By Mo Khan
Arsenal suffered their second successive derby defeat as they
lost 1-0 to Fulham at Underhill on Monday night.
Mark Pembridge scored the only goal of the game from 25 yards
three minutes before half-time as Arsenal struggled to penetrate
the visitors' rearguard without their prolific leading
goalscorer, Arturo Lupoli.
Meanwhile, Tottenham, who edged the north London derby at this
ground last week, moved 10 points clear of the Gunners at the top
of Reserve League South with a 1-0 win over West Ham.
Neil Banfield made four changes from the side that lost 2-1 to
Spurs; Vito Mannone replaced Manuel Almunia in goal and Armand
Traore came in for Ashley Cole at left-back. Mark Randall was given
a rare start in a three-man central midfield in place of the
injured Lupoli and Sebastian Larsson returned to midfield in place
of Alexandre Song.
The gathered home crowd were vociferous in their support of
their team at the bitterly cold home of Barnet FC but, in the end,
they had little to be vocal about.
Fulham fielded a starting line-up boasting the experience of
former Everton midfielder Pembridge and former Monaco men Phillippe
Christanval and Sylvain Legwinski in a competitive encounter full
of hard, but fair, challenges.
Legwinski had the first real effort on goal after five minutes,
guiding a right-foot volley from the right-hand edge of the penalty
area straight at the impressive Mannone.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, Arsenal produced their best
move of the game. Their elegant centre-back Matthew Connolly strode
forward from defence, exchanged passes with Randall and found
Nicklas Bendtner on the right. The former Copenhagen striker's
shot at goal looked to heading in but Mark Davidson tipped the
effort superbly onto the crossbar and away for a corner.
Larsson's delivery from the left was only headed clear as far
as Randall whose first-time volley flew marginally over.
The Cottagers went straight down the other end but Saheed Sankoh
failed to trouble Mannone with a tame effort from just inside the
area. Moments later, Mannone pulled off a stunning block at
the feet of Legwinski from close-range.
The Italian was called into action again four minutes before the
break as he raced out to block Robert Milsom's shot. However
there was nothing the former Atalanta stopper could do two minutes
later as Fulham broke the deadlock.
Legwinski won the ball from Fabrice Muamba in midfield and
squared it to Pembridge who struck an arrow-like first-time effort
past a motionless Mannone. It was slightly harsh on the Italian
given his heroics up to that point.
The second half was a somewhat quieter affair as both sides made
Arsenal introduced Mark Elston and Shane Tracy as they looked
for an equaliser. Larsson tested Davidson with a free-kick and the
tireless Antony Stokes did his best to trouble the Fulham defence
with a series of twists and turns out on the left.
With full-time looming, Elston won a corner on the right and as
Larsson swung it in, Connolly rose above his marker but could only
head wide. That was the last chance for Banfield's boys on a
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