Claudio Ranieri was delighted with the defensive application of his players after Fulham recorded their first clean sheet of the season in a goalless draw at Newcastle this afternoon.

The Italian boss had said earlier in the week that he ‘needed a clean sheet like I need pasta’ and his team responded after Ranieri employed three centre backs in a new system at St. James’ Park. The tactical switch was so successful that the home side did not manage a single shot on target. Ranieri was full of praise for his side’s effort during his post-match press conference:

I am happy. I am happy because we gave to them just one chance in the first half. In the second half they created some threat in our box, but they never shot at our goal. And in the second half we created four or five great chances to win the match. But the draw is okay for us with the first clean sheet and we must continue in this way.

The Fulham manager felt his side could have nicked a late victory, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Aboubakar Kamara going close to putting the Whites ahead in the closing stages.

We played well the first half, [in] the second we lost possession of the ball but we created more chances. The second half was a battle, we knew it would be a physical match. We reacted very well, responded very well. The questions put to us, we answered very well, and also on the counter attack we created great chances.

One point is important, the clean sheet is important. And now I start to think about Wolverhampton because I watched their match last night and Wolverhampton played fantastically. For me it was very important to see how my defensive three react, and they reacted very well. It was good to see them keep possession, make some good actions. We’re at the bottom of the league, so we’re not so positive or with a lot of confidence, but I’m sure we’re getting better.

Ranieri rejected a reporter’s suggestion that the side bottom of the Premier League at Christmas usually gets relegated. Two of the last five teams propping up the table on Christmas day have survived – and Fulham’s point puts them level on points with Huddersfield. Ranieri remains confident his team can survive.

It’s not true. We’ll be safe at the end, don’t worry.