Fulham suffer one final indignity as a season to forget ends tamely
Fulham (0) 0
Newcastle United (1) 2 Willock 23, Schar 88 pen
Fulham bowed out of the Premier League much as they had lived it – with a whimper.
There was to be no late consolation for Scott Parker and his men. No raging against the dying of the light as they bade a tame farewell to the top flight.
They could not even get to double figures from their 19 home games, drawing another blank after another feeble display in the final third of the pitch.
Almost inevitably it was Arsenal loanee Jo Willock who inflicted some of the pain – grabbing his seventh goal in as many games for the Magpies after a dazzling break from half way.
A late penalty from sub Fabian Schar was the final little indignity.
Fans returned to create an ambience of sorts – though it was more genteel and clapper-banner inspired than euphoric, which is hardly surprising given the deflating circumstances.
The match had an unmistakable last-up-on-Match-of-the-Day vibe to it by the end.
This was the fixture which was meant to define the season – the culmination of a great escape in front of returning fans and blasts of warm May sunshine.
A few weeks ago, in his programme notes, much-loved Fulham scribe Gentleman Jim said that he really hoped it would not come down to the Whites needing to win this final game to stay up.
Chance would be a fine thing. A desperate run of two draws and seven defeats in nine games decided their fate a few games ago. Not even the weather would oblige.
All that hope and ambition of a few months ago following the play-off victory over Brentford at Wembley has vanished in the Thames mist – a sense of disappointment compounded by the realisation that the west London neighbours they defeated appear about to take their place at the top table.
Early on, things were upbeat. A nice early touch from Ademola Lookman to warm the cockles, as he brought down a long pass, and cut inside before clipping a low shot inches wide – and there were familiar refrains of ‘Reeeeam’ when the American defender broke up a Newcastle attack.
Lookman led a breakaway and fed Ivan Cavaleiro on the edge of the area for a curled effort that ended the wrong side of the post. Fabio Carvalho, enjoying a first start on home soil, had a shot blocked.
But then came that all-too familiar feeling as the Magpies took the lead. Willock was allowed to travel from distance without being tackled - a forceful run which eventually ran into traffic on the edge of the area. But although halted by Ream, the ball sat up nicely for the striker to sweep past Marek Rodak.
There was some response, with Cavaleiro clipping the top of the bar, but the Portuguese really should have done better just past the hour when the alert Carvalho intercepted a stray back-pass and put a chance on a plate for his team-mate. The effort was skied over.
Carvalho, always willing and a ray of hope for the future, sent another effort just wide. Josh Maja came on and blazed into the Hammersmith End.
There was to be no happy ending. No tiny uplifting moment. Instead, a foul by Kenny Tete on Matt Ritchie allowed Schar to coolly roll in from the spot to close this rather inglorious chapter in the Fulham story.
Whites (3-4-2-1): Rodak – Tete, Tosin, Ream – Reid, Anguissa (Loftus-Cheek h/t), Onomah, Bryan Francois 76) – Carvalho, Lookman (Maja 64), Cavaleiro. Subs not used: Areola, Hector, Lemina, Aina, Jasper
Magpies (5-3-2): Dubravka – Murphy, Krafth (Schar 73), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie – S Longstaff, Shelvey, Willock, Saint-Maximin (Gayle 65), Almiron (Hendrick 80). Subs not used: Gillespie, Clark, M Longstaff, Carroll, Lewis, Manquillo