Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday January 2 2009
Fulham make the long journey up the M1 to take on Sheffield Wednesday in a 3rd round FA Cup tie. The fixture gives the club the chance to take a breather from Premier League action and concentrate on a cup run the supporters yearn for, especially after exiting in the third round in the two previous seasons. You never know we might even have that first away win of the season coming up!
With our league form so much better than this time last year, it makes a welcome change to be able to look forward to a cup tie without the spectre of a relegation battle haunting us.
It would seem the players feel the same way with veteran keeper, Mark Schwarzer commenting,
'We saw the final last year between Portsmouth and Cardiff City and I don't think anyone would have put money on that so it's open for everyone. We need to continue our form."
'We are taking the FA Cup very seriously as it gives you the chance to qualify for Europe and win a trophy."
Up for the Cup Final for the first time since 1975 anyone!
Sheffield Wednesday, managed by Brian Laws, have been given permission by his parent clubs, to field loan player Lewis Buxton. He`s also hoping to welcome back Jermaine Johnson and Leon Clarke to his squad after both appear to have recovered from injury.
Amongst the playing staff at Hillsborough are several players with Premier League experience - Steve Watson, Francis Jeffers, Leon Burton, Lee Grant - all of whom will be looking to test Fulham.
Approaching the veteran stage of his career now but still a good defender who`ll be looking to nullify the threat posed by Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora.
Roy Hodgson will be anxiously awaiting the results of a fitness test on Jimmy Bullard. The influential midfielder missed the match against Chelsea, last Sunday, after picking up a dead-leg at White Hart Lane on Boxing Day. If Bullard isn`t 100% fit Dickson Etuhu will again deputise.
It`ll be interesting to see if Roy takes this opportunity to give some of the fringe players a start. Here at Vital Fulham we`d suggest he didn`t. We`re desperate for a good run in the FA Cup and with a week between the cup tie and the next Premier League match, we feel he should field his strongest eleven.
Therefore, take heed Roy and go for something like this:
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Bullard (or Etuhu), Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora.
His recent goal scoring rush, including two goals against near-neighbours Chelsea last Sunday, has seen the popular American jump to the top of the Fulham scoring charts for this season. His ability in the air, especially from set pieces, could be a deciding factor in this tie.
The pairing of the two clubs in this cup fixture is the fourth time it has happened, the history books show that Sheffield Wednesday currently have the statistical edge, leading by two wins to one.
If we look at meetings in all competitions though, the odds favour our hosts. It`s a massive 35 years since we last won at Hillsborough and our last victory over the Owls was a 1-0 win at the Cottage in November 1982.
Lee Mason (Lancashire)
With Fulham having such an alarming record on the road, two goals and no wins, it doesn`t need a scientist to work out that to progress at the first opportunity, we`ll need to register that first away win of the season. But, the record doesn`t show the full story. Our last four away trips have seen us keep a clean sheet against very creditable opposition, whether Sheffield Wednesday are worthy of being quoted in that same bracket is debatable. Therefore, with the wide spaces that Hillsborough brings we predict our midfield, orchestrated by Murphy, will provide the searching balls for Johnson and Zamora to give us that away win and if they`re not up to the task we`re sure Clint Dempsey wouldn`t mind chipping in with a goal. We`ll go for 2-0 to Fulham.
Our nest fixture sees us return to Craven Cottage to take on Sam Allardyce and Blackburn Rovers, a fixture that, on present form, we should win.
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Date:Friday January 2 2009
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