The trouble with all the postponements of late is that it seems like an age since our last game. In truth, our meek first half surrender at Stoke wasn’t all that long ago, although most Fulham fans would prefer it if that poor display could slip out of our minds. The salient fact that sticks out from just a cursory glance at the league table is that it is our away form that prevents us from being anything more than a mid-table side and today’s trip to Blackburn is the latest chance to change that.
Not that Ewood Park’s been a particularly happy hunting ground for Fulham recently. We conceded a late goal to lose an even game there last season and apart from a point earned by a late Jimmy Bullard free kick in our Great Escape season, there’s been little to shout about for the hardy souls who make the annual trip into Lancashire. You have to go back four years for our last league win at Blackburn, inspired by a certain Steed Malbranque, who was pulled off at half time at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Indeed, it says something that of our 16-man matchday squad that afternoon, only Mark Pembridge remains at the club as a coach.
So the chances of us picking up our first league win in over a month – since Bobby Zamora blew Manchester United’s makeshift defence away – are probably pretty slim. That’s not to say that Blackburn are on a particularly impressive run. Rovers haven’t won in 12 games and one of those was a 3-0 defeat at Craven Cottage. They could consider themselves somewhat unfortunate that night. Fulham were strangely subdued and the visitors bossed the first half, until we came to life dramatically after the break. Sam Allardyce seemed baffled by his side’s League Cup semi-final defeat by Aston Villa in midweek after Nikola Kalinic, who is still searching for his first league goal, hit the post twice. The margin of defeat – to a James Milner goal – doesn’t end their hopes of going to Wembley, but you can rest assured that Allardyce will have his players fired up for this one.
Roy Hodgson will be keen to make an impression on his return to a club where he was unceremoniously sacked in his last job in English football. He had to go abroad to rebuild both his reputation and his career – though Blackburn’s loss is most certainly Fulham’s gain. Damien Duff will be hoping to shine on his old stomping ground, the place where he made his name under Hodgson, and Fulham could be boosted by the return of Brede Hangeland from a knee injury.
Apologies for the short preview – I’ve not got much longer on the computer.
MY FULHAM XI (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Baird, Murphy, Duff, Dempsey; A. Johnson, Nevland. Subs: Zuberbuhler, Smalling, Dikagcoi, Greening, Riise, Gera, Elm.
REFEREE: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).