Goals from Steve Sidwell and Hugo Rodallega were enough to tip the balance of a tightly fought match in Fulham’s favor as Alan Pardew’s Newcastle failed to find their first away win of the season.
It took 19 minutes for the home side to find a breakthrough against a Newcastle United side that, like an old car, struggled to get warm and get going on a cold winter’s night in west London.
Steve Sidwell might not have scored the most beautiful goal the Cottage has ever seen, but the battling of Damien Duff as he rounded Fabricio Coloccini before squaring the ball to Sidwell epitomized the hard work Fulham had put in to controlling the opening minutes of the fixture.
Sidwell struck his effort the first time and watched as it looped off the thigh of Mike Williamson, off the bar and into the back of the net.
The Whites had gone close just minutes before the opener when Hugo Rodallega's chest and volley ballooned over, after Damien Duff picked out the summer signing in the Newcastle penalty area.
As Newcastle soaked up more of the pressure, they began to find confidence. Chris Baird, Duff and Dimitar Berbatov found less space to maneuver, but still found chances.
Berbatov saw an effort scrambled off the line by Williamson after Krul failed to deal with Sascha Riether’s cross.
The German defender was then called in his own penalty box as Mark Schwarzer flapped at a corner before the ball dropped to Demba Ba at the back post, Reither clearing the Senegalese strikers' effort off the line.
Newcastle took confidence in their late strike and came out for the second half looking for blood. They were immediately rewarded for their efforts when Hatem Ben Arfa, who’d been rather quiet up until the 54th minute, flicked an effort from the top right corner of the box. A flailing leg from Riise nicked the ball into an awkward loop and Fulham’s Australian keeper stood perplexed as the ball dipped over his head.
Newcastle were level but the cold winter chill awakened Fulham from their half-time slumber, and the game began to stretch into an end-to-end battle. Steve Sidwell missed an effort one-on-one against Krul—just as Berbatov had done in the first half—but chances didn’t come easily for either side.
When the next came, Fulham took it. Duff, whose distribution caused problems for Newcastle all night, floated in a wonderful free kick that Rodallega met with a flick of his head. From six yards out, the forward was always going to score, and the White’s had the lead.
Newcastle persisted and came close through Coloccini. The Argentinian centre-back had seen his header from a corner cleared off the line, and his second of the night—a curled effort from the top corner of the penalty area—struck the outside of Schwarzer’s post and bounced away.
As time ticked away, Fulham sat back, hoping to use the skill of Berbatov and the pace of Rodallega to hit their guests on the counter while Alan Pardew’s side looked to break the wall of white shirts.
Both sides lacked a final ball and chances were at a minimum. Both Ba and Jonas Gutierrez forced meager saves from the Fulham skipper, but aside from that the Toon Army looked doomed to their fate of an eighth game on the road without a win.
Substitute Mladen Petric almost capped off the night with a stunner from range, but the lose ball he struck from 20 yards was bobbling and sailed high into the night sky.
Fulham, meanwhile, grabbed their first win in eight games and will head to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, confident of adding another three points.
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