From dreaming about Europe in the summer, the Fulham faithful might now be starting to fret about relegation. Goals from Nolberto Solano and Craig Bellamy secured a comfortable victory for Newcastle, who climbed to fourth in the table with these three points, and left the Whites looking nervously over their shoulders after their winless run away from home was extended to six matches.
Uncharacteristically, it was an error from the usually excellent Edwin van der Sar that set the hosts on their way to victory in a fixture they largely dominated. The Dutch goalkeeper, normally so strong with the ball at his feet, miskicked a clearance straight to Solano, who conjured up the perfect chip from 25 yards out after just eight minutes. Any hope that Fulham had of rescuing a point probably disappeared with Pierre Wome, who was sent off for a horror tackle on Andy Griffin. Bellamy sealed the victory midway through the second half. The Welshman finished emphatically after Sean Davis had lost the ball to Kieron Dyer.
It could have been much worse for Jean Tigana’s men. Newcastle looked sharp in attack all afternoon and should have been ahead by more than a single goal at the interval. Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy combined beautifully all afternoon, with the former England captain heading wide from a Bellamy cross before his strike partner mishit a shot after latching onto a Shearer flick on. The Newcastle number nine blazed a penalty over the bar after Davis was harshly adjudged to have brought down Dyer in the box – although van der Sar escaped a red card for fouling Shearer outside the area a few minutes later.
Fulham were fitful and lacked a cutting edge up front, with Steed Malbranque forced to lead the line alongside Steve Marlet in absence of four senior centre-forwards. Tigana had further mitigating circumstances for this miserable performance with an injury list that already includes Luis Boa Morte, Lee Clark, Facundo Sava, Louis Saha, Barry Hayles and Steve Marlet added to when Steve Finnan withdrew with flu just before the teamsheet went in.
The visitors had no answer to the quality of Gary Speed and Dyer who dominated the midfield battle – creating a host of chances as well as protecting a back four that were largely untroubled. It was no surprise when the Magpies doubled their lead twenty minutes from time. Dyer stole possession as Davis dawdled and Bellamy advanced to bury a finish past substitute Maik Taylor.
Tigana insisted afterwards that he had predicted November and December would prove a tricky period for his side, with their participation in the InterToto and UEFA Cups leading to fixture congestion, but his squad is in severe need of strengthening and the Whites will need to pick up points and arrest an alarming slump in form.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Given, Griffin, Caldwell, O’Brien, Hughes, Solano (Ameobi 83), Dyer (Jenas 81), Speed (Acuna 87), Robert, Bellamy, Shearer. Subs (not used): Harper, Dabizas.
GOALS: Solano (8), Bellamy (70).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar (Taylor 62); Wome, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Djetou, Davis, Legwinski, Goldbaek; Malbranque (Willock 76), Marlet. Subs (not used): Knight, Collins, Stolcers.
BOOKED: Brevett, van der Sar.
SENT OFF: Wome.
REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).