Poor Gareth Roberts will hope his dreadful day at Craven Cottage is not a harbinger of how his new year is set to shape up. The Tranmere Rovers left back was credited with the own goal that ultimately cost his side a creditable point against big-spending Fulham and was then harshly sent off four minutes from them after fouling Geoff Horsfield.
Roberts’ unfortunate own goal, which arrived seven minutes before half time when he got the decisive touch as Steve Finnan’s deflected cross squeezed past John Achterburg in the visiting goal, was Fulham’s first league goal in more than eight matches. It prompted relief around Craven Cottage but Fulham remained ponderous in possession and limited in the final third.
Under-pressure Paul Bracewell was so frustrated with Fulham’s end product that he substituted lone striker Barry Hayles at half time, although this didn’t lead to more goalmouth action in the second half. It was the visitors who looked likelier to equalise as the game went on before Roberts received his marching orders to round off his wretched afternoon.
FULHAM (5-4-1): M. Taylor; Finnan, Uhlenbeek (Peschisolido 45), S. Morgan, Melville, Symons; Ball, Collins, Trollope, Clark; Hayles (Horsfield 45). Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Coleman, Brooker.
BOOKED: S. Morgan.
GOAL: Roberts (o.g. 37).
TRANMERE ROVERS (5-3-2): Achterberg; Roberts, Yates (Frail 67), Challinor, A. Morgan, Hill; Parkinson, Jones, Koumas; Kelly (S. Taylor 67), Allison. Subs (not used): Nixon, Mahon, Black.
BOOKED: Challinor, A. Morgan, Hill.
SENT OFF: Roberts.
REFEREE: Andy D’Urso (Billericay).