In recent history, Fulham generally haven’t had fun when we have travelled to Stoke. We have played away at the Britannia Stadium, or the Bet365 Stadium as it is now known, seven times since 2008, losing five times, drawing once and winning once. One of those defeats was a League Cup fixture while the rest were in the Premier League. During their Premier League tenure Stoke became a side who no one liked facing. Well-drilled and defensive, they caused one or two upsets as well as generally becoming a very difficult team to beat. Our sole victory there in recent times was thanks to some Bairdino magic back at Christmas of 2010. Two ridiculous strikes from the Northern Irishman inside the first 10minutes helped us to a 2-0 win. Wonderful scenes.
One of the worst days for me as a Fulham fan was when our thirteen year term in the Premier League came to an end after a pathetic 4-1 defeat to Stoke under Felix Magath. That day was nothing short of a Fulham calamity in the way we were set up and the way we played. Yes, relegation was looking likely anyway, but that performance pretty much summed us up under Magath. For that to be our last visit to Stoke, it’s understandable why so many of us have bad memories and a feeling of unease when we look ahead to tomorrow.
But we are in a new era at Fulham. Yes, last season was rocky, but Fulham under Scott Parker and the ownership of Shadid Khan are a different force. We still have issues to sort out defensively, but we are a side who could feasibly take points off anyone in the division. We still have maturing to do under Parker, but our side consists of the talent needed to get promoted again. However, tomorrow is also somewhat of a banana skin. Stoke have had a horrible season and sit bottom of the table. They have taken one measly point out of a possible 18 at home with Nathan Jones under a lot of pressure at the helm. But fitting nicely with the Championship’s unpredictability, they did beat then leaders Swansea City away from home last time out. Classic Championship.
We are currently unbeaten in six league games, but draws are becoming far too frequent. If we want to go up automatically, we need to put teams at the wrong end of the table to bed comfortably. If you have watched much of Stoke this season you will know that defensively they have been all over the place. Jack Butland in goal is an England International, but he has made mistakes time and time again. Confidence is low in the Stoke camp. We know what that is like after suffering so badly last season and we know that once the heads drop, it’s very hard to get anything from a game. That’s what we need to do to Stoke tomorrow, make their heads drop early on. The longer they feel like they are in the game, the harder it will be for us.
We know that you should never underestimate a team struggling at the bottom of the table, but we should be targeting 3 points tomorrow. We can’t afford to slip up against the bottom placed team.