Second-half strikes from Heidar Helguson and Brian McBride helped Fulham back to winning ways as the Whites beat a below-par Newcastle at Craven Cottage.
This impressive victory completed a league double over the Magpies after Fulham’s smash and grab raid at St. James’ Park in September. Chris Coleman’s side were in complete command after the manager demanded a better performance than the tame display served up at Sheffield United on Tuesday, although it took a Nicky Butt howler to hand Helguson the opener four minutes after half time. Papa Bouba Diop created the second for McBride and Oguchi Onyewu was fortunate not to be sent off on his debut after pulling down Helguson. Newcastle were well beaten long before Obafemi Martins’ grabbed a consolation at the death.
Chances were far and far between in a scrappy first half. Helguson nearly latched onto a short back header from Stephen Carr and Wayne Routledge grazed the crossbar with a rising drive after venturing inside from the left. Newcastle’s best openings came in stoppage time when Jan Lastuvka, who took the goalkeeping gloves after Antti Niemi was injured in the warm up, parried a fierce Martins’ shot and Steven Taylor and Kieron Dyer saw their attempts to force home the rebound block.
The visitors had started the second half brightly but all that was academic after Butt left a backpass well short of Harper and Helguson raced onto the loose-ball to lash high into the net. The Newcastle goalkeeper then made a magnificent save from Simon Davies’ header and more routine one from the ensuing corner to deny Franck Quedrue. James Milner struck a 30-yard free kick fractionally wide of Lastuvka’s left-hand post, but that was fleeting respite for Newcastle’s backline. The pressure seemed to get to Onyewu who pulled down Helguson after giving away possession and somehow avoided a red card.
Diop, who wasn’t supposed to be in Coleman’s sixteen-man squad before Niemi’s untimely injury, made his first appearance since December off the pitch and the powerful Senegalese midfielder seized his chance to shine. He surged away from Stephen Carr down the right and cut a precise ball back for McBride, who rolled in his eleventh of the season with twenty minutes to play. The American could have made it three but saw his shot blocked, before Martins lashed a low finish past Lastuvka deep into added time. It mattered little.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lastuvka; Rosenior, Quedrue, Christanval, Bocanegra; Brown, Volz (Diop 67), Routledge (Dempsey 78), Davies; Helguson, McBride (Montella 80). Subs (not used): Knight, Radzinski.
GOALS: Helguson (49), McBride (73).
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-5-1): Harper; Carr, Bramble, Onyewu, Taylor; Milner, Parker, Butt, Duff (Sibierski 68), Dyer (Solano 85); Martins. Subs (not used): Srnicek, Huntington, O’Brien.
BOOKED: Butt, Bramble, Milner.
GOAL: Martins (90).
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).