Clean sheet solace in Magpies' bleak winter

WARNING: Mohamed Diame. Pic: Reuters

Damien Spellman

Mohamed Diame has warned Newcastle they will have to be even more miserly if they are to deny Premier League leaders Liverpool victory on St Stephen's Day.

One of the few positives the Magpies were able to take from a dreadful 0-0 draw with bottom-of-the-table Fulham at St James's Park on Saturday was the clean sheet with which they emerged despite a series of late scares.

However, repeating that feat at Anfield against Jurgen Klopp's men, who have scored 39 goals in their 18 Premier League fixtures to date, is likely to prove even more challenging.

Midfielder Diame told NUFC TV: "We know it will be tough, we know we will run a lot, but we need to be ready.

"We're going to start the game at 0-0 and make sure we keep our clean sheet and try to score when we get the chance because in most games, you get at least one or two chances.

"We have to stay strong, stay compact and make sure we are ready for this game. They are a team which has a lot of potential up top with top players, so we need to be strong, keep the shape and keep fighting."

That Newcastle fought against Fulham is undeniable, but their painful lack of quality on the ball made for a brutal 90 minutes during which they did not manage a single effort on target.

But for a questionable penalty decision which went their way and a last-ditch challenge on substitute Aboubakar Kamara by skipper Jamaal Lascelles, Rafael Benitez's men might have ended up empty-handed.

In the event, they managed to hang on for a draw which left the Spaniard, perhaps not coincidentally given the approaching January transfer window, once again drawing attention to the club's modest summer recruitment policy.

Benitez said: "I said after August 31, that is something that can happen. We are playing against teams that spent so much money.

"But we have to carry on and be sure that we create more chances because we need more chances to score more goals."

Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri was also able to take positives from the game, which yielded a first top-flight clean sheet of the season at the 18th attempt with a three-man defence.

Asked if clean sheets would be the key to the survival mission, Ranieri said: "Only clean sheets? No. It's important to get points.

"Today we created something good: we didn't lose a match and that's something positive for us because in the last matches, the first opportunity the opponent had, they scored goals.

"Today, the first and only chance, they didn't score, so I am very positive."