Fulham Focus – Late Cisse strike condemns Cottagers to defeat

For 90-odd minutes, there was much to admire about Fulham’s performance against Newcastle at St James’ Park. It may have not been the impressive, controlling performance that brought victory at White Hart Lane in their last match on the road but the Cottagers showed resilience and determination as they held off wave after wave of Newcastle attacks.

Of course, the visitors had to ride their luck and had the woodwork to thank at times for keeping the scores level but for a Fulham side that has often struggled to keep clean sheets this season, it was a continuation of the sort of defensive fortitude that Martin Jol has managed to instil into his side since early February.

Indeed, the Cottagers even had a handful of opportunities to take what would have been a third consecutive victory but Dimitar Berbatov was only denied a sixth goal in five games by some superb goalkeeping from Newcastle’s Tim Krul.

By the time of Papiss Cisse’s last-gasp winner, in truth the visitors could not really argue with the final result, such had been Newcastle’s domination of the second-half in particular. The consolation to Fulham though is that their recent form has ensured the defeat does not spell the beginning of a relegation battle, with Jol’s men still in 10th position and still within only two points of equalling last season’s ninth-place finish.

Mark Schwarzer put in another confident display between the sticks and the 40-year-old now seems certain to stay at the club for another season after a poor run of form earlier in the season had some questioning his ability to cut it at the top level.

However, a series of astonishing match-winning saves in recent matches has well and truly put those critics to bed and considering the dearth of quality goalkeepers around the Premier League at the moment, it would seem foolish in the extreme for Jol to let such a capable performer move for nothing in the summer.

Elsewhere, Brede Hangeland looks to have gone from strength to strength since signing his contract extension. The club captain can still look susceptible to pace as Loic Remy showed at times when QPR visited West London a week ago but remains one of the premier central defenders in the division and looks particularly comfortable alongside Philippe Senderos, who may be error-prone but seems to provide more authority and power than Aaron Hughes.

However, Jol will be keen for Fulham to keep improving and looking at their next four league fixtures, the Dutchman will be aware that failure to take anything from the clashes with Aston Villa, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton may just leave the club looking over their shoulders once again for their remaining three matches.

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