Nobody could quibble with seven points from the final three games of 2017 – especially as there were signs of discontent with Slavisa Jokanovic during December. Fulham’s problem has been consistency – and, even though yesterday’s results make it far more plausible that the Whites could sneak into the play-offs for the second season in succession, they will need to string together a series of wins in order to pose a serious threat to the sides above them. Obtaining that ruthlessness is a work in progress if Saturday’s trip to Hull is anything to go by. Jokanovic’s side finished the game rampant and seeking a winner, which was nothing sort of miraculous after a first half display that saw a side who hadn’t scored in four games gifted a two-goal lead.
Marcus Bettinelli was frank and forthright afterwards, insisting that Fulham could not afford such a sloppy start again. Ipswich might have had managed to maintain the high standards with which they started the season – indeed, Jokanovic’s men ended their 100% start to the campaign with a flawless 2-0 win at Portman Road back in August. But Town still sit above Fulham in the Championship table on goal difference and Mick McCarthy, who was honest about the gulf in class between the sides earlier this term, has pledged to try and ‘worry’ the Whites this evening.
The visitors are hit hard by injuries at the moment. Centre back Adam Webster injured his achilles during the weekend’s defeat by Derby and, should he not be fit enough to start, Tommy Smith – who hopes to put a frustrating year on the treatment table well and truly behind him – could come in to play alongside Luke Chambers at the heart of the visitors’ defence. McCarthy is short on central midfielders, with the influential Cole Skuse set to miss his fourth consecutive game with an ankle injury. Four other midfielders – Emyr Huws, Teddy Bishop and Andre Dozzell – will not return to action before the end of the season, whilst Tom Adeyemi, Luke Hyam, Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam are not fit enough to return from their own injury woes.
David McGoldrick played the final 20 minutes of the 2-1 defeat to Derby at Portman Road at the weekend and could be considered for a start. The most eye-catching inclusion in the visitors’ squad could be 25 year-old Kieffer Moore. The 6ft 5in forward has been recalled from his loan spell with Rotherham United, for whom he has scored 13 goals in 25 appearances in League One this year, and there seem to be conflicting reports about whether the in-form striker will feature for McCarthy tonight. Millers manager Paul Warne seemed fairly confident that Ipswich would be selling Moore, although McCarthy was far less cast-iron in his own pre-match comments. The experienced boss will be hoping to end a dismal away run of one win in their last 26 games at Craven Cottage tonight.
Jokanovic has no new injury concerns as his side seek to push up the table by starting 2018 with a win this evening. His biggest conundrum will be whether to reward Saturday’s super subs, Aboubakar Kamara and Neeskens Kebano, with starts after their heroics at Hull. Kamara looked unplayable at times at the KCOM Stadium and Fulham seemed much more threatening with a genuine striker leading the line. The French forward’s confidence must have been boosted by his brilliant brace, which included demanding to take the penalty he won early in the second period, and a superb leveller five minutes from time. Plenty of Championship defenders have been confounded by Kamara’s utterly unique combination of pace and power – and Jokanovic should offer him a chance to stake a claim for a starting place tonight.
Sheyi Ojo, who has been in excellent form for Fulham over the past month, could probably count himself unfortunate to have been withdrawn after 40 minutes on Humberside. His performance wasn’t at the same level as the one he produced in south Wales four days earlier, but the Liverpool loanee was far from alone in that respect. His wing play was showing real signs of promise, although Kebano did deliver a virtuoso display to inflict Ipswich’s first defeat way back in the summer so Jokanovic could have good reasons for going either way here.
The Whites will want to maintain a strong recent record against Ipswich, which has seen them beat McCarthy’s men in all of their last three meetings, as well as continue an impressive recent record at home – with Bettinelli only letting in a single goal in his last three outings at the Cottage. Victory this evening would go a long way to convincing the sceptics that another play-off push could be on.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Kalas, Ream; McDonald, Johasen, Cairney; Ojo, R. Sessegnon, Kamara. Subs: Button, Djalo, Norwood, Piazon, Ayite, Kebano, Fonte.