News24

Magpies on brink of relegation

2009-05-16 18:51

Newcastle - Mark Viduka endured an afternoon of frustration as he failed to find a way past fellow Australian Mark Schwarzer in Newcastle's 1-0 defeat by Fulham, which leaves the Magpies on the brink of relegation.

Striker Viduka saw a goal disallowed and another effort cleared off the line to leave Alan Shearer's side entering the final game of the season in the relegation zone.

Diomansy Kamara's fourth goal of the season shortly before half-time cements Fulham's seventh place in the table and keeps them on track to qualify for the revamped Europa League.

But Newcastle's concerns remain at the other end of the table, where even a victory at Aston Villa on May 24 might not be enough to secure safety after Hull's draw at Bolton.

They will also have to do without key defender Sebastien Bassong through suspension at Villa Park after the French centre-back was sent off on the hour for tripping Kamara as the Fulham forward sped through on goal.

Whether Michael Owen figures in a week's time remains to be seen. Newcastle were again without their injury-prone 16-million-pound striker, who has strenuously denied claims he's set to retire at the end of the season to concentrate on his racehorse stable.

Owen, who is widely expected to leave the club when his 110 000-pound-a-week contract expires in the summer, failed to recover after missing training on Friday with a groin problem, to fuel speculation he has played his last game in a black and white shirt.

His replacement up front alongside Viduka, Obafemi Martins, who was clearly not 100 percent fit after groin problems of his own, struck the post with a fierce shot from 15 yards after swapping passes with Kevin Nolan on the quarter hour, before Viduka went close with a header from Danny Guthrie's centre as Newcastle made the early running.

But it was far from one-way traffic. Steve Harper was forced to save from Zoltan Gera while Clint Dempsey shot narrowly wide before Erik Nevland curled a 20-yard effort inches wide with Harper beaten after being released by a neat Kamara flick as the visitors began to exert more influence on the contest.

Fulham's dangerous front two combined to greater effect four minutes before the interval to finally break the deadlock.

Danny Murphy's pass beat Newcastle's offside trap to release Nevland, who held off Bassong to round Harper before squaring to the unmarked Kamara, who had the simple task of firing the ball into the roof of an unguarded net.

Viduka posed a constant threat for Newcastle, and the 33-year-old looked like rewarding his industry with a goal as Newcastle made an impressive start to the second-half.

But he was denied twice within a matter of seconds five minutes after the restart, first by Dickson Etuhu, and secondly by referee Howard Webb.

Etuhu was well placed to hack Viduka's glancing header off the line after the forward reacted first to Danny Guthrie's free-kick. Viduka found his target when heading home Guthrie's resulting corner, only for Webb to controversially rule the effort out for Nolan's foul on Schwarzer.

Newcastle struggled with their numerical disadvantage after Bassong's exit, but it took two fine Schwarzer saves at the end to secure the points for Fulham.

The first, 12 minutes from time, saw the Australian international beat out a close-range Martins effort after the bustling striker forced his way past Aaron Hughes to shoot from a narrow angle.

Then, in injury-time, Nicky Butt saw his snap shot from eight yards brilliantly kept out by Schwarzer at the foot of his right-hand post.

AFP