Fulham leave Newcastle in big trouble
Newcastle United manager Alan Shearer found himself back deep in relegation trouble after Diomansy Kamara's 41st-minute strike earned Fulham a 1-0 win at St James' Park. The Magpies, who played the last half-hour with ten men after Sebastien Bassong was sent off, had a Mark Viduka goal disallowed, courtesy of a Kevin Nolan foul on goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, and now have just one game left to save themselves.
Newcastle, who had captain Michael Owen missing with a groin injury in what might have been his final game for the club, went close 12 minutes from time, but Schwarzer pulled off a fine save to deny Obafemi Martins, who had earlier hit the post, and then kept out Nicky Butt's injury-time effort. They now face a trip to Aston Villa next Sunday knowing even victory might not be enough if other results go against them.
Tyneside was shrouded in dark clouds, both literally and figuratively, as the final whistle sounded and a crowd of 52,114 filed out not knowing whether they will return to watch top-flight football next season. The euphoria of Monday night's 3-1 victory over derby rivals Middlesbrough, which dragged the club out of the bottom three, had quickly been put to one side with no-one in the Newcastle camp in any doubt the job was nowhere near done.
For much of the first half, Shearer's men looked the more likely to take the initiative, but when they left the pitch at the break, they were trailing and back in trouble. It might have been so different had Martins's 15th-minute shot not come back off the post after he had played a neat one-two with Nolan, or had Viduka managed to hit the target when presented with a free header, albeit from distance, by Danny Guthrie's cross ten minutes later.
However, Fulham, who arrived sitting seventh in the table and in with a real shout of securing a place in the UEFA Europa League, had not just come along for the ride, and served warning of their intent six minutes before the break. Erik Nevland ran on to Kamara's clever back-heeled pass and curled a shot towards the far post, and keeper Steve Harper was delighted to see it drop inches wide as he flung himself across his line.
But the Magpies did not heed the warning, and they fell behind two minutes later. Danny Murphy's pass found Nevland in acres of space on the right and with the home defence appealing in vain for an offside flag, he raced away before squaring for Kamara, who evaded Bassong and Steven Taylor on the line to fire into the roof of the net.
Former Magpies defender Aaron Hughes blocked a Jonas Gutierrez shot as Newcastle attempted to hit back immediately, but the home crowd was once again bathed in anxiety as the players left the pitch at half-time.
Shearer's players returned in determined mood and might have been back in it within two minutes when Martins volleyed a Guthrie cross towards goal, but could not hit the target. But they thought they had levelled with 50 minutes gone after Viduka twice got the better of his former Middlesbrough team-mates.
The Australian forward saw his header from a Guthrie free-kick cleared off the line by Dickson Etuhu, but there was nothing anyone could do to keep out another header from the resulting corner. The Australia international's joy nevertheles turned to misery within seconds, when referee Howard Webb ruled Nolan had impeded Schwarzer on the line.
Newcastle laid siege to the Fulham goal as they sensed the time had come but they were wasteful in promising positions, with Gutierrez particularly guilty. However, disaster struck on the hour when central defender Bassong was sent off for hauling down Kamara 40 yards from goal, and the Frenchman could have few arguments.
Martins got in 12 minutes from time only to be denied by Schwarzer, who then pulled off a superb injury-time to keep out Butt's effort.