Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Thursday February 5 2009
After the triumph over a struggling Portsmouth side last Saturday Fulham face a different challenge this weekend when they travel to the JJB Stadium to take on high-flying Wigan Athletic. Under the stewardship of Steve Bruce, Wigan have, once again, confounded the critics and sit just below the UEFA Cup qualification slots. Hopefully, Roy Hodgson can, this season, emulate such an achievement and put our fine club in a similar position.
Ahead of the fixture Danny Murphy, who recently signed a contract extension, has spoken out about that bug-bear of ours, that away record, remarking,
'Our away form is becoming a little bit worrying."
'We have to start turning good spells in games into points."
'In any game in the Premier League there are going to be spells when we're on top, and on the road what we're not doing is scoring when we're on top.'
Well, as we`ve said it before, let`s get it sorted.
The transfer window saw Steve Bruce actively involved in several transfers. Palacios joined Spurs and Heskey joined the Martin O`Neill revolution at Aston Villa. In came the former Spurs striker, Mido, to bolster their attack whilst another to depart was Ryan Taylor, to Newcastle who was involved in a deal that saw Charles N`Zogbia arrive at the JJB Stadium
Whether the changes affect the momentum Bruce`s side had remains to be seen.
The Egyptian was a relative unknown when Steve Bruce signed him. His first few weeks in English football showed that this lad had the ability and the skill to make an impact. Powerful, strong and with an eye for goal, Hangeland and Hughes will have to work hard to snuff out the threat he presents.
Roy Hodgson takes his team north with a couple of fresh faces in the squad. Giles Barnes and Olivier Dacourt both arrived in the transfer window both on loan, whilst Julian Gray became a permanent fixture at the club (until the end of the season). Out of the three, probably only the first two have an outside chance of gate-crashing Roy`s starting eleven that has taken on a familiar look in recent months.
If Roy is contemplating a change, it could possibly be up front. Bobby Zamora has been struggling for form in recent weeks and a two goal burst from Erik Nevland may tempt Roy to give the Norwegian striker a rare start alongside Andrew Johnson.
With Jimmy Bullard now history, many supporters are suggesting that one of the new boys (Barnes or Dacourt) be given a stating role alongside Danny Murphy but, as we`ve previously suggested, this may be a match too soon fitness wise. Therefore, we`ll expect to see Roy name a familiar starting eleven, barring any late injuries, of;
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson, Nevland
With the arrival of Olivier Dacourt, Etuhu probably realises that it is his starting place that is most at threat. Hopefully this`ll be the day we see what Etuhu can really do!
If we look through the record books, the current standings in fixtures between Fulham and Wigan at the JJB Stadium is:-
Premier League - Wigan 1 victories, Fulham 0 victories, Draws 1
If we consider all league games at either the JJB or Wigan`s previous home, bearing in mind Wigan are relative newcomers to the professional ranks, the current standings are;-
All Matches - Wigan 6 victories, Fulham 4 victories, Draws 4
A win at the JJB for Fulham would even up those Premier League stats nicely!
Last season the fixture was a 1-1 draw with Clint Dempsey giving Fulham the lead only for Jason Koumas to equalise with ten minutes to go.
Earlier this season Fulham won 2-0, at Craven Cottage, with goals from Andrew Johnson.
The man in the middle will be Lee Probert
This is a tricky one! I really do hope we can end our dreadful run of not winning away from home in the Premier League, as well as being a millstone around our neck it`s also becoming embarrassing. Our poor scoring record of only hitting the net three times on the road in the Premier League isn`t helping us as you get the impression that once we concede a goal the belief that we can win starts to erode away. But saying that, whilst previously acknowledging that Wigan are having a good season and occupy a decent position just outside the UEFA Cup qualification places, their squad has been depleted by the transfer window. Therefore there is cause to be optimistic and here at Vital Fulham we reckon we can at least grab a draw up at the JJB Stadium. In fact, if we could possibly grab a high-scoring score draw, considering our away form, it could almost be seen as a good result.
After the trials and tribulations of the Premier League, next weekend sees a foreign jaunt, well to Wales, for a fifth round FA Cup tie against Swansea City, a tie that is being shown live on ITV.
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Date:Thursday February 5 2009
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