Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday September 19 2008
Fulham travel to Ewood Park keen to register a fourth win on the trot. The previous three fixtures have seen us register Premier League wins over Arsenal and Bolton and a Carling Cup win over Leicester City. A victory on Saturday would see us notch up four wins on the trot for the first time in four years. The task ahead of us isn't an impossible one as Blackburn, apart from a victory over Everton are struggling to match the achievements of previous seasons when Mark Hughes was in charge.
The good start to the season has given the players renewed confidence and as we approach the Blackburn game, Simon Davies has this to say about matters,
"This time, without the pressure we had at the end of last term, you can see the lads are expressing themselves more and there`s confidence flowing through the team."
Results breed confidence - simple!
The pressure is starting to build on Paul Ince. After winning at Everton everything looked to be rosy, however, a defeat to us this Saturday will mean that Blackburn will have only won once in five Premier League games under Ince and it'll be their worst start to a Premier League campaign since 1998-1999. In stark contrast, it would be our best start!
With David Bentley having been sold in the transfer window, to Spurs, Blackburn appear to have lost, momentarily, that cutting edge that made them such dangerous opponents. However, Fulham will need to be careful, Ince knows that Roque Santa Cruz, Morton-Gamst Pedersen and several others, can still cause us damage.
Likely to be in goal is Paul Robinson who joined from Spurs after Brad Freidel was surprisingly transferred to Aston Villa.
Blackburn - from: Robinson, Simpson, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Reid, Mokoena, Tugay, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, Roberts, McCarthy, Fowler, Derbyshire, Villanueva, Andrews, Brown, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Treacy.
Many expected Roque Santa Cruz to follow Mark Hughes to Manchester City, after all it had been Hughes that had lured this scoring machine to Lancashire from Munich. But Cruz stayed loyal to Blackburn and put pen to paper on another deal. He's yet to reach the prolific scoring heights of last season but he'll be a major threat and Hughes and Hangeland will need to watch him like a hawk if we are to prosper.
With two successive Premier League victories under our belts, it is highly unlikely that Roy will make any changes. In fact we expect Roy to go with the same eleven that got the three points last weekend although they'll enter the fray with Roy's words relating to complacency firmly ringing in their ears. The players know that Roy will change things if performance levels don't match up to expectations and that with seven substitutes on the bench a lot of eyes will be focussed on anyone who doesn't give their all.
Therefore, expect Fulham to start with the following eleven -
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Koncheskey, Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Gera, Johnson (A), Zamora
All eyes will be on Andy Johnson as he attempts to register his 100th career league goal. Effective, lively and busy last week, against Bolton Wanderers, Johnson will view Ewood Park as the ideal place to get his Fulham goal tally up and running.
In a strange quirk of fate, us and Blackburn are both competing in our 8th consecutive season in the top flight. Remarkably, there were no draws in the first eleven fixtures between the two clubs but strangely the last three games between us have resulted in draws.
Last season a late Jimmy Bullard strike, in the 89th minute, rescued a point for us.
Looking through the history books, the record in premier League games at Ewood Park slightly favours the home side with the figures standing at,
League (inc PL): Blackburn 21 wins, Fulham 8, Draws 6
Premier: Blackburn 4 wins, Fulham 2, Draws 1
Lee Probert is the official entrusted with keeping the calm.
With a healthy distance of 233 miles between Craven Cottage and Ewood Park, you'll be severely tested to find a Fulham supporter who is travelling north not expecting us to win. There's no doubting it is a difficult fixture, on their day Blackburn can test any team but, in stark contrast to last year, we have this resolute look allied with the ability to produce a slick passing game in our locker. Therefore, seeing as fortune favours the brave, I'm prepared to stick my neck on the chopping block and forecast a 2-1 win to us.
Our next game gives us the chance to progress in the Carling Cup providing we can beat Burnley at a ground whereby our past record isn't exactly spectacular.
Date:Friday September 19 2008
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