Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday August 17 2007
Fulham have the perfect opportunity to grab three more points this Saturday when struggling Middlesbrough visit Craven Cottage.
Fulham buoyed by the midweek win over Bolton face a Middlesbrough side that have lost both their opening two matches. More importantly, in the away match at Wigan they looked very lightweight.
However, Fulham will need to focus on the job in hand and commit any thoughts of complacency to the back of their minds.
Nevertheless, a win could well put Fulham in a the upper regions of the Premier League table and provide some much needed early season comfort. A win will also see Fulham celebrate their best start to a Premier League season.
Fulham enter the match with new signing, David Healy, having scored in both the opening two Premier League fixtures. When he arrived, from Leeds, this summer many pundits suggested he may well struggle in the top flight despite his goal scoring antics for Northern Ireland.
Therefore, to get off the mark so quickly, against Arsenal, must have been very gratifying for the Irish striker. In a recent interview, Healy spoke about his return to the Premier League after a disappointing end to a once promising career with Manchester United and also how life at Fulham has been this season.
"I never gave up. The first day I left Manchester United I always had the ambition to one day come back to the Premier League."
"I had a sniff of what it was like at United and I`m very grateful to Fulham and Lawrie Sanchez for giving me the opportunity."
"We were disappointed to lose 2-1 against Arsenal last weekend but won against Bolton in midweek."
"The lads struggled a bit last year but with what they had last year and the new players, there`s going to be more then enough to compete in this league."
"We`re looking forward to the challenge and there`s a big game on Saturday against Middlesbrough and hopefully we can have the same outcome."
Will Healy make it three goals in three games, we`ll just have to wait and see.
Lawrie Sanchez will no doubt be reasonably pleased with his sides start to the season. The re-emergence of Tony Warner will no doubt cause a problem if Anti Niemi is fit after his wrist injury, however we trust that Lawrie will take consolation in the fact that we now appear to have two class keepers.
It`s difficult to see any reason why Lawrie should deviate from the eleven that started against Bolton.
Fulham (from): Warner, Volz, Baird, Knight, Bocanegra, Davis, Smertin, Bouba Diop, Davies, Healy, McBride, Bouazza, Dempsey, Rosenior, Konchesky.
After his devastating start to the season much of the attention will be focussed on David Healy, however, we`d like to sing the praises of Chris Baird. Many of our readership voted for the ex-Southampton player as their man-of-the-match against Bolton and he has made a solid start to his Fulham career, hopefully his form will remain at the same level as we seek to improve our Premier League position.
In the build up to the fixture, Gareth Southgate has spoken out about his sides start to the season, remarking,
"What we will have to do is play in a way that suits the personnel that we`ve got."
"I`m looking at exactly how we want to play because we`re away from home and we`ve got certain people missing that bring different things to the team"
"We weren`t happy with our performance at Wigan when we lost 1-0 but we`re happy we`ve got this game just three days later to try and put things right."
Middlesbrough enter this fixture with worried expressions on the furrowed brows of their supporters. Two defeats in the opening two fixtures isn`t the ideal start for their campaign. Indeed, a third successive defeat could evoke painful thoughts relating to a relegation battle. However, in his 50th match in charge, Gareth Southgate will be seeking some sort of improvement.
This week he`s signed the Spurs forward, Mido, in an attempt to stop the rot. It is anticipated that Mido will go straight into the starting eleven against Fulham.
It`s hoped that the signing of Mido will improve Boro`s scoring record, a record that last season saw only Yakubu and Viduka (who has since been sold) score more than two Premier League goals.
Amongst those missing for Middlesbrough will be ex-Chelsea centre back, Robert Huth, who after ankle surgery requires more medical investigation.
The England winger has never quite delivered the goods whilst playing for his country but he remains one of the brightest lights in Southgate`s team. On his day his crossing ability is second to none and their new signing, Mido, will be hoping that, in future, he can provide the sort of service he`ll thrive on. Fulham will need to be wary of his presence and ensure the supply of the ball is restricted therefore depriving him of the chance to supply the ammunition for the Boro forwards.
After a good start to the 2007-2008 campaign, many Fulham supporters will be hoping that Fulham can dispose of another weighty millstone hanging around their necks. Almost unbelievably, it is a massive 52 games since Fulham won a Premier League game by more than a solitary goal. Will Saturday see that record brought to an end?
Brian McBride, our new club captain stands on the verge of making his 100th start in a Fulham shirt, what better way to celebrate than scoring a brace in a 2-0 win and banishing that record?
On the other hand, Middlesbrough will have ambitions of securing an away win to reach fifty away wins in their Premier League history, a nice present for Southgate in his 50th match in charge? However, to do so will mean reversing a trend that has seen them win only one of their last eight away games.
Oddly Fulham and Middlesbrough have never met in any competition outside of the League. The current standings are as follows,
At Fulham only
Fulham 14 wins, Middlesbrough 9 wins and Draws 3
Home and Away
Fulham 21 wins, Middlesbrough 24 wins, Draws 7
Premier League only
Fulham 5 wins, Middlesbrough 1 win Draws 0
In the corresponding fixture last season Fulham took the honours with a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Helguson (pen) and McBride with Viduka replying for the visitors.
Lee Mason of Lancashire
On this occasion we`re going to be bold and suggest that Fulham will continue their good recent form and blow Middlesbrough away with a 2-0 win thereby giving Sanchez the best start to a Premier League season the club has ever had and also blowing away that 52 games without winning by more than a solitary goal record.
Fulham hit the road to take on Aston Villa at Villa Park whilst Middlesbrough face a north-east derby against Newcastle.
Date:Friday August 17 2007
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