Fulham unveiled a statue to Johnny Haynes before the game this afternoon. It was a fitting memorial to the club’s best player, who passed away sadly a couple of years ago. And the Maestro was smiling on his former employers today. That can be the only explanation for how Sunderland, so utterly dominant for much of this match, failed to leave Craven Cottage with the three points.
The impressive Kieran Richardson, once on Sven-Goran Eriksson’s radar briefly as a solution to England’s as yet unresolved problem left midfield position, might have had a hat-trick on another day. The former Manchester United midfielder has flourished since he swapped Carrington to Sunderland and his sweetly struck shots carried the greatest threat to Mark Schwarzer’s goal. He proved particularly unfortunate from set-pieces. One free-kick struck the woodwork three times and stayed on, whilst another beat both the goalkeeper and the posts but was ruled out for some pushing and shoving in the wall, seemingly instigated by the cheeky Jimmy Bullard. In between, Richardson saw a shot cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes. No wonder he looked furiously towards the sky.
Roy Keane’s side spurned other chances too. After Schwarzer had saved splendidly from a rampaging Richardson run, Dijbril Cisse shot just wide of the far post having cut in from the left. The second half brought more Sunderland pressure. In the three minutes that preceeded Richardson’s disallowed effort, Dean Whitehead hinted at the danger to come by shooting agonisingly wide. Late on, the former Fulham striker David Healy, who never really established himself at the Cottage, nearly made a decisive impact. He surprisingly won an aerial duel with Hughes and flicked the ball nicely onto Cisse, who saw his well-struck volley come back of the post. There was still time for Schwarzer to deny Andy Reid as Fulham clung onto their clean sheet.
Keane couldn’t believe it afterwards.
We should have had a goal from Kieron Richardson’s free-kick as it was clearly a goal but I do not want to criticise the referee too much. We just have to get on with it.
Instead of talking about a cracking game we are going to be talking about a goal which was not allowed.
We hit the woodwork three or four times but I am fairly pleased with a point because we could have been out there all night and probably not scored. In terms of chances created we deserved to win the game.
Roy Hodgson sought solace from the fact that Fulham had brought an end to an alarming run of three consecutive defeats. Even with this point, Hodgson’s side are still just two points clear of the drop zone that they flirted with until the very end of last season. There weren’t too many signs of improvement today either as the home side only briefly threatened to shake Sunderland out of their rhythm.
The two best chances fell to summer signing Zoltan Gera, who has yet to produce the form that persuaded Hodgson to bring him in from West Brom. The lack of confidence that undermines the Hungarian’s play was evident in the way he wasted Fulham’s brightest opening. He was sent scampering through on goal by a delightful touch from Bobby Zamora but tried to go round Craig Gordon, took the ball too wide and his eventual shot was easily cleared by Pascal Chimbonda. There was a similar lack of conviction about his airshot from front of goal after an Andy Johnson cut-back.
Fulham had a rare spell of second half pressure, orchestrated by Bullard and the increasing influential captain Danny Murphy but chances proved elusive. The clearest opening they crafted came from a fine move. Murphy recycled the ball through midfield and persistence from Simon Davies led to Bullard’s strong shot being palmed away by Gordon. Hodgson can only hope that Fulham can discover a more consistent goal threat in future weeks.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Murphy, Bullard, Davies, Gera (Dempsey 74); Zamora, A. Johnson. Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Baird, Kallio, Andreasen, Gray, Nevland.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Gordon; Chimbonda, McCartney, Ferdinand, Collins; Whitehead, Leadbitter (Reid 63), Malbranque, Richardson; Cisse (Murphy 85), Chopra (Healy 70). Subs (not used): Fulop, Bardsley, Tainio, Diouf.
REFEREE: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)