Pulling together

Sunday 18 November 2001

Ian McCulloch reporting for Fulham Today...

In a match that had everything from wonder goals to bare buttocks, Fulham extended Newcastle's winless run in London to an astonishing twenty-seven games. With outstanding performances all over the pitch, as good as any was left-back Rufus Brevett's, who made Peruvian international Nolberto Solano on the right flank look almost invisible.

Rufus spoke after the game about what a fine team performance it had been. Without the spirit and determination that the team showed, there wouldn't be the platform for the inspirational flashes of brilliance that won the points.

"It was a very good game," he said, "But also a hard one. Newcastle played very well today, and it was important that we got the result. But I thought the lads did well, worked hard for each other and in the end it all went right for us. We had a lot of chances once again - Louis missed a couple, but now we're starting to take more of them, which is making all the difference."

This was a Newcastle side riding high in fourth place and coming off the back of a three-nil trouncing of previous league leaders Aston Villa. They were full of confidence and in the first ten minutes their quality shone through. Let no one think that the Magpies had an off day, this was a very good side, but were up against a Fulham side who were better and who in the end made the Geordies look ordinary.

Rufus talked about the resilience that there is the side, and how important it is to have that ability to ride out the difficult periods that there will be in every game.

"We could have gone three goals up, but they pulled one back to make it two-one and that could have been very tricky for us. But we were able to step up a gear and get another goal. It showed great character, because it would have been quite easy for a side to have folded at that stage, but we were very determined to get a result today."

Instead of allowing the Whites to comfortably play out the game, once again the referee decided to exert an absurd influence on the game. Television replays clearly show Laurent Robert jumping into Alain Goma as the ball is cleared, but a penalty was given. Fortunately, justice was done with a superb save from Edwin van der Sar.

"It was never a penalty," said Rufus. "The linesman was about ten yards away from it, kept his flag down, and the ref, who's behind play, gives the penalty. But you'll to talk to him about that!

"As for the save, I don't think Edwin got a touch to it! No, I'm joking, it was a great save, a brilliant save, and that was another key point in the game."

It's an exciting time for everyone, but Rufus is clear that team are not going to get carried away by their recent run of good form.

"We've moved up to tenth now," he said, "And it's nice to look at the table and see yourselves in the top half. But there's a long way to go. We've got Bolton away next, and that's going to be difficult. The way it is at the moment, everyone's beating each other. I think we're only six points off the top, so you never know what could happen if we carry on playing like this. But we've got to take every game as it comes, and not be stupid.

"The great thing about this side is we're all together. We're all striving for the same thing. It's just a pleasure to be playing in a team like this."

Fulham have finally nudged above Bolton in the table after their incredible run at the beginning of the season, and another good result against the Trotters on Saturday will make that position look even healthier. With Rufus confirming how good the spirit and determination is in the team, it's a game to look forward to with anticipation and optimism. Let's hope the boys can show the rest of the Premiership just who the class side were who came up from the First Division last year.