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Sunderland 0 - 0 Fulham

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Our deepest fears may not have rose to the surface, but, then again, neither did any morsel of merriment. A 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light, even one in which Mark Schwarzer was the most tested individual by a fair distance, is by all means a decent one. However, it is one that fails to to excite the masses and, most importantly, it is one that fails to lift us out of the bottom quarter of the Premier League. 

It's always nice to prove Mark Lawrenson wrong, though.

While John Arne Riise endured the headache of a wife giving birth, Martin Jol had the headache of picking a suitable back four. In the end, with Kelly, Briggs and Grygera out, a back four consisting of four centre backs was selected, Baird and Hughes filling out the wide roles. 

In the early exchanges, it seemed to be the relative positional inexperience of our back line that was causing the problems as Sunderland delivered cross after cross. Kieran Richardson was arguably the one who came closest from this opening pressure, scraping the bar with a header.

Not long later, Sessegnon forced a good save from Schwarzer while Colback struck the bar yet again. Clearly, Fulham didn't quite have the rub of the green.

Yet, as the game continued to flow, Jol's men finally began to stamp some meaningful authority on the game, forcing Sunderland into a myriad of long range shots. None of them troubled our Australian stopper to too much of an extent.

Just before half time, Dickson Etuhu almost opened the scoring. The midfielder, on a yellow card, rose highest from a corner but Kieran Westwood made an emphatic save to deny the Nigerian. The following Fulham faithful were all but ready to celebrate.

However, the sides went into the break on a stalemate and came out, seemingly, reinvigorated.

Bobby Zamora won a free kick just outside the home side's area, but yet again Westwood saved smartly from a finely struck Chris Baird shot. Clearly, this was an afternoon that the goalkeepers were winning.

Chris Baird and Aaron Hughes had clearly settled in their roles as full backs and were coping admirably with a wide threat from Richardson and Elmohamady. Steve Bruce's side were intent on scoring and taking the three points, but to Fulham's credit, they stood firm. Baird, as always, was the most competent.

Andy Johnson came on with 20 minutes remaining, presumably in a bid to snatch victory. On closer inspection, though, it looked as though Zamora had picked up a knock and Jol was simply hoping not to aggravate it.

Bendtner came closest to a teasingly placed cross late on, but he failed to connect while Fulham were now working on the counter. 

It was doing so, however, that almost gifted Clint Dempsey the chance to break the deadlock. As he had done throughout the game, Moussa Dembele worked insatiably hard to win and keep the ball, covering 50 yards before laying the ball to Dempsey. The American's strike didn't quite reward Dembele's work though, as it drifted wide of the mark.

It was then down to Mark Schwarzer to save the point with a rather wondrous stop in the dying moments.

The fluctuating nature of the game was well summed up in a point all round, but it left both sets of supporters understandably frustrated. Fulham are now 16th.