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Sunday Fulham Stuff (31.10.10)

Started by White Noise, January 31, 2010, 12:01:49 AM

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White Noise


Brazilian is fresh Potters target

By Adam Marshall, 29/01/2010

STOKE are looking at Fernando Rubinho as an alternative to David James if the England keeper stays at Stoke.

James has been expected to join the Potters but the revelation that Tottenham are trying to get around a FIFA ruling to land Asmir Begovic could see the veteran shot-stopper staying on the South Coast.

Begovic is not allowed to play for three clubs in the same season but Spurs are said to be asking special dispensation to draft him in as cover for Heurelho Gomes.

If the protracted negotiations over a deal for James do not prove successful, Rubinho is another option for Tony Pulis.

The Brazilian, 26, has been linked with West Ham since the turn of the year but the takoever at Upton Park means Robert Green is going nowhere.

However, Stoke will have no joy if they try and land Stefano Okaka on loan from Roma.

Sources close to the Italian youngster claim he has given his word to Fulham and, if he does quit Stadio Olimpico, it will only be to Craven Cottage on loan.

White Noise


Boss says don't read anything into defender's arrival

By Adam Marshall, 29/01/2010

MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson says Chris Smalling's arrival from Fulham does not necessarily mean Nemanja Vidic will leave Old Trafford.
Real Madrid have made Vidic a top target and Smalling's summer switch from Craven Cottage has cast further doubt on the Serbian stopper's future.

When asked about the signing, Ferguson attempted to stress that Smalling was a separate case - even though United will potentially have Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Jonny Evans, John O'Shea and Vidic capable of playing centre-back.

"We've signed Smalling simply because he's a player of outstanding potential," stated Ferguson.

"That's the only reason. We recognise and identify players in that mould and we act.

"That's the reason.

"He has terrific height, good balance, he's quick, and at 20 years of age he has done exceptionally well for such a short period in the professional game. I don't see anything other than an outstanding prospect.

"That's the reason."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was disappointed to lose out after feeling he had done enough to land the 20-year-old rookie.

Wenger said: "Manchester United got Smalling in the end. I am sorry because we were very close to getting him and we were on the case very early.

"I wish the player well.

"At the end of the day it is important he has a good career.

"In both clubs he has a good chance to make a great career. The most important thing is he does that."

White Noise


Fulham 0 Aston Villa 2

By Aidan Magee, 30/01/2010

GABBY AGBONLAHOR showed that Aston Villa are in the Champions League race for the long haul - with or without the long-ball.

His manager Martin O'Neill suffered the football equivalent of a knife through the heart this week when Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, probably in frustration at his side's failure to break Villa down, suggested the Midlands outfit were a long-ball team.

For a man raised on the pass-and-move principles that brought back-to-back European Cups for Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest, this was hard to accept.

He admits he may have over-reacted to what he described as "an insult" but he will feel vindicated in his passionate defence of his team - after Villa overcame Fulham with an accomplished away performance.

The stats showed that they launched 20 long balls in the first half. But when the goals came in a short burst before half-time, they were slickly taken by Agbonlahor.

And both efforts gave Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer not a 'hit and hope' in hell of keeping them out.

The truth is that Villa, as is typical of any O'Neill team, like to mix up their tactics.

They play long balls to Emile Heskey and John Carew when one or both is fit. When they find Agbonlahor and Ashley Young on the deck, they look equally threatening.

Some punters could have been forgiven for thinking Villa were beginning to fade, just as they did last season, in their effort to break into the Premier League's top four.

They had not scored in 429 minutes and had not enjoyed a Premier League victory in their last four games.

There is little margin for error in the top seven and even Liverpool and Manchester City, who have suffered patchy campaigns, have improved in recent weeks to stay in touch.

Villa took their chances quite ruthlessly against Fulham to move within two points of Tottenham in their effort to break bread with the elite of European football next season. Villa also have a game in hand over Harry Redknapp's team.

Sir Alex Ferguson even pitched up at Craven Cottage to check on his latest investment and will have left knowing that it might be a while before it pays dividends.

Fulham defender Chris Smalling completed a fairytale journey from non-league Maidstone to Manchester United in less than 18 months this week when Fergie paid an initial £7million to take the 20-year-old to Old Trafford for the start of next season.

The United boss has been used to paying out for the finished article, but if he was not aware already, he and his coaching staff may have to reach for a duster and a can of Mr Sheen if they are to help this raw defensive talent shine in the future.

The United boss will also have taken the opportunity to size up Carling Cup final opponents Aston Villa - and he will have been reminded of Agbonlahor's abilities.

The young striker scored his first league goal since his headed winner inflicted a rare defeat on United at Old Trafford six weeks ago.

HESKEY: Beats Hangeland in the airO'Neill joked after the game that Agbonlahor and Ashley Young could have worn bear-suits as they prepared to lead his side's physical bombardment at Fulham.

Villa inflicted the damage on their hosts within the five minutes before half-time - and there was not a long ball in sight.

In the 40th minute, Agbonlahor scored the first with a header from Stiliyan Petrov's cross. The England World Cup hopeful used his strength to comfortably outjump Smalling and direct his effort past Schwarzer. Just four minutes later, the same player struck again in even more impressive fashion.

Carlos Cuellar played a low pass into the Fulham box, and this time Smalling's central defensive partner Brede Hangeland was guilty of being rolled too easily, allowing Agbonlahor to curl a fine second goal with his left foot beyond Schwarzer's reach.

Fulham sent on Swedish striker David Elm in the second half and he had what looked like a good goal harshly chalked off for offside by referee Lee Mason.

Fulham appear under-strength and clearly have injury problems, judging by the number of players being used out of their natural positions.

Stephen Kelly played at left-back despite running out on the opposite side at Accrington last week, while Aaron Hughes, usually a centre-back, filled in at right-back.

Five straight Premier League defeats have added a little bit of pressure to Roy Hodgson, who showed his frustration in a post-match interview with Sky's Alan Parry when he questioned the interviewer's assessment that Wednesday's home clash with Portsmouth had now become a "must-win game".

Any notion that the Fulham manager should lose his job should be greeted with ridicule, at least at this stage.

He was appointed two years ago and guided them first to the most unlikely of relegations escapes, before taking them to seventh place last season. They are still comfortably placed in the league and are still in the Europa League.

Nobody is calling for Hodgson to be sacked, and even if some will be doing so in a few weeks time, they should think what could have happened if Fulham had gone down in 2008.

From there, there might never have been a way back.

White Noise

Wolves and Fulham in fight for African Nations star

Published 23:00 30/01/10 By Alex Shaw

Wolves and Fulham are locked in a last-ditch battle to sign African Nations Cup star Mohamed Gedo.

The Egypt striker is the tournament's leading scorer with four goals, and his performances in Angola have attracted the interest of Celtic as well.

Gedo's club Al-Ittihad are eager to keep hold of the 25-year-old but may be tempted into a sale if the price is right. Wolves boss Mick McCarthy wants to add to his squad before the end of the transfer window to ensure he has enough firepower for survival.

But Fulham are interested too. Roy Hodgson has landed Roma striker Stefano Okaka but remains active in the transfer market.

White Noise

Fulham 0-2 Aston Villa: The Sunday Mirror match report

Published 20:20 30/01/10 By Alex Shaw

Maybe Arsene Wenger was right. Aston Villa indulged in the odd long-ball tactic as they swept Fulham aside – but it did the trick as Martin O'Neill's men marched back into Champions League contention.

A quickfire double just before the break by Gabriel Agbonlahor set Villa on their way to their first victory at Craven Cottage since 2005. For Fulham, it's now five ­defeats in a row, a worrying slide for Roy Hodgson to ponder.

O'Neill, whose side are two points off Tottenham in fourth with a game in hand, said: "I am delighted. We ­deserved to win and scored two great goals.

"We have gone a few games in the league without ­scoring so to win was a big boost.

"The players can play — no doubt about it. Our centre-backs are as confident as anyone in the Premier League. ­Perhaps the ­comment ­attributed to Wenger was overblown a bit.

"We got a little tired in the second half and it became a case of what we have, we hold."

Following a goalless draw at Villa Park in midweek, Gunners manager Wenger attacked O'Neill's tactics and dubbed his Villa side a bunch of long-ball ­merchants.

It seemed an odd statement to make, with Villa's exciting young English ­contingent of James Milner, Ashley Young and Agbonlahor anything but the 'lump it and leg it' brand of player.

Obviously Wenger saw something different but O'Neill fought his ­corner, — lashing out at the ­'self-important' Frenchman for his comments.

O'Neill's style of play has got Villa to the Carling Cup Final and within a chance of ­Champions League football next season and victory at Craven Cottage heightened the sense of expectation among the Villa support.

But watching the early ­stages ­yesterday would only have added fuel to Wenger's fire.

Despite the pace of Young and Agbonlahor, Villa seemed more interested in the direct ­approach.

Fulham's Chris Smalling, the promising young defender who will join Manchester United at the end of the ­season, coped easily with the aerial bombardment as Villa searched for their first goal in five league matches — the leanest run O'Neill has ­presided over.

Sir Alex Ferguson was at Craven Cottage to run the rule over new recruit Smalling and if the beaming smile was ­anything to go by, he was ­impressed with him.

The United manager must have been the only person to have liked what he saw before the match came to life.

Young's header was tipped over by Mark Schwarzer and Bobby Zamora went close at the other end before ­Agbonlahor gave Villa fans something to shout about.

The England World Cup hopeful is not known for his heading prowess but he rose brilliantly to beat Smalling in the air and head past Schwarzer five minutes before the break.

It was Villa's first goal in 429 league minutes but ­Agbonlahor wasn't finished.

Three minutes later he turned Brede Hangeland and curled a sublime effort into the top corner.

It took Agbonlahor's double to stir Fulham into life and Zoltan Gera almost pulled one back after the restart but Brad Friedel stood firm.

Gera then flashed a stinging drive that deflected past Friedel's post but Fulham lacked the flair to turn this around.

For all Zamora's endeavour, he was starved of support as Villa coasted.

Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson, who is still looking for new players in the final hours of the transfer window, said: "It was an uphill ­battle after they scored the two goals. We ­really did give it our best shot.

"Five defeats in a row is ­concerning – we're still ­suffering from injuries. We have to keep working hard and make sure we don't let our heads drop."

This time last season, O'Neill's men were about to embark on a dreadful run of just one win in 10 league games. There is renewed ­optimism this year and with Agbonlahor leading the charge, anything is possible.

"His two goals today were as much to do with his ­persistence," O'Neill added.

"He played excellent."

White Noise

Run of defeats no cause for alarm, says Aaron
Jan 30 2010 By Yann Tear

AARON Hughes insists Fulham are not about to panic after their fifth Premier league defeat in a row.

The 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa was also the Whites' third home defeat of the season and they have not won in the league since thumping Man United six weeks ago.

"That can happen in this league," said a philosophical Hughes.

"You win four or five in a row and everyone's jumping around saying it's great, but you have to never lose sight of the fact that it can go the other way.

"We know that and at the minute we are stuck and we just need a win to get things turned around again.

"I wouldn't say we are overly worried about it. We will do what we can to try and get ourselves out of it.

"Sometimes, you've just got to show a bit of character and a bit of strength and try and get out of it."

The defender, who was pressed into action at right-back rather than in central defence because of the injury crisis, says the absence of so many first teamers is behind the dip in form.

"Sometimes you can maybe get away with missing one or two, shuffling the squad," Hughes said. "But we've got Clint [Dempsey] missing, AJ [Andy Johnson] and the two full backs are out and Simon Davies has got another knock. It's just the way it's going at the minute.

"We're having that little spell where we just can't get a win, but hopefully we can get the lads back soon and get going again.

"We are a bit disappointed with the goals we gave away [against Villa]. We kept going but didn't get anything from the game and that sometimes happens."

White Noise

Sade thinks this hilarious. It sums up her career pretty well. She makes music on her own terms.

She tells me how, on seeing a poster for Lady Gaga's album The Fame Monster recently, she wondered: "Why can't I get so worked up about being famous?" She is a complicated, ambitious woman. "Artistically, I have high aspirations. I don't want to do anything less than the best I can do," she says. Yet she spurns the promotional rigmarole of the industry, despite knowing that it's hard to win the public's sympathy if you ignore them.

She learnt the downside of fame - "not the sweet, rosy thing anybody expects" - very early on. As her albums sold millions all round the world, paparazzi climbed the trees around her London house to get an intimate shot of her. Rumours about her personal life plagued her, even the funny ones such as the report that she was about to buy Fulham Football Club. "I came to think that those tape machines the journalists used would just scramble what you say, like a liquidiser. It's terrible, this mentality that if something seems simple, there must be something funny going on."


Quote from: White Noise on January 31, 2010, 12:28:00 AM

Sade thinks this hilarious. It sums up her career pretty well. She makes music on her own terms.

She tells me how, on seeing a poster for Lady Gaga's album The Fame Monster recently, she wondered: "Why can't I get so worked up about being famous?" She is a complicated, ambitious woman. "Artistically, I have high aspirations. I don't want to do anything less than the best I can do," she says. Yet she spurns the promotional rigmarole of the industry, despite knowing that it's hard to win the public's sympathy if you ignore them.

She learnt the downside of fame - "not the sweet, rosy thing anybody expects" - very early on. As her albums sold millions all round the world, paparazzi climbed the trees around her London house to get an intimate shot of her. Rumours about her personal life plagued her, even the funny ones such as the report that she was about to buy Fulham Football Club. "I came to think that those tape machines the journalists used would just scramble what you say, like a liquidiser. It's terrible, this mentality that if something seems simple, there must be something funny going on."

Man, I love her. Best voice, possibly, ever for me. I guess I was a yuppie.

White Noise

Hull, meanwhile, are set to be beaten by CELTIC in the race to sign Fulham striker Diomansy Kamara. He will move to Scotland on a loan deal - with a view to a permanent switch in the summer.

White Noise



Tom Hopkinson

The brickbats keep coming at Fulham and boss Roy Hodgson over their refusal to use the changing rooms at Accrington Stanley last weekend.

But perhaps those rushing to cast judgement should steady on.

There was very good reason for the Londoners dashing off after the game - the away dressing room apparently wasn't big enough for the squad to properly perform their warmdown, which was designed to ensure they were ready to go again in Tuesday's Premier League game at Tottenham.

But the FA Cup fourth-round clash was a real clash of the haves and have-nots. Stanley players even queued up to buy tickets for their families at a tenner a time!


Which two players are said to be injured but have really been suspended by their club after a training ground bust-up? One late tackle too many caused the ruckus.

White Noise

£14M Chris, who Chelsea could have had for FREE


Dave Kidd

Chelsea squandered a golden opportunity to sign Manchester United's £14million new boy Chris Smalling ... for FREE.

While Roman Abramovich has insisted that Chelsea scour the world for the finest young talent, in a bid to make the club selfsufficient, Smalling was allowed to slip through their fingers.

United snapped up Smalling in a deal worth up to £14m, after Arsenal had bid £12m for the Fulham central defender. Then Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton gave him a VIP Old Trafford tour.

But Chelsea had England Under-21 star Smalling on trial 18 months ago, when he was a non-contract player at Ryman League Maidstone United, only to pass up the chance to sign him.

Maidstone manager Alan Walker revealed: "Chris was available on a free transfer because he was never under contract with us. A lot of clubs showed interest and Chelsea actually had him on trial and he played in a friendly match for them.

"But it was only Middlesbrough and Fulham who made offers to sign Chris and he chose Fulham.

" I'm delighted Sir Alex Ferguson has signed him because I am a United fan. The Ryman League is a tough place to learn your football. Most of the players are ex-pros but as soon as Chris started to play for our reserves as an 18-year-old, it was so obvious he had to be in the first team. Then after 12 games for us, he was off to Fulham.

"The reason we didn't have him under contract was that he was at school and wanted to play for England schoolboys against Scotland at Wembley, and they won't consider you for England schoolboys if you are contracted to a club.

"It is a shame for us because the club have a plot of land in Maidstone with planning permission to build a stadium on but we have no money and are ground-sharing at Ashford."

Smalling cannot wait to complete his rise from the Ryman League to the Champions League and fulfil his dream of playing alongside Rio Ferdinand.

Smalling said: "Rio is very elegant on the ball, a good example to any aspiring centre-back.

"I like to play in a similar way in terms of bringing the ball out from the back and starting attacks, and Rio is the perfect example of how that is done."

And Smalling is already relishing more showdown battles with Premier League strikers. He said: ''The one I most want to face is Fernando Torres."

White Noise


Sir Alex watches as new signing has a mare

Marc Isaacs

Fulham 0

Aston Villa 2

Sir Alex Ferguson must be wishing he'd stayed at the United team hotel after new recruit Chris Smalling gave a nightmare display as Fulham's season got even worse.

Ferguson was in the capital ahead of the mouthwatering showdown against Arsenal today and took the chance to see his new £10million signing in action.

The United boss is the master when it comes to bringing through the best young talent, but knows he will have to wait while before seeing Smalling fulfil his true potential.

He was starting only his third Premier League game and was caught out for the first goal when Gabriel Agbonlahor rose above him. And he was always second-best to the Villa forward.

There is something about Ferguson which seems to bring out the best in Agbonlahor after the England striker stole the headlines with two goals.

Agbonlahor's last league goal came at Old Trafford in December when his winner silenced the champions.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill can only hope his lucky streak will continue in front of Fergie when the sides clash in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley at the end of next month.

More importantly for O'Neill, Agbonlahor managed to rediscover his touch in front of goal to help Villa get back on track and keep alive their hopes of playing in the Champions League next season.

Their league form has taken a major slump in their previous four games as they failed to score a goal and only picked up two points.

Arsene Wenger even accused them of being a long-ball team after Arsenal's 0-0 draw at Villa last Wednesday.

But Villa were anything but long-ball merchants here and produced an impressive performance which helped them close the gap on fourthplaced Tottenham to two points with a game in hand.

How O'Neill must have wished Wenger could have taken his place alongside Fergie in the directors box to see his comments were off the mark.

O'Neill said: "I am so pleased with the result and delighted with the team.

After Wednesday we thought about putting Ashley Young in a bear suit!

"The players can play and our central defenders are as comfortable as anyone with the ball at their feet. The comment (from Wenger) irked me but had I reflected on it, I probably would not have mentioned it.

"Gabby's performance against Arsenal was fantastic and I learned from a previous manager that you don't always get your rewards on the day. Those two goals were a result of that."

In contrast Fulham's season is taking a major downward spiral and they could yet face a relegation dogfight if they don't improve their form in the next few weeks.

Roy Hodgson has been plagued by injuries but not even the return of Bobby Zamora could inspire the home side who slumped to their fifth consecutive defeat.

Boss Hodgson said: "I am concerned but I know we have got players who can help us who are not available.

"I am disappointed with the manner in which we conceded the goals but we didn't have any luck and had a goal ruled out for offside.


"Chris did well but he got moved off the ball for the first goal. With experience he would have got to the ball. He has the quality."

Stiliyan Petrov's cross picked out Agbonlahor, who rose above Smalling in the box and flashed a close-range header past Mark Schwarzer.

Carlos Cuellar played the ball into the England forward and he curled a superb shot past Schwarzer.

Fulham thought they had pulled a goal back when sub David Elm slotted the ball home but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Shiner Agbonlahor

The Villa striker was long overdue a league goal and responded in superb fashion as he stole the headlines with a superb brace.

Fulham: Schwarzer 6 - Hughes 6, Hangeland 5, Smalling 5, Kelly 5 (Riise, 74mins, 6) - Davies 6 (*GERA, 25mins, 7), Murphy 5, Baird 6, Duff 6 - Zamora 5, Nevland 6 (Elm, 65mins, 6).

Aston Villa: Friedel 7 - Cuellar 7, Dunne 8, Collins 8, L Young 7 - A Young 7, Milner 8, Petrov 8, Downing 7 - *AGBONLAHOR 9, Heskey 7. REFEREE: L Mason, 7.

Shocker Smalling

He could not have picked a worse day to have a stinker as his new manager Sir Alex Ferguson was watching.

White Noise

Fergie has been in contact with the Canales camp for the past 10 days and was set to sit down with them last weekend.

Mission But Arsenal's late attempt to sign Chris Smalling from Fulham forced a change of plan.

Instead of going to Spain, Ferguson made a secret visit to Fulham's team hotel in Lancashire to personally persuade the highly-rated England Under-21 centre-half to move north.

White Noise

Celtic beat Hull City and West Brom to sign Fulham's Diomansy Kamara on loan as Scott McDonald edges closer to exit

By John Greechan Last updated at 1:08 AM on 30th January 2010

Comments (0)

Celtic are closing in on a loan deal for Fulham striker Diomansy Kamara, paving the way for Scott McDonald to be sold before the transfer window closes on Monday night.

Sources close to the Senegal international told Sportsmail he has chosen Celtic ahead of Hull City and former club West Brom.

Celtic sources last night played down reports linking them with Real Mallorca defender Ivan Ramis and Halmstad striker Emir Kujovic.

In loan talks: Fulham's Diomansy Kamara is set for a move north of the border
But boss Tony Mowbray, who loaned club captain Stephen McManus to Middlesbrough and sold Danny Fox to Burnley yesterday, is continuing to wheel and deal - with West Brom midfielder Robert Koren and out-offavour Bolton centre-half Danny Shittu also on the radar.

Prime target Kamara, 29, joined Fulham in a £6million transfer from West Brom but, despite scoring 10 goals in his first campaign at Craven Cottage, has fallen out of the reckoning.

Middlesbrough target Celtic's Scott McDonald

He would join Celtic on loan with a view to a permanent transfer in the summer. The collapse of Birmingham's £4m bid for Lens forward Aruna Dindane, on loan at Portsmouth, also provided Mowbray with a second chance to pinch the Ivory Coast international.

The arrival of any striker will almost certainly be funded by the departure of McDonald, already the subject of a failed £3.5m bid from Middlesbrough.
Former Celtic boss Gordon Strachan will return with an improved offer and, despite Mowbray insisting he won't force the Australian out, he will be sold to balance the books.

'I think we'll get the people we have targeted. I hope that's the case,' said Mowbray.

'We're working hard behind the scenes and things have moved on since last week. We're pretty close with one or two people. '
Hopefully things will be concluded before Monday night but you never know. '(Scott's) our top scorer and will contribute immensely to us.

'There's never been any evidence of him wanting to move. We've never had a cross word and I don't think he's ever felt he's not been appreciated.

'If he's here to play on Tuesday, I'll be delighted. If not, there are reasons behind it that will become evident. There is interest in Scott, that is widely known. But has he got a future at Celtic? Yes he has.'

Speaking about the players who left yesterday, he said: 'I saw (McManus) this morning and wished him well. He's looking forward to a new challenge.
'It's an opportunity for Danny to go into the Premier League and test his talents. The money we receive for him will be spent elsewhere to strengthen the areas that need strengthening.'

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White Noise

[size=14pt]Fulham 0 Aston Villa 2 [/size]

GAB'LL DO NICELY ... two-goal ace Agbonlahor slides in his second

Published: 30 Jan 2010

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ASTON VILLA had to wait over SEVEN hours for a Premier League goal — but then a second came just four minutes later.

Villa came into this game in the middle of a desperate league goal drought.

But Gaby Agbonlahor snuck in to give Villa a 40th-minute lead before doubling his tally before the break.

And that was enough to see off Fulham and give the visitors just their second win at Craven Cottage in 41 years.

Villa boss Martin O'Neill said: "I know that strikers need to score goals to keep themselves alive and give themselves confidence.

"I learnt from a brilliant previous manager that sometimes you don't get your just deserts on the day.

"Gabriel taking those two goals today were as much about his performance against Arsenal on Wednesday night.

"He got his deserts today and he was fantastic."

Fulham chief Roy Hodgson tried to look at the positives. He added: "We've suffered a bad home defeat and don't feel good about that, but we weren't diabolical today.

"We're suffering from our injury situation but we were disappointed with the manner in which we conceded those goals.

"We gave it our all in the second half."

A few early lumps had suggested that Arsene Wenger's snipe at Villa's long-ball game was on the money.

Emile Heskey had a chance from one of the pumps forward — but the England man nodded over.

And when the hosts changed tack and went for a shorter passing game they created another opening, with Heskey again missing out.

Curtis Davies saw his afternoon end abruptly when he limped off for Zoltan Gera in the 24 minute.

Erik Nevland clattered the bar with a header as the Cottagers finally carved out an opening.

But they were on the back foot again shortly after and needed Mark Schwarzer's sharp reflexes to palm away Luke Young's header.

Stiliyan Petrov and Bobby Zamora then traded misses as both sides upped the tempo.

Petrov blazed over from six yards before Zamora, with 11 goals to his name so far this season, stabbed over the bar.

On 40 minutes, however, Agbonlahor was not so wasteful.

And Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, in the stands to watch new recruit Chris Smalling, would have been wincing at the goal.

The 20-year-old was caught napping at a Petrov cross, and allowed Agbonlahor to sneak in and nod home.

And three minutes later the striker was among the goals again, turning Brede Hangeland before producing a brilliant finish.

Fulham charged out of the blocks in the second half, with Gera coming close.

A corner had Fulham at panic stations but Villa were unable to get any clean contact on the ball.

Danny Murphy then stormed through — only for the move to peter out with a lack of decisiveness.

And that summed up the hosts' afternoon as Villa closed out for the points.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Hughes, Smalling, Hangeland, Kelly (Riise 74), Duff, Murphy, Baird, Davies (Gera 24), Zamora, Nevland (Elm 65). Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Greening, Dikgacoi.

Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Luke Young, Downing, Milner, Petrov, Ashley Young, Heskey, Agbonlahor. Subs Not Used: Guzan, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Davies, Delph, Shorey, Beye. Booked: Heskey, Luke Young.

Goals: Agbonlahor 40, 44.

Att: 25,408

Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

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White Noise

Gabriel Agbonlahor ends Aston Villa's goal drought in style at Fulham

Fulham 0 
Aston Villa 2 Agbonlahor 40, Agbonlahor 44 

Amy Lawrence at Craven Cottage, Saturday 30 January 2010 17.00 GMT

As a fact-finding mission for Sir Alex Ferguson, this was a convenient chance to assess upcoming Carling Cup final opponents Aston Villa, as well as cast an eye over an Old Trafford defender of the future, Chris Smalling. The Manchester United manager looked so spectacularly relaxed he would appear not to be remotely worried about either.

But in Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa possess a striker capable of hurting anyone. He ripped up the concerns over his team's recent toothlessness and tossed them into the bin. And so ended a four-match scoreless and winless sequence, much to the satisfaction of Martin O'Neill. "To win is a big boost for us," he said.

The game hinged on a spell five minutes before half-time in which Agbonlahor got what O'Neill described as "just deserts" for his efforts recently. He displayed the nous to meet Stilian Petrov's swirling cross with an instinctive cushioned header. It was a frustrating moment for his marker, Smalling, who was not quite as alive to the cross as the England frontman. Up until then the defender had shown enough composure and quality to earn some satisfied smiles from his new manager-to-be in the directors' box.

"Congratulations to Agbonlahor as Smalling was favourite to get it," Roy Hodgson said. "With experience that wouldn't happen again."

by Guardian Chalkboards Aston Villia have been short of goals, with Gabriel Agbonlahor having failed to score in the Premier League since the start of December. The England striker was as usual involved largely around the periphery of the box, but he took his two chances with alacrity to rediscover his scoring touch and hand Villa a first win in five. Villa's second came along almost immediately. Carlos Cuéllar teed up Agbonlahor, who twirled away from Brede Hangeland and bent the ball deliciously past Mark Schwarzer. It was so classy, even Arsène Wenger would have been hard-pressed to fail Villa on the aesthetics test.

Fulham, without a league win since they embarrassed Manchester United six weeks ago, felt like a double decker had hit them. "Up until that two-goal period the game looked like a 0-0 in the making," Hodgson said. "But when you go 2-0 down to a team of Aston Villa's quality you are staring defeat in the face."

Fulham were not without chances. Bobby Zamora watched a first-half effort arc over the bar, and teed up Simon Davies for another shot. In the second half, Zoltan Gera showed some signs of life and substitute David Elm had a goal disallowed for a tight – though correct – offside decision.

And so Fulham lost at home for the first time since September. Recent form – hardly helped by a run of consecutive away games in the league and a string of injuries – puts them on a five-game ­losing streak. "Of course I'm concerned," Hodgson said. "Especially as the players you'd hope to help you out of it are unavailable. There is no simple solution but you have got to work through it."

Villa worked themselves out of their little slump. A welcome victory salved the raw nerves that Wenger had touched. O'Neill was content to admit he regretted rising to the bait on the subject of his team's artistic impression. "I just got a bit irked at that moment, but had I reflected I probably wouldn't have mentioned it," he said. Onwards and upwards.

THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICTDavid Lloyd, There's Only One F In Fulham Somebody said Alex Ferguson was here; the last time he was, we won 3-0, so we were hopeful of a repeat. But it was sloppy and we failed lamentably to keep to our standards. The first half was muted from both sides and it was petering out to a half-time stalemate. Then suddenly we're 2-0 down. When we finally got started, it was too late. It's not the fact that we lost that grates, it's that we looked punchless. We could use a couple of new faces to freshen things up.

The fan's player ratings Schwarzer 6; Hughes 4, Smalling 6, Hangeland 5, Kelly 5 (Riise 74 6); Davies 5 (Gera 24 6); Murphy 5, Baird 7, Duff 6; Zamora 7, Nevland 5 (Elm 65 6)

Jaroslaw Zaba, London Lions We really didn't play that well at all, but we got the points. Defensively we were good, but in attack we were relatively toothless. Milner, Downing and Ashley Young were poor. Ending our goal drought was important, but Agbonlahor scoring was more so – he's a confidence player, so that'll do him good, especially the second goal which was an excellent finish. We do occasionally play direct, but we certainly aren't a long-ball side. In fact, we didn't play well either way today.

The fan's player ratings Friedel 7; Cuéllar 7, Collins 7, Dunne 8, L Young 7; A Young 7, Milner 6, Petrov 6, Downing 5; Agbonlahor 8, Heskey 7


White Noise

Fulham v Aston Villa

Saturday 30 January 2010 15.00

  Score line 
Final score  Fulham  0 – 2 (HT 0 – 2)  Aston Villa 
  Agbonlahor 40
Agbonlahor 44

Bookings   Heskey 77
Young, L 90

Fulham's Percentage Aston Villa's Percentage
Corners 9 75%  3 25% 
Goal attempts 9 47%  10 53% 
On target 4 40%  6 60% 
Fouls 11 42%  15 58% 
Offside 5 83%  1 17% 
Fulham Mark Schwarzer, Stephen Kelly (Bjorn Helge Riise, 74), Brede Hangeland, Chris Baird, Aaron Hughes, Chris Smalling, Danny Murphy, Damien Duff, Simon Davies (Zoltan Gera, 25), Erik Nevland (David Elm, 65), Bobby Zamora 
Aston Villa Brad Friedel, Luke Young, L, Richard Dunne, Carlos Cuellar, James Collins, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, A, James Milner, Stiliyan Petrov, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey 
Referee Mason, L
Venue Craven Cottage
Attendance 25,408

White Noise

January 31, 2010

Gabriel Agbonlahor ends Aston Villa goal drought in style

Fulham 0 Aston Villa 2

Brian Glanville at Craven Cottage

ALAS, poor Fulham. This was their fifth Premier League defeat in a row. "We've had five bad results," admitted their manager, Roy Hodgson, "but the performances have not been disastrous."

The truth of the matter is that a club with a relatively small squad is losing so many key players. Both full-backs, Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil, so valuable overlapping their teammates in front of them, were injured. Their replacements were hardly capable of the same enterprise. Aaron Hughes is essentially a centre-back, while at left-back, Stephen Kelly was notably right-footed.

The odds were clearly on Aston Villa, though it was only late in the first half that Gabriel Agbonlahor snapped up a couple of goals. His manager, Martin O'Neill, was delighted and felt it was a continuation of his excellent form in the previous game against Arsenal. But as Hodgson admitted, both goals were down to mistakes by his centre-backs.

The first, on 40 minutes, came when Stiliyan Petrov crossed from the right and Agbonlahor, at the near post, got the better of Chris Smalling. Winning the ball in the air, he headed wide of the resilient Mark Schwarzer.

The next goal, on 44 minutes, came when Brede Hangeland, somewhat surprisingly out on the left flank, enabled Carlos Cuellar to get in his cross, which Agbonlahor, as a result inadequately marked, struck home. Fulham did have a valid case for a goal when substitute David Elm beat Brad Friedel but was contentiously offside.

Hodgson was philosophical. He felt until the two goals "the game had looked very much like a 0-0 in the making", and his team had improved in the second half. The truth was, his side showed minimum trust up front and were seldom incisive in midfield.

Of Smalling, snapped up by Manchester United after so few league games, Hodgson said: "He's definitely got the quality; there's no doubt of that. He's not one of our poorer players."

By the same token, O'Neill's eulogy of his team's display seemed a little exaggerated.

Hodgson lamented the injury that put Simon Davies off the field, though not before he had provoked a good save from Friedel with a first-time shot. On 33 minutes, a left-wing cross from Ashley Young was firmly met, again first time, by Luke Young but Schwarzer did well to turn it over the top.

Slightly disappointing was the form of James Milner, who has done so well this season for club and country. But O'Neill admitted his team may have tired a little after their efforts against Arsenal in midweek, when Arsène Wenger accused Villa of playing a long-ball game.

Star man: Gabriel Agbonlahor (Villa)

Yellow cards: Villa: Heskey, L Young

Referee: L Mason

Attendance: 25,408

FULHAM: Schwarzer 7, Hughes 5, Smalling 6, Hangeland 6, Kelly 5 (Riise 74min), Duff 6, Murphy 6, Baird 5, Davies 6 (Gera 24min, 5), Zamora 5, Nevland 5 (Elm 65min)

VILLA: Friedel 7, Cuellar 7, Collins 6, Dunne 7, L Young 6, Downing 6, Milner 6, Petrov 6, A Young 6, Heskey 5, Agbonlahor 7

White Noise

Fulham 0 Aston Villa 2: match report

By Gerry Cox at Craven Cottage

Published: 5:15PM GMT 30 Jan 2010

Gabriel Agbonlahor ended Aston Villa's recent barren run with two goals in a four-minute spell at the end of the first-half to resuscitate their hopes of Champions League football.

The young England striker hit his 11th and 12th goals of the season to keep Martin O'Neill's side in touch with the top four, although they came as a result of defensive errors from Brede Hangeland and Chris Smalling, the young Fulham defender destined for a permanent move to Manchester United in the summer.

But it was no classic, with the first-half especially low in quality and high on errors. Both sides struggled to get the ball down and play, and long-ball side, there was a distinct lack of decent passing from both teams.

A rare move involving more than three passes ended with Ashley Young crossing for a glancing header from his namesake Luke that was tipped over the bar by Mark Schwarzer in the 33rd minute.

Fulham then had their best chance of the half when Bobby Zamora raced on to control a long ball out of defence, but as he waited for the ball to drop on to his right foot, Carlos Cuéllar got in an interception to send the ball over his own crossbar. Agbonlahor finally broke the deadlock five minutes before half-time.

The Villa striker had barely had a sniff of goal up to that point, but when Stilyan Petrov crossed from the right, Agbonlahor got in front of Chris Smalling – watched by his new manager Sir Alex Ferguson – to head inside the near post from close range.

It was Villa's first league goal in more than seven hours of football, and four minutes later they scored again. Once more it was Agbonlahor, taking advantage of another defensive lapse to score.

Villa right-back Cuéllar played a simple forward pass to Agbonlahor, who had Brede Hangeland between him and the goal.

But the Norwegian inexplicably tried to anticipate Agbonlahor's next move, guessed wrong by turning away from goal and allowed the striker to spin the opposite way and curl a shot into the far corner of goal.

With Fulham also short on goals and confidence, there never looked like being a way back and so it proved. The second-half followed a similar pattern, with precious prevision passing or controlled football.

Villa were content to soak up what pressure Fulham could muster – which was not much – and then attack on the break with the speed of Ashley Young and Agbonlahor always a threat.

Fulham did manage to get the ball in the Villa net after 76 minutes when substitute David Elm volleyed past Friedel, but referee Lee Mason ruled correctly that the striker was marginally offside.

Zoltan Gera tried his luck from long range to no great effect, Elm had another shot blocked by the excellent Richard Dunne, and his defensive partner James Collins was spared the embarrassment of an own goal by Friedel's sharp save in the closing stages.

But Villa rarely looked stretched and were comfortable winners in the end, while Fulham have now gone six league games without victory.

White Noise

Glensider At Craven Cottage

I always look forward to our visit to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and the home of the oldest professional club in London, Craven Cottage. Set on the banks of the River Thames, it hardly seems to have changed in outward appearance since we first visited the ground way back when, days when the Cottagers were well served by the likes of George Cohen and Mr. Fulham himself, Johnny Haynes. The old Stevenage Road Stand was actually re-named in Haynes' honour after his untimely death in a car crash back in 2005.

We'd left Brummagem in the early hours, well just after 6.00 a.m. to be exact, Deep Purple doing their level best to keep us awake as we headed south ('Deep Purple in Rock' really is an exceptional album), the early departure needed because a visit to Fulham F.C. is not complete without stopping off in Twickenham, to spend a couple of hours or so with a long time friend, a Fulham season-ticket holder, and his family. Surprisingly, he wasn't overly optimistic as to Fulham's chances against us, although he wouldn't go so far as predicting a Villa victory. 'You'll get a point' he grudgingly conceded. 'Watch out for Damian Duff' he added, saying that at times he was still more than capable of splitting open a defence with just a twist and turn. That's all we wanted to hear.

Anyway, after enjoying some varied and interesting conversation, some very welcome and much needed hot beverages, and an excellent late breakfast/early lunch, we bid our farewells, and headed off to Craven Cottage.

As was to be expected, there were several Villans in evidence, all in seemingly good voice, and here we were still a couple of hours away from the kick off.

We made our way into one of the local watering houses, and hadn't got as far as ordering our refreshment of choice, when we were asked, and not for the last time before we departed the pub, 'Got any spare Wembley tickets mate'?

It was certainly bitter cold as we made our way from the public house to the ground, but you couldn't help but be cheered by the volume of noise coming from the traveling Villans. They were certainly in good voice, letting the world know that they'd shortly be making a trip to a place called Wemberley, wherever, whatever that may be.

As expected Martin had named an unchanged starting eleven from the side that had kicked-off against the Arsenal on Wednesday evening, meaning that our line up was as follows:-

Brad Friedel, Carlos Cuellar, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Luke Young, Stewart Downing, James Milner, Stan Petrov, Ashley Young, Emile Heskey, Gabby Agbonlahor.
Subs: Brad Guzan, Nathan Delfouneso, Curtis Davies, Fabian Delph, Habib Beye Nicky Shorey, and Steve Sidwell

I have to say that once again our lot looked resplendent in their claret and blue, Brad stealing the show though in his canary yellow outfit, and we set the game in motion attacking The Hammy End, Fulham's very poor equivalent of our Holte End.

It was a lively opening from both sides, the quality of football suggesting that this probably wouldn't be the bore fest that many had suggested it might be. We certainly looked bright and inventive. Our approach play was neat, with not a hint of us being this long ball side as suggested by a certain Frenchman who shall remain nameless, but in truth there wasn't really that cutting edge that was needed to open up the hosts defense.

As the half progressed we certainly enjoyed the bulk of the possession, dominating the midfield, while looking extremely comfortable at the back.

Our first real shot on target was an Ashley Young effort around the twenty-five minute mark, Schwarzer easily gathering the ball.

We were certainly gaining the upper hand, and a Luke Young header brought a decent save out of the Fulham keeper, while moments later Stiliyan Petrov wasted a very opportunity to put us ahead, shooting over the top when very well placed at the corner of the six yard box. Stan claimed that the effort had taken a deflection, but the ref was having none of it and pointed for a goal kick. A wasted opportunity. Looked a glorious chance from where we were.

Up at our end, the rejuvenated Bobby Zamora got onto the end of a long ball, but with Carlos Cuellar breathing down his neck he fired over Brad Friedel's crossbar. Somewhat surprisingly on this occasion though, the official ruled that the ball had taken a deflection off of Carlos, and so awarded a corner.

As half-time approached the traveling Villans behind Brad's goal were starting to get a little restless. This game looked to be there for the taking. Fulham looked lack-lustre and short on ideas, hard to believe that they had thumped Manchester United here, back in December.

Finally though on the forty minute mark we took the lead, fully deserved on the evidence of the opening forty minutes.

Following a mix-up between Schwarzer and Hangeland, we won a throw out on the right hand side, a throw that was quickly taken by Carlos Cuellar. He found the unmarked Stan Petrov, who unchallenged swung in a peach of a cross. Gabby got in front of Manchester United's latest capture Chris Smalling, and headed home. Schwarzer got his hands to the ball, maybe even should have saved the effort. Who cares? 1-0 up, time to dance about in celebration, get the blood flowing again to warm us up, and exercise the vocal chords with a rendition of the Gabby Agbonlahor song.

We didn't have too long to wait, three minutes at the most, before Gabby struck again. He collected a pass from our heavily bearded Spaniard, turned Hangeland as if he wasn't there, and curled a left footed beauty past the home keeper. 2-0 to the good guys from Brummagem B6.

The second half was something of a non-event as far as we were concerned. Fulham dominated possession with Murphy pushing forward and orchestrating most of their moves, but in truth they never threatened. Richard Dunne and James Collins were superb in the middle, winning virtually every ball swung or played into our area.

They did manage to breach our defense around the seventy-five minute mark, their substitute Elm beating Brad Friedel with a neat left foot volley, but the linesman had his flag raised and the effort was ruled out. Leaving the ground the home fans were somewhat angered, believing that their guy was in fact level with our last defender, and that the goal should have stood. Couldn't tell from up our end, but the linesman certainly raised his flag immediately. He had no doubts.

As an attacking force in the second half we were completely impotent, which was something of a disappointment. We never threatened to add to our lead, and in truth Fulham dominated possession throughout the second forty-five, just as we had held the upper hand in the first half.

A well deserved win though, plenty of good individual performances, and as a team we worked hard and gave our all. Good to see Gabby net his first goals since his winner at Old Trafford, while at the heart of our defense, Richard Dunne and James Collins were immense.