Scott Parker will urge his Fulham debut to sweep away the disappointment of failing to beat Millwall on Wednesday night by seeing off Barnsley at a wet and windy Craven Cottage tomorrow afternoon.
The Fulham boss will need no reminding of Barnsley’s ability to surprise after the Tykes inflicted a shock 1-0 defeat upon Parker’s men in south Yorkshire on the opening day of the season. Barnsley have failed to build on that outstanding start with popular German manager Daniel Stendel, who masterminded their return to the second tier, paying for a poor run of results with his job. Although Gerhard Struber initially stitched together an excellent home run, Barnsley have mustered just four league wins all season and they are now cut adrift at the bottom of the table.
They have recorded just six points on the road all season, although both Struber and skipper Mike Bahre were in upbeat mood about their survival chances as they looked ahead to the trip to London. The Austrian coach could be pinning his escape hopes on a familiar face to Fulham fans in Cauley Woodrow, who has scored nine Championship goals this term, and has hardly stopped finding the net since he made the switch to Oakwell last year. Woodrow and the ex-Portsmouth striker Conor Chaplin have proven particularly potent up front, combing for a total of 23 goals, which represents 62% of Barnsley’s total for the season.
Struber will have to do without the services of first-choice goalkeeper Samuel Radlinger, who was outstanding against Fulham at Oakwell in August. Midfielder Marcel Ritzmaier will also miss out, whilst Bambo Diaby is banned and Mads Andersen will be rested. He will hope that by juggling his side the Tykes can produce the type of dynamic display that so frustrated Parker’s side on the opening day – and benefit from making a sell-out home crowd restless.
Just as it seemed that Fulham’s own injury crisis was easing came the news that Terence Kongolo, who had only just broken into the side following his loan move from Huddersfield, will miss the rest of the season with a foot problem. Winger Anthony Knockaert should be ready to return having missed the trip to the Den through illness and it seems that Harrison Reed, a big miss in central midfield, could be close to full fitness after starting training again this week. Maxime Le Marchand joins Kongolo and Alfie Mawson as long-term central defensive absences.
Fulham might have missed a golden opportunity to leapfrong Leeds in south east London earlier this week, but with Marcelo Bielsa’s side facing a tough test against Bristol City, a win over beleaguered Barnsley could see the Whites in the automatic promotion places. On what is sure to be an emotional afternoon after the death of Fulham legend Jimmy Conway, it might fall to the Cottage faithful to roar Parker’s men on to a vital victory.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Bryan, Odoi, Hector; McDonald, Onomah, Cairney; Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic.
MY PREDICTION: Fulham 2-0 Barnsley.