Fulham showed commendable character to pick up a point at St. James’ Park after being reduced to ten men and conceding a contentious penalty, but Scott Parker will feel they deserved more. Joachim Andersen’s dismissal for hauling down Callum Wilson, who converted the spot kick, may rob the Cottagers of their most commanding defender and the visitors will aggrieved about the award of a penalty, when the initial contact that sent Wilson tumbling theatrically was well outside the box.
That decision, which went to the video assistant referee and was upheld, completed changed the complexion of a contest that Fulham had comfortably controlled. The visitors made the more assured start, dominating possession, but couldn’t find a telling finish in the final third until Matt Ritchie turned Toisin Adarabioyo’s header into his own net from a corner just before half-time. The returning Tom Cairney squandered a couple of good shooting opportunities from the edge of the box and Ademola Lookman might feel he could have done better than head a floated cross from the excellent Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa straight at Karl Darlow.
Fulham’s top scorer Bobby Decordova-Reid couldn’t continue his fine form in front of goal when he screwed a shot wide on the stretch having been released by a floated through ball from Mario Lemina. But the Cottagers ensured they didn’t head in at half-time empty handed when Lookman’s deep corner was headed back across goal by Adarabioyo. Decordova-Reid’s dummy befuddled Ritchie on the goal-line and the ball went into the net off his face.
Newcastle had much more of the ball after the break, but Parker’s back five nullified their threat effectively. Steve Bruce has been robbed of a number of key players through an outbreak of coronavirus and wanted a reaction after they were blown away by Leeds in midweek. Darlow denied Cairney a second from a Fulham long throw, but Newcastle’s lifeline came when Ola Aina surrendered the ball far too cheaply high up the pitch and Almiron played in Wilson for the game’s decisive moment.
Bruce was critical of his side’s failure to carve out clear openings once Fulham went down to ten men. Parker sent on Michael Hector to try and weather the coming onslaught, but his side actually carried the more potent threat. Lookman and left back Antonee Robinson linked effectively to create space in the box with Darlow beating away the winger’s drive. At the other end, Areola bravely dashed off his line to thwart Joelinton as the Brazilian burst through on goal and Adarabioyo stood firm to win several crucial headers in the closing stages. Fulham might have had a penalty at the death, when Ciaran Clark handled as Anguissa surged into the area but referee Graham Scott waved the appeals away.
The point elevates Fulham above the relegation zone again, albeit possibly only for a few hours before Burnley are in action on Monday, but three consecutive draws have all showed how successfully Parker has made his team much tougher to play through. The Whites will face a serious test against swashbuckling Southampton at Craven Cottage on Boxing Day, but they should at least approach the festive period with plenty of confidence that they belong at the highest level.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-1-1): Darlow; Yedlin, Dummett (Fraser 79), Fernandez (Hayden 45), Clark; S. Longstaff, Shelvey, Ritchie, Almiron; Joelinton (Gayle 75), Wilson. Subs (not used): Gillespie, Krafth, Lewis, Hendrick, J. Murphy, Carroll.
GOAL: Wilson (pen 64)
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Lemina, Anguissa; Decordova-Reid, Lookman (Bryan 90+4), Cairney (Hector 65); Mitrovic (Loftus-Cheek 77). Subs (not used): Rodak, Odoi, Ream, Reed, Cavaleiro, Kamara.
BOOKED: Cairney, Robinson, Hector.
SENT OFF: Andersen (62).
GOAL: Ritchie (o.g. 42)
REFEREE: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).
VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire).