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Draw edges Wolves closer to safety
Published : 17 Apr 2010 17:26:00
Wolves edged a point closer to Premier League safety with a determined performance to earn a 0-0 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage. Bobby Zamora rattled the woodwork in the second half but Roy Hodgson's side know they will have to put in a much-improved performance if they are to beat Hamburg in the Europa League semi-final on Thursday. Kevin Doyle posed the greatest threat for Wolves, who had Christophe Berra and veteran Jody Craddock to thank for keeping Zamora, and a quiet Zoltan Gera, in check. The win means Wolves remain six points clear of the relegation zone with three games left. Fulham defender Chris Smalling was handed a rare start in place of Brede Hangeland for the game while Gera and Simon Davies also came in for Jonathan Greening and Erik Nevland. John Pantsil made the bench for the first time since he suffered a serious knee injury against Chelsea in December while Wolves boss Mick McCarthy opted to stick with the same XI that drew 0-0 with Stoke last weekend. Damien Duff's early volley was blocked by a Wolves defender before Davies came close to connecting with a dangerous cross from Chris Baird inside the box. Wolves stopper Marcus Hahnemann was put under pressure by a volleyed backpass by Ronald Zubar after 10 minutes but the former Fulham man beat the advancing Zamora to clear. Gera, who has developed a sound partnership with Zamora in the absence of the injured Andrew Johnson this season, looked lively early on and Hahnemann had to be alert to beat the Hungarian to a clever through-ball by Danny Murphy with 15 minutes on the clock. Wolves defender Berra then threw himself in front of a goal-bound effort from Gera in the 23rd minute to deny the former West Brom man. Zubar had the visitors' best chance of the first 25 minutes but his volley sailed wide of Mark Schwarzer's goal after a Wolves corner. The visiting fans were in uproar on the half-hour mark when Paul Konchesky put in two late crunching tackles on Zubar but referee Mike Dean chose not to book the Fulham left-back. Wolves then had their best chance of the first half when David Jones' shot fell to Doyle inside the box but the highly-rated striker rifled his shot into the side-netting from eight yards out. Jones and Doyle combined minutes later but the Wolves top scorer should have hit the target with a free header from six yards out. Berra had been keeping a tight control on Zamora's movements all afternoon and the striker's frustration boiled over just before half-time when he was booked for a needless barge on the Scotland defender. Wolves started an up-beat second period on top. Matt Jarvis was denied by a late challenge from Hughes in the Fulham box and Jones' teasing corner sailed through the Fulham box without a decisive touch. Fulham had a golden chance to go ahead on the hour when Duff picked up Gera's pass to race through but the Republic of Ireland winger was dispossessed by George Elokobi as he tried to cut inside for a shot inside the box. A moment of brilliance from Zamora saw Fulham almost take the lead 65 minutes in. The England prospect shrugged off Berra's challenge and beat Hahnemann with a sweet right-foot drive but the American's left post denied the striker his 20th of the season. Hahnemann then completely missed a Davies corner but Smalling, who was making only his 11th start of the season, headed on to the roof of the net. At the other end, Elokobi's long throw was deflected goalwards by Smalling but Schwarzer reacted well to save. Duff then outsmarted Elokobi with a Cruyff turn as Fulham threatened, but Gera could not convert the winger's cross. Fulham's hopes of a late winner were dashed when Zamora wasted a free-kick from 20 yards out by blasting his strike yards wide.