Leon Best scored twice to continue Newcastle’s impressive start to the season and prolong Martin Jol’s wait for his first league win as Fulham manager.
At a ground where Fulham have a comparatively strong away record, it was a familiar story for Jol’s side. They began brightly and dominated possession but, without the forward play of Bobby Zamora, lacked the penetration to profit from their best periods of pressure. When they did manage to carve out good chances, the visitors found Tim Krul in fine form. By the time Clint Dempsey’s header prompted a furious final flurry from Fulham, the hosts were already two goals down and heading to a second straight away defeat.
Best’s brace after the interval tipped the game towards Alan Pardew’s side. The former Coventry striker retained his place after Shola Ameobi failed to shake off a knee injury and might have put Newcastle in front in first half stoppage-time were it not for a superb block from Aaron Hughes. He didn’t take long to make his mark after the interval, however. Yohan Cabaye, who had Schwarzer back-peddling to turn away a curling cross-cum shot late in the first half, found space from a throw-in and drove deep into Fulham territory. His shot bounced awkwardly in front of Schwarzer, who could only lift it onto the crossbar and Best followed up to gleefully tap home his first goal of the season from close range.
Where Newcastle were reluctant to put crosses into the box at times before the break, they attacked with gusto after the goal. The crucial second arrived midway through the second half. Substitute Demba Ba, found by a glorious pass from Gabriel Obertan, delivered a low cross that caught Fulham off guard, Best turned between Chris Baird and Hughes and slotted his second into the far corner. The home side appeared unlikely to relinquish such a commanding lead.
And, yet, it might have happened without Krul’s heroics in the home goal. The young goalkeeper had already produced a superb reaction save to push Steve Sidwell’s header onto the bar and he flung himself full length to keep out a cleverly worked free-kick from Baird. The 23 year-old, who made his international debut for Holland this summer, offered further evidence of why he has leapt ahead of Steve Harper in the Newcastle pecking order with another brilliant stop to keep out a Danny Murphy header as Fulham pressed for a way back into the contest.
Murphy did eventually provide it two minutes from time. His floated free-kick was majestically headed past Krul, who may have advanced too far from his goal-line, by Clint Dempsey but Fulham couldn’t summon a second goal despite five minutes of injury-time. Jol’s side did perk up with the late introduction of Andy Johnson, whose clever movement posed problems for the Newcastle defence, but this display can only confirm the Fulham manager’s view that he needs more firepower before the transfer window closes on Wednesday night.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, R. Taylor, S. Taylor, Coloccini; Tiote, Cabaye, Obertan, Gutierrez; Lovenkrands (Ba 62), Best (Vuckic 78; Smith 85). Subs (not used): Soderberg, Marveaux, Ferguson, Sammy Ameobi.
BOOKED: Simpson, Smith.
GOALS: Best (48, 66).
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Briggs, Hughes, Hangeland; Sidwell, Murphy, Duff, Kasami (Johnson 73); Dempsey; Dembele. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Kelly, Senderos, Etuhu, Gecov, Frei.
GOAL: Dempsey (88).
REFEREE: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).