TAHARKA TAYLOR - Monday, August 15, 2011
Clint Dempsey and Zak Whitbread got their Premier League Seasons underway while Robbie Findley suited up for Nottingham Forest in week two of the Championship.

Fulham 0 - 0 Aston Villa

Clint Dempsey and Fulham kicked off their Premier League season against Aston Villa at Craven Cottage in front of 25,700 on Saturday.

Dempsey started and went the full ninety minutes for Fulham while Brad Guzan watched from the Villa bench.

Jon Arne Risse nearly scored in his Fulham debut in the opening minutes of the first half, the often offensive minded left back mad a late run into the box where Daniel Murphy found him but the Norwegian smashed his shot just over the bar.

Darren Bent thought he'd scored for Villa in the 22nd minute when found himself in on goal and calmly slotted the ball home past a diving Mark Schwarzer but referee Lee Mason had already blown his whistle for offside.

Fulham began the second half brightly with perhaps their best chance of the game in the 46th minute. Andy Johnson first contributed with a nice piece of hold up play when he managed to lay the ball off to Damien Duff on the wing despite being shoved to the ground by Richard Dunne. Duff then cut the ball onto his left foot and whipped in a cross that Johnson was able to flick on where it met Bobby Zamora's near post run. Zamora got a decent shot off from within the six-yard box but newly arrived Shay Given was positioned perfectly and came up with an excellent reaction save to keep Fulham off the scoreboard.

Zamora had another run in with Given in the 61st minute. Murphy played an inch perfect ball over the top that Zamora then controlled with his chest before proceeding to beat Dunne on the dribble but the Fulham striker was once again stoned by Given at close range.

Clint Dempsey almost popped up with an assist minutes later when he turned into space after receiving the ball and showed great vision, finding Johnson with a through ball that split the Villa center backs. Johnson's attempt at goal left much to be desired, barely troubling Given as it rolled right into his hands.

The Cottagers continued to apply pressure throughout the second half but were unable to breakdown the Villa defense whom at this point looked to be playing for the single point.

Fulham have a short week of training ahead of them as they next face Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk on Thursday in a UEFA Europa League match up before traveling to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers next Sunday.

Aston Villa next host Blackburn Rovers on Saturday at Villa Park.

Wigan Athletic 1 - 1 Norwich City

Zak Whitbread started and went 71 minutes in central defense for Norwich City on Saturday as the club opened the season on the road with a draw at Wigan Athletic.

Norwich went through a bit of a rough patch early on. Ritchie De Laet was caught in possession and subsequently had his pockets picked by Franco Di Santo, De Laet showed great determination racing back to catch Di Santo but conceded a penalty kick in the process when he dragged Di Santo down from behind.

Ben Watson stepped up to take the penalty kick and blasted it by goalkeeper John Ruddy to give Wigan the lead in the 21st minute.

Norwich responded with intensity and managed to level things up just before the half. Steve Morison sent in a low cross from the right wing that took a deflection off a Wigan defender causing a bad fumble from goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. Wesley Hoolahan was the first to react and got to the ball just before Al Habsi thundering it into the back of the net.

Wigan came out eager to get forward in the second half, Maynor Figueroa set Di Santo up with a beautiful bending cross but the headed attempt was sent just inches wide from twelve yards out in front of goal.

Victor Moses came awfully close to what would have been a wonderful solo effort, the forward made five Norwich defenders look foolish with a weaving run into the box but Whitbread got their just in time to block the Nigerians shot on goal.

Wigan pressed hard for a winner in the closing minutes but were denied several times by De Laet, including an attempt at an open goal that should have been the game winner from Moses.

Norwich next host Stoke City on Sunday in their home opener.

Millwall FC 2 - 0 Nottingham Forest

Robbie Findley and Nottingham Forest are still in search of their first win of the season after losing in convincing fashion at Millwall on Saturday.

Darius Henderson gave Millwall the lead in the seventh minute when he headed in a corner from James Henry. The ball appeared to deflect off Forest's George Boateng but Henderson wasted no time in claiming it as his own.

Millwall applied constant pressure throughout the game testing Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp early and often.

Findley almost had a chance to even things up just before halftime, Lewis McGugan battled to win the ball from Millwall goalkeeper David Forde outside the box where he then laid it across goal for Findley to run onto. Though a good idea, the ball wasn't played quite hard enough as Darren Ward managed to get there and clear just before a sliding Findley.

Forest were downright poor offensively on the afternoon, failing to land a single shot on target though Findley did hit the post from close range in the 60th minute.

Millwall doubled their lead in the 77th minute when Dany N'Guessan played a cross along the ground that found Liam Trotter at the back post who swept it pass Lee Camp to all but wrap things up for Millwall.

Forest will travel to take on Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday in a mid week Championship match up.

Hartlepool United 1 - 1 Walsall FC

Anton Peterlin and Walsall FC shared the points with Hartlepool United on the road Saturday at Victoria Park.

Peterlin started in midfield and went 82 minutes for Walsall before being subbed out for Lee Beevers.

Jon Macken scored from the penalty spot in the third minute to put the visitors ahead after Paul Murray brought down Mat Sadler inside the box.

Less than two minutes later Colin Nish equalized in amusing fashion. Hartlepool goalkeeper Scott Finders' punt bounced over the head of his counterpart Jimmy Walker, Nish did not give up the play and was rewarded with an easy tap in.

Andy Butler and substitute Nathan Luscombe got into it in the 41st minute, both players were issued straight red cards as a result.

Walsall are in action Tuesday night when they travel to take on Sheffield United.


Jonathan Spector made the bench but did not see action in Birmingham City's 1 - 0 home win over Coventry City.

Jon-Paul Pittman came off the bench as a second half substitute in the 80th minute of Oxford United's 1 - 1 draw at home against Bradford City. Pittman went on to draw a yellow card in the 90th minute.

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