Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Monday January 14 2008
Can the season really get any worse!
Surely we`re due a win away from home sometime, surely we can overcome opposition from a lower league on there own ground, can`t we?
Well if the way Bristol Rovers played at Craven Cottage is anything to go by then the visit to the 'Memorial Ground` threatens to be a tricky affair.
However, the FA Cup 3rd round replay does give us a little respite from the rigours of the Premier League. Indeed, a win against Bristol Rovers would throw us up against the challenge of either Swindon Town or Barnet in round four, another tie we should be capable of winning, however, let`s get Tuesday night out of the way first.
As usual, I doubt whether even the offer of 'free away travel` will entice our support to travel in any sort of numbers and there is absolutely no way we`ll get anywhere the sort of numbers Rovers brought to Craven Cottage.
However, at times like these, it is going to be backs to the wall but doesn`t that signify exactly how we need to approach the remainder of the season if we`re going to preserve our top flight status?
What better way to prepare for the remainder of the Premier League campaign than a trip to a hostile environment in the FA Cup.
Roy Hodgson has already mentioned that every game should be treated like a Cup Final if we`re to get out of this current crisis so where better to start than in an FA Cup tie.
Unfortunately, Fulham travel to the Memorial Ground as a club in crisis, Paul Trollope and his troops will be relishing the challenge and will also have their own ideas about progressing into round four. At Craven Cottage they twice took the lead and were unfortunate not to go through at the first attempt. The Pirates will be looking to put us to the sword on Tuesday night and it will take all our resilience to come through the battle.
Normally, the class of a Premier League would prevail, especially over two games. Sadly any class we do have has been masked by the drop in confidence that a year without a win on the road brings. Thankfully, there has been an injection of buoyancy into the club with the return of Jimmy Bullard.
Jimmy may only have played for ten minutes or so on Saturday, at Upton Park, but that familiar smile was well received. It`s doubtful that Hodgson will risk him in the cauldron of a competitive cup tie but a late introduction could prepare Jimmy for a tilt at a Premier League return sooner rather than later.
For the tie, Hodgson will once again be without the injured Brian McBride, Hameur Bouazza and Kasey Keller whilst Carlos Bocanegra remains doubtful after picking up an injury early on at Upton Park. Also unlikely to start will be Lee Cook, whilst he`s sampled reserve football in the last week, his rehabilitation will take much longer.
Therefore, the Fulham team could have a familiar look about it as it runs out into a stadium believing a cup upset is achievable.
We`ll take Hodgson to start with, Niemi, Baird, Stefanovic, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Volz, Davis, Healy and Dempsey.
With the tie scheduled to be settled on the night, extra time and penalties could see a late return for those travelling west. Nevertheless, it`ll be a happy journey and one we`ve not experienced for many a month.
We`ll go with 2-1 to Fulham after extra-time!
Date:Monday January 14 2008
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