the end the visitors will have been the happier, having achieved their goal without scoring one.

It could have been more conclusive, but only in the final minutes was it urgent. Wolves may be finding their feet but if only they found more accuracy: Paul Butler, Jody Craddock and Henri Camara twice were thwarted. But it was Fulham's Steed Malbranque who came closest, shuddering the bar with a late volley.

Coleman, now unbeaten in six matches, circled his wagons as usual, with five across midfield, but he knew the siege mentality had to be lifted. It would not wash against the Wolves. Indeed, he invited his opponents to pick up the psychological gauntlet, saying they had been "insulted" by the pundits and should "use a bit of wounded pride". His own will have been bruised by this result, the first time his team has not scored this season.

Jones took the invitation. "They are there because they failed being on this side," he said of the divide between manager and pundit. He also drew inspiration. "Fulham are a club that have been ridiculed before a ball had been kicked. Now the same experts are saying that Chris can take them into Europe."

Coleman's eyebrows would have been raised. "I think maybe one or two were getting carried away," he said of the draw. "It will remind us we are a hard-working team who are not good enough to have off-days." The candour was refreshing, another indication why he will succeed.

Fulham's owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, again prowled the pitch pre-match, offering words of encouragement. Some fuggin' team talk. His players began poorly. The weight of expectation dragged on 19-year-old Dean Leacock, who was constantly caught out by Camara.

At the other end, and the other end of the age scale, Denis Irwin struggled to contain Malbranque. Four times he contrived to supply Louis Saha, all in vain, before finally drawing a save after the ball had cannoned to him. Michael Oakes in the visitors' goal parried smartly. It was, in truth, powder-puff stuff. The home side missed the aggression of Luis Boa Morte, absent with a tender hamstring.

After the interval the pattern was the same. Wolves' drew on Fulham's frustration. Camara was their outlet in attack but, although fast, could not finish.

The desperation grew and Junichi Inamoto was booked for diving. Suddenly the chances came. First Oakes, showing admirable nerve, blocked Malbranque. Then Edwin van der Sar dived low to push away Camara's volley and Saha headed across, instead of into goal. Parity was preserved.

For Wolves, the result is a platform for two early "relegation" scraps against Leicester and Middlesbrough. For Fulham, it is now the two Uniteds, Newcastle and Manchester. Back, with relief, to being the underdog. At least in that role they have their day.

Fulham 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Attendance: 17,031