Fulham Paper View (a)

Last updated : 02 January 2007 By Gary Holmes

Coleman relieved after Niemi injury scare 

Antti Niemi seems to have emerged relatively unscathed from what could have been a horrific neck injury after an accidental collision with his team-mate Carlos Bocanegra. The incident occurred as Watford's substitute striker Darius Henderson chased a long ball from defence. He, Bocanegra and the goalkeeper all challenged simultaneously for the ball as the American centre-half did not hear Niemi's call.  

The pair clashed in the air, a collision that took Niemi's legs away and had him spearing headfirst to the floor, his neck collapsing on impact. There followed seven minutes' treatment as the Finn was carefully manoeuvred on to the stretcher before being taken to hospital for scans. 

"We were very worried about Antti," said Fulham's manager, Chris Coleman. "It didn't look very good when we saw the replay. He fell very awkwardly. He's got some damage to his neck but the good news is he said he could feel his arms and his legs. He's gone for an x-ray. The physios are telling me it looks worse when you see the replay. If you see that, it's not nice. It wasn't good. There's a possibility there's ligament damage but it's a good job he's as agile and as fit as he is because that could have been a lot worse."  

Although Coleman was relieved at his goalkeeper's escape, there was indignation at the officiating errors that cost his team victory here. Heidar Helguson twice had the ball in the net and, though the linesman Mark Scholes was right to overrule the first for offside, he should not have flagged for the second, after 33 minutes.

"If the linesman was up with the play and looking across the line, it's not a tough call," said Coleman. "But he's looking at the ball and not across the pitch." 

Twice Watford hit the woodwork, through Alhassan Bangura and then, during nine minutes' injury-time, Henderson. "We could easily have won it, lost it and then won it and lost it again," said Watford's manager, Aidy Boothroyd. "We went for the three points and we could have been punished. But overall I thought it was a fair result." 

That is not to say that Boothroyd was content with his team's performance, the first half of which he rated as "probably the worst" under his stewardship. He berated his players during the interval and was the first out on the pitch after half-time. "There's things said in private that have to remain private," he said. "I said what I had to say and I didn't think I needed to be in the changing room. I thought I'd give them a bit of space to think about what I'd said and, obviously, perform in the second half." The Guardian  

Niemi's neck injury overshadows Fulham's fourth straight draw 

Four points from four draws over Christmas and New Year is not what Chris Coleman would have wanted as he seeks to guide his team away from the relegation zone but he will be grateful that things have not turned out a lot worse after what happened to Antti Niemi.  

With 54 minutes gone, the Finnish goalkeeper ran out of his penalty area to head the ball clear from Darius Henderson but in falling he landed directly on the top of his head. The former Southampton player was then treated on the pitch for seven minutes before he was stretchered off, although the Fulham manager confirmed that the injury may not be as bad as it looked. "There is some damage to his neck but he can feel his arms and legs," he said. "He's gone to hospital for an X-ray and there could be ligament damage possibly. It could have been a lot worse. I don't know when he will be back but I'm not thinking about when he's fit, as long as he's OK." 

Fulham's Heidar Helguson, who scored when the side's last met in October, likes playing against his old side. Here the Icelandic international was twice denied another goal against the Hornets by a linesman's flag, both times in the first half, once correctly but the second time erroneously. The Independent 

Alarm bells ring for Niemi 

This game was blithely ambling its way towards the mental shelf marked Instantly Forgettable until Antti Niemi came for an aimless punt forward and reminded us, as if we needed it, that goalkeepers take their lives in their hands as well as the ball.  

The Fulham goalkeeper challenged for a high ball on the edge of his area in the 54th minute under pressure from Darius Henderson, a Watford substitute, and Carlos Bocanegra, Niemi's team-mate. Niemi, just outside his box, headed the ball away, but was off balance and fell head-first, injuring his neck.  

“He fell very awkwardly, there's some damage to his neck, but he said he could feel his arms and legs, so that's all right,” Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, said. “He's gone to hospital for X-rays and we won't know more until the results of that come out. It is not as bad as it looked.”  

Watford's game last Saturday against Wigan Athletic was abandoned when a deluge rendered the pitch unplayable. The black comedy of mis-hit passes, air-kicks and frantic chaos was replicated yesterday, only in far more amenable, albeit windy conditions. The Times 

Niemi injury scare 

Whatever advantage these teams took from this encounter – and Watford are painfully aware that single points are no longer enough – was overshadowed by an injury to Antti Niemi. 

As the Fulham goalkeeper came out to deal with a wildly-bouncing ball, he collided with his own defender, Carlos Bocanegra, and landed awkwardly on the back of his neck. 

"It looked worse than it was," said the Fulham manager, Chris Coleman. "Antti said he can feel his arms and his legs but there has probably been ligament damage and we don't know how long he will be out." 

Niemi's plight, however, cast a pall over what until then had been a painfully one-sided fixture. The Watford manager, Aidy Boothroyd, described it as the worst first half he had endured since coming to Vicarage Road. Daily Telegraph