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Fulham Focus - Turgid draw gives Fulham first clean sheet in 11 games

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By Adam Mazrani

Monday 11 February 2013

It certainly was not one for the neutral but in a season where Fulham have often been involved in goal-laden games, either through their own prowess in front of goal early in the season or more latterly, due to meek defending of their own that has resulted in a number of heavy defeats, the Cottagers will be more than pleased with their goalless draw at Norwich.

Bryan Ruiz challenges Bradley Johnson

Certainly, it was a very different Fulham performance to the one that dismantled the Canaries 5-0 on the opening day of the 2012/13 campaign at Craven Cottage, but it may be one that pleases Martin Jol in a nearly equal manner.

Admittedly, going forward it was far from free-flowing from the Dutchman’s side. Fulham struggled to create any real chances of note despite an adventurous looking front four of Damien Duff, Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Hugo Rodallega. Indeed, a Steve Sidwell shot from distance was the closest the away side ever really came to grabbing a goal.

Berbatov’s brilliance when on the ball still remains but on Saturday, his frustration at his own teammates was palpable as some sloppy passing from the defence and particularly the midfield duo of Sidwell and the otherwise impressively industrious Emmanuel Frimpong failed to reach the Bulgarian’s majestic touch.

However, Jol will surely not be concerned too much with their attacking ineffectiveness. Yes, the Cottagers were undoubtedly poor but he will know that with Berbatov, Ruiz and Rodallega backed up by the likes of Mladen Petric, Duff and Alex Kacaniklic, not to mention Ashkan Dejagah and Milan’s on-loan midfielder-cum-wide man Urby Emanuelson, Fulham have more than enough attacking ammunition to score goals in future matches.

Instead, Jol and indeed Fulham supporters will doubt be more pleased at the solidity shown by the defence, which has leaked far too many goals both at home and particularly away from home this season. Captain Brede Hangeland has been criticised at times this season for his lethargy both on and off the ball but he looked back to his domineering best at Carrow Road, continuing his rapidly improving partnership with Philippe Senderos at the back, which also of course helped contain Manchester United last week until a piece of Wayne Rooney magic settled the tie.

Elsewhere, there was also a quietly decent debut for Stanislav Manolev at right-back in place of Sascha Riether, as Norwich were restricted to only a couple of long-range efforts, despite the hulking presence of Luchiano Becchio making his full debut for the club. Jol will be aware that Becchio is exactly the sort of striker that has caused Fulham several problems before and so to restrict his involvement to the extent that his side did will surely have pleased him.

The point sees Fulham rise to 12th in the table, still six points and more importantly, five places above Reading in 18th and with a home game to come against Stoke next in the league, Jol will surely be targeting a win that might secure his side’s Premier League status for another year.

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