Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Thursday March 27 2008
Fulham make the vital journey to Pride Park to take on a Derby County side who are anchored at the foot of the Premier League table with only one win this season. On paper, it is an ideal opportunity for us to grab three points, thereby breaking our awful away record (no win since September 2006) and giving us further hope of escaping the dreaded drop into the Championship. Will it happen, well that remains to be seen!
All week the squad, well those not away on international duty, have been pontificating about every match is now a cup final almost trotting it out like some corporate motto. However, as for the ideal quote I`ll leave that to my elder brother, merlin, who constantly phones me up to simply shout down the phone,
"If you don`t win this one you`re DOOMED"
And you know what, for the first time this season; he may well have a point!
Derby enter the fixture without their influential young midfield star, Giles Barnes. The youngster has been plagued by knee trouble and is unfortunately looking at a second operation to cure the problem.
If I were to be brutally honest, I`d also offer a prayer that Kenny Miller has pulled a muscle or two thereby preventing him from playing after he once again got on the score sheet for Scotland during midweek.
Elsewhere, Paul Jewell, himself under pressure after his private life revelations in the media recently, will be relying on Robbie Savage to produce the good form he displayed last weekend after initially getting off to a poor start in his Derby career.
If Miller is unavailable through any reason, Robbie Earnshaw will probably be ear-marked to deputise.
A loveable rogue who has probably got more talent than he`s ever been given credit for. He may not be the most skilful of players but he makes up for that with honest endeavour and a good engine that helps him to drive his team on. Several eyebrows were raised when he left Blackburn Rovers for life in the relegation dog-fight but Robbie must have had his reasons. Once again this week his controversial views condemned the Welsh manager, John Toshack, but Robbie may well have a point, besides, doesn`t the controversy make him that little more interesting?
Roy Hodgson, barring any injuries picked up by players away on international duty, will have a relatively full squad to choose from. Anti Niemi has recovered from his Achilles problem and is available if required, although Kasey Keller has done little wrong in his absence.
With a win desperately required, Hodgson may shuffle his forward line. Brian McBride has looked to be getting back to his best form since returning from injury but his current side-kick, Eddie Johnson, has looked a little out of sorts at times. Therefore, Roy may well take something of a gamble and recall Erik Nevalnd to give the attack that little extra something.
Hopefully, Simon Davies will have returned from international duty, after getting his fiftieth cap, to provide the crosses that will trouble ea Derby defence that has, at other times this season, been described as a little static.
Here at Vital Fulham we expect Hodgson to select the following eleven to start,
Niemi, Stalteri, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Andreasen, Bullard, Murphy, Davies, McBride, Nevland
Already the vultures are circling and preparing to swoop on the irrepressible Jimmy if we are relegated. Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and West Ham have all been mentioned in despatches with regards to securing his services. Hopefully, Jimmy will show a little loyalty to the club and reject any overtures if relegation becomes a reality.
If Fulham can win their first away Premier League fixture since September 2006 there is every chance that the result will relegate Derby County this Saturday!
Fulham`s record against Derby in the Premier League games played in Derby between the two sides is very respectable with the figures standing as follows - Derby 0 0 wins, Fulham 1 win, Draws 1. However, when you take into account all League matches played between the two sides in Derbyshire, it`s not quite as favourable standing at Derby 13 wins, Fulham 3 and Draws 6.
The man in charge will be Mike Dean from the Wirral.
This is the first of seven cup finals that remain between now and the end of the season (even I`m spouting the club mission statement now) and if we don`t take the three points on offer relegation will, in my opinion, be almost assured. Derby, despite only one win all season, are no mugs and last weekend gave title chasing Manchester United a run for their money before narrowly being beaten 1-0. This fixture, on Saturday, could be something similar, we may need to grind them down, soak up any early pressure and weather the inevitable storm. We cannot, like last week, concede and early goal as I honestly believe that this game has 1-0 written all over it. I just pray and hope that it`s in our favour - another Jimmy Bullard free-kick perhaps!
Our quest to stave off relegation continues with a home fixture against fellow strugglers Sunderland.
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Date:Thursday March 27 2008
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