Final Score: Fulham 1 Newcastle United 0
ALAN PARDEW watched Newcastle’s game at Fulham on a monitor in his hotel room, but he could have been forgiven for wanting to turn over and see what else was on.
The Magpies boss served the first of his seven-match ban and spent the afternoon holed up inside the team hotel. He still managed to give a team talk before they left for Craven Cottage without him, but judging by this performance they had forgotten what was said by the time they arrived.
If this display is to set the tone for the next six Pardew is absent from the dugout then the Tynesiders are in danger of limping over the line when the curtains come down on another Premier League season.
Pardew was able to communicate with the Magpies bench throughout proceedings in southwest London, but nor he or John Carver could prevent the side from slipping to defeat against a team that currently props up the table.
It could be a defining moment in Fulham’s fight for survival, but for Newcastle it meant slipping down to ninth after Southampton’s win over Norwich. Back-to-back wins over Aston Villa and Hull City had re-ignited hopes of a sixth-place finish but eight points now seems like a difficult gap to close with nine games left.
The Cottagers hadn’t managed a league win since New Year’s Day, but for large spells they were in the ascendancy as Newcastle struggled to really test David Stockdale.
The former Darlington keeper made one superb save to deny Papiss Cisse, who started instead of the injured Loic Remy, but the Senegal international once again demonstrated the traits of an out of form striker when he curled wide after being put through one on one.
It was the sort of chance you would have put your house on Remy scoring and just how costly Cisse’s miss became clear when Fulham immediately went up the other end and scored.
The goal perhaps exposed another Newcastle frailty when Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, filling in at right-back for the injured Mathieu Debuchy, allowed Ashkan Dejagah to cut inside and curl his shot under Tim Krul.
It was a disappointing goal to concede from the Dutchman’s point of view, but Newcastle’s record without Remy is the most worrying especially now it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the Frenchman will still be on Tyneside at the start of next season.
How the Tynesiders cope without Pardew for another six games remains to be seen, but back-to-back home games with Crystal Palace and Everton will certainly soften the blow of being without their leader.
With nine games to go and a nine-point cushion keeping them comfortably in the top ten how high the Magpies finish is in their own hands and Krul insists the players won’t let the season fizzle out.
“We won’t let that happen,” the Dutchman said. “I think the commitment was there today. It was a hot day but the boys showed commitment.
“We had a chance but we missed and they went up the other end and scored. Unfortunately that’s the Premier League for you.”
“The manager not being here had nothing to do with our performance. At the end of the day it’s what we do on the pitch.
“I think we showed commitment, but the quality wasn’t there. We missed Loic and Debuchy. They are big players for us.
“We saw in January that missing players like that can affect you. It’s a shame, because those boys are massive. They are big players for us.”
Newcastle should have had a late chance to equalise from the spot when Krul, who came up for a corner in stoppage time, saw a shot hit the raised arm of John Heitinga, but having already played more than the three allotted minutes of over time, referee Howard Webb blew the whistle for full time instead.
Fulham’s Brede Hangeland helps Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse get back to his feet during Saturday’s fixture at Craven Cottage
“I’ve just seen it back and his hand is up in the air,” Krul said. “I know sometimes it is difficult for the referee to see things but then he needs help off his assistants. From my point of view it is a blatant handball and I’m disappointed he didn’t give it.
“His arms were up. It’s close and I agree he’s only two yards away but at the end of the day his hands were up and that’s the rule.
“If his hands were by his side it’s not his penalty. I’m devastated because I would have loved to put it right.”
Krul was referring to Dejagah’s goal, which managed to find it’s way under the Dutchman and in. While more should have been done to snuff out the attack on the edge of the area, Krul admits he should have done better when the ball came his way.
He said: “The shot moved a lot in the air. It dipped before me, but at the end of the day I need to save those.
“I know it’s hard but I think somebody maybe got in my view as well. I’m devastated because ten seconds before the goal we had a massive chance to go one up but that’s football.
“They had a few chances so we got away with that. They played well too. I think their striker did really well the young lad (Cauley Woodrow).
Newcastle should have gone ahead themselves seconds before when Cisse missed from inside the area, but the Magpies also had complaints about Fulham’s goal. They felt Luuk de Jong had been fouled in the build up, but in truth this wasn’t a game lost because of bad decisions, it was lost because of a sub-standard display from a side that looked a shadow of the one that dispatched Hull with relative easy only two weeks earlier.
Fulham also had two efforts ruled out – the second was a bizarre moment when Heitinga’s stinging shot crashed down off the underside of the bar came out to Woodrow to tap in the rebound, but he was ruled out for offside while the goal line technology confirmed the ball hadn’t fully crossed the line in the first place.
Newcastle’s Vurnon Anita, left, and Fulham’s Steve Sidwell battle for the ball
Asked if the team had received any feedback from their absent manager straight after the game, Krul revealed: “He said he thought it was a penalty as well and a free-kick on Luuk in the run up to their goal.
“It’s unlucky. Sometimes things go for you and sometimes they don’t. On this occasion things didn’t go our way.”