For a while on Saturday, it looked as though Fulham might make history. They could have won at Burnley, breaking a winless run that went all the back to 1951. Given that sequence also included just four league draws at Turf Moor and recent unflattering defeats in both the League and FA Cups, there’s no reason why Roy Hodgson shouldn’t reflect on this as being a point gained even though the Fulham manager’s post-match comments hinted at some frustration at seeing a rare away win slip away.
Fulham are usually set up not to get beaten on the road – and it was the case again yesterday. With Danny Murphy only fit enough to make the bench, Chris Baird and Jonathan Greening started again in central midfield. Greening had one of his best games for Fulham, making tackles, breaking the play and finding Fulham’s forwards with raking passes. Even he was out done in the distribution department by Baird, a man who has been patient and taken his first-team chance with both hands, though. A sublime floated through ball created Fulham’s goal for Bobby Zamora, who looks revitalised up front this season, and there wasn’t a trace of the anger that had greeted his winner against Sunderland last week.
Far from being conservative, Hodgson’s side might have been two goals up within the first two minutes. It wasn’t surprising that the Whites found a bit of room in the offensive positions, especially as Burnley – usually so good at home – had let in 11 goals in their last four matches. Damien Duff, jeered throughout and subjected to some rather nauseating ‘Thierry Henry’ chants, spurned the first opportunity. The first, created by clever interplay between Erik Nevland and Zamora, was pretty galling. A player of Duff’s quality should really have chipped a stranded Jensen and found the net from the edge of the box rather than drifting his effort harmlessly wide. Jensen was called into action moments later, saving Nevland’s low drive with his feet at his near post, although the Norwegian might have been a mite more clinical from close range.
Burnley sounded a warning through Robbie Blake who extended Schwarzer from twenty yards but Fulham were still playing the better football. Duff, always dangerous cutting in from the right, drew a fine save from Jensen with a strong drive but Fulham rather flitted in and out of the game as an attacking force for the remainder of the first period. With Gary Alexander flying into tackles and the impressive Chris Eagles to the fore, Burnley had their best spell of the game. The former Manchester United winger was twice thwarted by Schwarzer, first after a mazy dribble and then after the assistance referee’s flag stayed down, much to Fulham’s consternation.
After drifting through a quiet period, the game suddenly sprung to life just after the break. Baird sent a searching through ball down the centre after quickly taking a free-kick and Zamora showed his strength to shrug off the attentions of Steven Caldwell. The finish was commendable too as the former West Ham forward slotted calmly inside the far post with Jensen attempting to narrow the angle.
Burnley looked much more threatening once the on-loan David Nugent joined Steven Fletcher up front and, after Clint Dempsey’s shot was cleared off the line by Clarke Carlisle, you sensed the pendulum was about to swing again. There have been some suggestions that Paul Konchesky was particularly cupable for the Burnley equaliser but I think that’s a little harsh on the left back. Aaron Hughes tried to clear a Stephen Jordan cross but only succeeded in finding Wade Elliott and the former Bournemouth midfielder crashed an unstoppable volley past Schwarzer.
Chances were few and far between after that. Fulham might have had a penalty after Zamora looked to have been tugged to the ground by Caldwell as he tried to reach a Brede Hangeland pass, but this performance from Fulham’s number nine will have hopefully served as a timely reminder of Zamora’s abilities to those silly keyboard warriors. While Roy Hodgson has described the suggestion that he’s touting Zamora for Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad as ‘laughable,’ there’s no doubt the Fulham manager would have been as delighted with his striker’s performance as he was with just point – which, given our record at Burnley, was priceless.
BURNLEY (4-5-1): Jensen; Mears, Jordan, Caldwell, Carlisle; Alexander, Bikey (MacDonald 77), Elliott, Eagles (Guerrero 86), Blake (Nugent 56); Fletcher. Subs (not used): Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Thompson.
GOAL: Elliott (60).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Baird, Greening, Duff, Dempsey; Zamora, Nevland (Gera 77). Subs (not used): Stockdale, Smalling, Dikgacoi, Murphy, Riise, Elm.
BOOKED: Greening, Konchesky.
GOAL: Zamora (50).
REFEREE: Mike Jones (Cheshire).