There was just a hint of the Leslie Phillips about Mark Hughes on Saturday. After luring Craig Bellamy to his two previous clubs, Blackburn and Manchester City, and picking him for Wales, the Fulham manager knows just how to smooth-talk the striker, and he was at it again when he was asked whether he was dusting off those previously successful overtures to his fellow Welshman.
"The key to it is waiting to see what Craig wants to do," said Hughes, deep and meaningful sincerity oozing from every pore. "It's really important he takes the right step for him, so I'm sure he'll take his time and eventually get to the right decision." Well hello.
Having demonstrated that he knows exactly how to get the best out of the combustible but undeniably potent forward, Hughes would dearly love to bring Bellamy to Craven Cottage. Had he been playing on Saturday, it is not far-fetched to say Fulham would have almost certainly won. In the last 10 minutes they were all over Bolton, and someone with Bellamy's pace, shooting ability and eye for goal would have made their dominance count.
As it was, Bobby Zamora had long since shot his bolt, and though Hughes brought on Clint Dempsey, the American did not quite have what it took to make the difference.
In fairness to Bolton, a draw was a fair outcome. Until the last few minutes, Owen Coyle's team had created the better chances, but the closest they came to scoring was when Stuart Holden hit the outside of a post with a low drive from just outside the box 12 minutes from time. Otherwise they were stymied by solid defending, orchestrated by the impressive Brede Hangeland, and an inspired performance from the Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, again deputising for the injured and keen-to-leave Mark Schwarzer.
Despite only being told he was playing after Schwarzer had failed a fitness test earlier in the day, the 24-year-old Stockdale made excellent saves from Martin Petrov and twice in the second half from Johan Elmander. The first was spectacular, a flying leap to his right to touch the Swede's shot over the bar, the second no less impressive in that he got down low to block as he came out to narrow the angle after Elmander had cleverly created space in the penalty area.
Equally reassuring as far as his defenders were concerned, Stockdale showed a nice judgement in coming for crosses and commanded his penalty area throughout, all of which gives Hughes a nice dilemma when Manchester United visit the Cottage next Sunday. Does he pick the veteran Schwarzer, who wants to talk to Arsenal, or stay with Stockdale, not so long ago released by York City?
Hughes would only say Fulham understood Schwarzer being keen to join a team likely to challenge for trophies, but that the club had their own position and reputation to protect. "So at the moment it's very much the status quo and nothing's moved on," he shrugged.
Like Hughes, Coyle took much encouragement from the game, particularly in the performance of Elmander, a Sweden international centre-forward signed for £8m two years ago but who with 10 goals in 64 games has yet to justify that outlay. "I've always believed in him, and he was outstanding, not just in terms of his goal efforts but in work rate," said Coyle. "In fact, to a man we worked out socks off, and if we do that there's no doubt we'll pick up points. Some of our play was great, and the atmosphere was great too."
Man of the Match: David Stockdale (Fulham). The young reserve goalkeeper made a series of excellent saves, but also commanded his box with an authority belying his lack of experience.
Best moment: A diving touch over the bar high to his right from Johan Elmander's shot early in the second half.
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