Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy fire Fulham

20 December 2008 06:31
Fulham and Jimmy Bullard are good for each other - scrutiny of the Premier League table and recent England squads featuring the midfielder's name would confirm that.

Craven Cottage's wish to keep Bullard was emphasised by a heart-warming ovation when was called to the bench near the end of this match.

The fans' mood had been enhanced by their team's highest-scoring performance of the League season - despite their healthy position, Fulham had hitherto averaged less than a goal per outing.

All they want now is an assurance that the club will do all in their power to reach agreement with Bullard, who, with 18 months left on his contract, believes his eye-catching contributions should be more lucratively recognised.

But Roy Hodgson, who has given Fulham so much, cannot guarantee that.

Asked about the transfer window, he said: "I'd be quite happy with no one in and no one out and I certainly don't want to lose Bullard. But, if we get a big offer for one of our top players, we'll have to consider it."

Tiring of the issue, Hodgson, who may also receive offers for the central defender Brede Hangeland, added: "I find it strange being constantly asked about a player [Bullard] who's got 18 months left on his contract, who's missed a year through injury and who's been nursed back into form by his team-mates."

A fair point. Bullard deserves to be well paid - but no better paid than his sidekick Danny Murphy, who was instrumental here, after Bullard had put Fulham in front, in condemning a very poor Middlesbrough to resounding defeat.

Hodgson agreed that Murphy was "doing a remarkable job in his quiet way."

"Any success we've achieved here is down to playing as a team," he added.

And no one exudes the all-for-one spirit more than Bobby Zamora, whose introduction led to Middlesbrough's downfall.

But the visitors, whose display was described by their manager, Gareth Southgate, as "second best in every department" and "not acceptable", had been vulnerable from the start.

John Pantsil, publicly upbraided by Hodgson for crumpling in the face of a nudge from Ricardo Fuller at Stoke the previous weekend, had missed a chance to atone, heading wide from Paul Konchesky's corner before being supplanted as the arch-villain by Julio Arca.

Arca's over-the-top tackle on Andy Johnson deserved a red card; instead Keith Stroud flourished yellow. The offence cried out for retrospective action by the FA, whose procedures in such cases remain woefully inadequate.

Any impression of competitive balance conveyed by a sharp save at each end - by Ross Turnbull from Andy Johnson and Mark Schwarzer from Jeremie Aliadiere - was false and Fulham moved in front towards the interval when, after Pantsil had crossed, the substitute Zamora (on for the injured Zoltan Gera) turned and shot, Turnbull parrying but being helpless to prevent Bullard from poking the loose ball home.

Another two goals on the resumption left Middlesbrough in tatters. First Zamora's attempt at a short cross bobbled up and against the left arm of Tony McMahon.

The referee gave a harsh but justifiable penalty and Murphy, one of the most efficient spot-kickers in the game, performed to his usual standard.

Then Murphy, receiving from Andy Johnson, switched the ball with speed and accuracy to Clint Dempsey, who, being unmarked, had time in which to direct his shot wide of Turnbull.

Source: Telegraph