Roy Hodgson recorded his first point as Fulham manager as the Whites battled to a dour draw at the Reebok Stadium this evening. The result still leaves Hodgson’s side entrenched in the relegation zone some four points from safety.
Hodgson handed first starts to two new signings. Norwegian centre back Brede Hangeland partnered Aaron Hughes at the heart of the defence and midfielder Leon Andreasen played just behind Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard in midfield. The Dane had an effective debut, coming close to breaking the deadlock with a first-half shot, and added some much needed steel in what was a much more pleasing performance after Fulham’s shock Cup exit at Bristol Rovers in midweek.
Fulham had the better of the early play but struggled for penetration. Clint Dempsey, ploughing a lone furrow up front, wasted a decent opening ten minutes in. A clever through ball from Murphy released the American, who lifted his snapshot high over the crossbar. Andreasen was next to try his luck, shooting narrowly over from 20 yards, but both sides were restricted to speculative efforts from distance.
Bolton’s best opportunity fell to on-loan midfielder Danny Guthrie, whose bright burst down the right perhaps merited more than a low shot that flew wide of Antti Niemi’s goal. Bullard looked lively on his first start since that serious knee injury at Newcastle and might have grabbed a goal with a curling shot from just inside the box that flew wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s far post.
The home side were enlivened by a half-time substitution that Tamir Cohen replace Joey O’Brien and at a stroke gave them more energy in midfield. Gary Megson’s men used the flanks far more effectively than during the first period and it was through that route that they almost produced the opening goal. New signing Gretar Steinsson sped down the right and a clever flick from Kevin Nolan was almost touched in by the sliding Matthew Taylor, who was inches away from a goal on his first start in front of the Bolton fans.
Fulham needed all of their defensive organisation to quell an aerial bombardment from a series of frightening free-kicks, with Guthrie and Taylor producing some tantalising deliveries. Slovakian defender Lubomir Michalik spurned the best chance of the game after Niemi had produced a tentative punch, shooting agonisingly wide. There was tangible relief amongst the travelling support at the final whistle and Hodgson insisted he could take plenty of positives from the performance. There’s still a long way to go, though.
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Gardner, A. O’Brien, Michalik; J. O’Brien (Cohen 45), Guthrie (Andranik 68), McCann, Nolan, Taylor (Helguson 83); K. Davies. Subs (not used): Al-Habsi, Samuel.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Niemi; Baird, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Andreasen (Bocanegra 83), Murphy, Bullard (Boauzza 87), Volz (Christanval 74), S. Davies; Dempsey. Subs (not used): Warner, Healy.
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).