Fulham transfer talk overshadows draw with Bolton
Bolton Wanderers 0 Fulham 0: Mark Schwarzer and Paul Konchesky, two leading Fulham lights who have been the subject of much transfer speculation, sat out a mundane opening here to the new League season, both having failed fitness tests.
Of course, this being the final few weeks of the summer transfer window, that will not deter reports that Schwarzer's move to Arsenal, or Konchesky's reported reunion with Roy Hodgson at Liverpool, have moved a step closer following their omission at the Reebok Stadium but for now Fulham's new manager, Mark Hughes, keeps his determined stance.
"They had fitness tests this morning and were unable to play," said Hughes. "Schwarzer is injured, that is why he missed the game. The intention is that he stays here. We have had conversations, and I fully understand the reasoning [why] Mark wants to take this opportunity.
"But I think he understands we have to protect our position. We're not going to put Fulham's position or reputation at risk by making promises we can't fulfil. Nothing has moved on."
Certainly his deputy goalkeeper David Stockdale, 24, did his cause with Hughes no harm. After some initial jitters Stockdale, starting only his second Premier League game, made two vital saves that earned his team a point.
Early in the second period, Gretar Steinsson picked out Johan Elmander in the Fulham area and the oft-criticised Sweden forward turned neatly in the area to produce a vicious shot, which Stockdale kept out with his fingertips. Then, just after the hour mark, Elmander was again the unfortunate Wanderer as he seized on an advantage call from the referee Stuart Attwell, advancing into the area where only the outstretched leg of the young goalkeeper denied him.
Stuart Holden, the United States midfielder, came closest of all to breaking the deadlock 12 minutes from time when he showed an explosive turn of pace to cut in from the left and send a right-foot shot ricocheting against the foot of Stockdale's post.
That escape actually galvanised Fulham into their best period of the game, and Jussi Jaaskelainen was twice forced into solid saves from Clint Dempsey and Dickson Etuhu as the London side finally sensed the possibility of victory rather than soak up pressure and hope for something on the break.
"Last season, it took us until February to get our first clean sheet so I'm pleased," said Bolton's manager, Owen Coyle. "Some of our play was great, the fans were fantastic, the atmosphere was great. The only disappointment was, we never got the win."
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Man of the match: Knight