Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday December 21 2007
Wigan arrive at Craven Cottage ready to play their part in a fixture that is off paramount importance to both clubs. A defeat for Fulham could see the two clubs swap places at the bottom end of the table and give the new incumbent, whoever it may be, an impossible start in his new job. A win for Fulham could see them get out of the bottom three and also provide a little hope that survival is a probability rather than a possibility.
In short, it`s one of those fixtures that has six points written all over it!
He`s cheered us all up by playing his first competitive game since that dreadful injury, albeit for the reserves. He may not be in the sixteen for the Wigan fixture but his eventual return is most anticipated. Here`s what he had to say about our current predicament,
"We`re underachieving, we all know that."
"But we`ve got some great players and the gaffer is awesome."
"We`ve had a lot of bad luck but the gaffer says we make our own luck. What`s happened is our own doing and we`ll undo it, definitely. I just want to get out there and do my bit to help."
Nice vote of confidence for the boss there, Jimmy!
Although the board didn`t share your immediate thoughts!
Fulham go into the fixture without the services of the injured, namely, Kasey Keller, Lee Cook, Ian Pearce and Brian McBride. Despite playing sixty minutes for the reserves during the week, Jimmy Bullard is not considered to be in contention with the fitness staff reckoning it`ll be another three to four weeks before he regains full match fitness.
The new management team, albeit temporary, of Lewington and McKinlay are able to call upon the services of Carlos Bocanegra and Moritz Volz. Indeed, it`ll be interesting to see just what starting eleven they will pick for what could be the most important game of the season so far.
If we`re reading correctly between the lines then, after some praise this week, Elliot Omozusi is sure to start. After three defeats on the bounce, the opportunity exists to shake up the squad, take a gamble and go for broke. However, we believe Lewington and McKinlay will stick with the tried and trusted and go for the following eleven,
Niemi, Omozusi, Hughes, Stefanovic, Konchesky, Davis, Murphy, Davies, Bouazza, Healy, Dempsey
The youngster has surprised everybody since making his debut and it`ll ne interesting to see if the injury time penalty he conceded, against Newcastle, will have fazed him at all.
Wigan will be without their club captain, Mario Melchiott, who is suspended. However, despite apparently being out for the next few weeks, Emile Hesley could make a surprise comeback on Saturday with Steve Bruce rating him touch and go.
There is also a chance that Jason Koumas (groin) and Antoine Sibierski (thigh) could also recover in time to play.
Steve Bruce will select his eleven from; Kirkland, Taylor, Boyce, Bramble, Kilbane, Valencia, Brown, Scharner, Landzaat, Bent, Heskey, Aghahowa, Granqvist, Olembe, Koumas, Skoko, Cotterill, Hall, Sibierski, Pollitt
Is returning to his former club where he made 44 appearances before returning north. It`ll be interesting to see who he kicks first! My money is on Davis!
In the corresponding fixture last season, Wigan managed to take all three points courtesy of an 83rd minute goal from Camara. Earlier this season, at the JJB Stadium, the spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw. Fulham took an early lead (in the 11th minute) through Clint Dempsey but suffered one of those all too familiar lapses to concede a late equaliser from a Jason Koumas penalty.
In the history books the statistics show that in Premier League clashes at Craven Cottage the honours are even with both teams having won once.
In all league fixtures, at Fulham only, Fulham have 8 wins, Wigan have 4 wins with 2 draws.
Alan Wiley of Burntwood in Staffordshire has been tasked with keeping this relegation battle under control.
It really is crunch time isn`t it? However, it`s Christmas time and we could all do with a little cheering up. Currently, after three games without a goal, I`d be happy to celebrate just seeing the ball cross the line but then again I`m a greedy so-and-so and I want to taste victory again. Sadly, with our penchant for conceding in the second half, I get the impression we`ll need to score a couple in the first half, therefore let`s get the old Christmas spirit out, take a large swig and be prepared to witness a goal fest (well almost), 2-1 to Fulham! However, if the game is even going into the last ten minutes, don`t give up hope. Wigan have conceded more goals in the last ten minutes than any other club, even us! Other form pointers, Wigan have not kept a clean sheet in 14 Premier League matches, the longest current run! Wigan have only taken one point on their travels, a draw at West Ham! Wigan have not won a match in 14 attempts against London clubs in recent times!
After two consecutive home matches (Newcastle and Wigan) Fulham hit the road for two away matches (Tottenham and Birmingham). Therefore, it`s time to shake of that Christmas Day lethargy and get your arses off to White Hart Lane to probably witness yet another away day disaster.
Date:Friday December 21 2007
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