Newcastle United’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League took another knock on Saturday when they were held to a goalless draw at St James’ Park by Swansea City and failed to win for the fifth successive game.
Newcastle’s 11-match unbeaten run from the start of the season, which ended a month ago, seemed a long distant memory as they squandered several chances, hit the woodwork and came up against inspired Swans goalkeeper Michel Vorm as the promoted Welsh team kept a clean sheet for the eighth time this season.
The only other leading club in action on Saturday was third-placed Chelsea, who were playing at Wigan Athletic in a 1730GMT kickoff.
Apart from Newcastle, the focus was on the other end of the table, where bottom club Bolton Wanderers lost for the fifth straight match, beaten 2-0 at Fulham.
Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz, with an audacious lob, scored twice in two minutes in the first half as Fulham picked themelves up after their shattering Europa League exit on Wednesday.
Fulham went out of Europe after drawing 2-2 with Odense, who equalised six seconds from time, but the London side had the perfect response against Bolton, whose boss Owen Coyle said his team “shot themselves in the foot” by conceding two quick goals at Craven Cottage.
“We let the opportunity pass us by, and it’s getting repetitive saying the same things,” Coyle said.
“It’s not like we are five or six games into the season. We’ve made some mistakes and we are in real dogfight now. Players must show passion and be ready to give better performances. Those 30 seconds (for the goals) have cost us today.”
Second-from-bottom Blackburn Rovers lost 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion, whose goals from James Morrison and Peter Odemwingie, who scored the winner three minutes from time, sent Rovers to their sixth home defeat in eight.
Blackburn’s fans, who have been campaigning for manager Steve Kean to go for most of the season, declared a truce in their protests on Saturday, but many booed at the end.
The manager is now hanging on to his job by his fingertips, with Tuesday’s match against bottom club Bolton Wanderers probably decisive for his future.
“If Tuesday wasn’t big enough, it’s certainly massive now,” Kean told Sky Sports. “What we’ve got to do is pick ourselves back up again and show courage, courage to make our own chances, make some nice passes, and open up the game.”
Manchester City, who play Arsenal on Sunday, lead the table with 38 points from their 15 matches, two clear of Manchester United, who play at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday.
Bolton remain bottom on nine points, with Blackburn one place above them on 10 and Wigan in 18th place on 12.
Wolves slipped to 17th, one place above the relegation zone, after a 2-1 home defeat to Stoke City, who won for the fourth successive league match.
Wolves went ahead when Stephen Hunt scored from the spot after 17 minutes, but Stoke, into the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the first time with a round-of-32 tie against Valencia, bounced back with an own goal and a 70th minute winner from Peter Crouch and are eighth in the table.
As well as Sunday’s games involving Manchester City and Manchester United, fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur face Sunderland and Aston Villa play seventh-placed Liverpool.