|It was a day for forwards to forget at Loftus Road as both sets of strikers missed a number chances to put their sides ahead.|
Dean Leacock Card was given for a foul
Junichi Inamoto Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Lee Naylor Card was given for a foul
Kenny Miller Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
The Wanderers attackers and the Fulham strike force fired round after round of blanks in a scoreless draw which only got going as a contest in the final quarter-of-an-hour. The closest either side came to the breakthrough was when Cottagers midfielder Steed Malbranque smacked a volley against the crossbar with two minutes left. But Dave Jones' side, bottom since their opening-day 5-0 battering at Blackburn, are now unbeaten in three league games ahead of next Saturday's datewith fellow basement battlers Leicester.
For Fulham, this was another valuable point in the kitty as Chris Coleman continues to prove the doubters wrong in the top half of the table.
The early momentum of this contest faded before the midway point in the first half, leaving both teams to fight out an uninspiring and disjointed game.
For Fulham's Louis Saha, it was a case of right place but wrong result. The Frenchman connected with two first-half crosses but headed wide from one and produced an horrendous slice from the other. After the break, Malbranque dallied when in on goal and Wolves keeper Michael Oakes blocked well.
For the visitors, Nathan Blake had his aim well and truly awry as he missed numerous chances and embarrassingly ballooned one shot towards the corner flag.
Fulham surprisingly kicked off without the in-form Luis Boa Morte - who Coleman said yesterday he expected to be fit - and operated with Saha as a lone striker. Wolves midfielder Paul Ince was in the directors' box rather than on the pitch due to a suspension, while Jones kept faith with Oakes in goal despite Matt Murray's return to fitness.
Wolves, buoyed by their first victory of the season against Manchester City in their last outing a fortnight ago, looked threatening in possession. Henri Camara was revelling in his role on the left flank of Wolves' midfield and cut inside brilliantly just before the half-hour, whipping an angled shot beyond the far post. Fulham's first real chance came in the 32nd minute.
Jerome Bonnissel burst forward down the left wing and crossed for Saha to power a header just the wrong side of Oakes' left-hand post. Saha had another scoring opportunity five minutes before the break but only produced an acrobatic slice when attempting to connect with Dean Leacock's cross from the right. Malbranque picked up the pieces and his powerful drive was well parried by Oakes.
Wolves started strongly after the break and van der Sar unconvincingly pushed away Jody Craddock's brave diving header from Alex Rae's right-wing corner. Wolves broke forward and Blake span Fulham centre-back Zat Knight but tried a curler and only came up with an absolutely terrible shot, ballooning the ball into the second tier of the stand towards the corner flag.
The tempo of the game had slackened now but Fulham did break into the Wolves penalty area after 58 minutes, only for Inamoto to take a blatant dive when tackled by Alex Rae. The Japanese midfielder was rightly booked by referee Howard Webb.
Blake had another chance for Wolves shortly afterwards - from Paul Butler's nod-back - but headed over. Fulham wasted a great chance to break the deadlock when substitute Barry Hayles bundled his way through the heart of the Wolves back line. The ball fell to Malbranque but he delayed his shot and Oakes stood tall to block. Van der Sar matched his opposite number two minutes later, sticking out a glove to save Camara's smacked shot-on-the-turn.
Wolves' Senegalese international had a clearer opening 60 seconds later but blazed over the top from 10 yards. Butler twice headed over the bar from decent chances in the 80th minute. And Saha capped his miserable afternoon in front of goal with another off-target header from Bonnissel's excellent cross. Van der Sar made a superb reaction save from Blake's snapshot. And there was drama with two minutes left as Malbranque rattled the Wolves bar with a smart volley from Hayles' cross.
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date: Saturday 18 October 2003
Venue: Loftus Road, London
Referee: Howard Webb
Line-up: Van der Sar; Leacock, Knight, Goma, Bonnissel; Malbranque, Pembridge, Inamoto (Hayles 65'), Clark, Boa Morte; Saha
Unused substitutes: Crossley, Volz, Melville, Djetou
Line-up: Oakes; Naylor, Craddock, Butler, Irwin; Camara, Gudjonsson, Cameron, Rae; Blake, Miller (Kennedy 59')
Unused substitutes: Murray, Ingimarsson, Kachloul, Sturridge