Ahead of tomorrow’s big lunchtime meeting with Bristol City, I asked City fan Euan (@euanbcfc_) a few questions about his side’s season so far.
What do you make of Bristol City’s season so far?
“It’s an odd one. On paper it should be seen as a success; seventh place, just two points off the play-offs. But compare that to a negative goal difference, a recent winless streak of four games, a period after our away win at Craven Cottage where we only beat teams in the bottom three until late January, plus that Cup defeat to Shrewsbury and it suddenly seems a bit disappointing.”
Do you see yourself being in a play-off spot come May?
“Personally, I’m not all that confident we can. I just don’t feel Johnson is able to get it done with you, Preston, Blackburn, Swansea all seemingly more up for it. But that being said, if we can get Wells scoring again and re-introduce Kasey Palmer as well as tightening up at the back a bit as well, I’d say we have a very decent chance.”
You mentioned Lee Johnson, what do you make of his season so far?
“In terms of the fanbase as a whole, I can’t remember a time when it’s been as split as it is now in regards to him. Personally, I wanted him gone months ago, but a lot of fans would definitely disagree. It just seems like he’s coached all flair and excitement out of our game this season, and if some of the dressing room rumours are true he’s most certainly lost it, which isn’t ideal when you’re pushing for the top six.”
Is there a player Fulham should look out for tomorrow afternoon?
“Normally I’d say Niclas Eliasson, but I can see him being dropped and our formation changed, so I’d probably say Dan Bentley in goal. Without him we’d be nowhere near where we are now, and I genuinely believe he’s one of the top three stoppers in the league. Ten clean Sheets in a team who, as I said, have a negative goal difference, shouldn’t be ignored. But again, if he plays it should really be Eliasson – his pace and ability on the ball is unreal, and he has the most assists in the league for a reason.”
Finally, how do you see tomorrow’s action unfolding and can you give us a score prediction?
“I can see it going either way to be honest with you. With it being our 125th anniversary game, and live on Sky, we should theoretically be really up for it, and obviously we won the return fixture earlier on on the season. However you’re simply on much better form, and of course you have two academy products in Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan who’ll be eager to get involved, so I have to admit I think it’s going to be an away win.”
Bristol City doubts; Dan Bentley, Benik Afobe, Marley Watkins, Zak Vyner
Fulham doubts; Terence Kongolo, Alfie Mawson, Joshua Onomah, Joe Bryan
Ahead of this Saturdays mouth-watering clash against high flying Preston North End, I asked Preston fan Jack (@pnetucker) a few questions about North End’s season so far as well as his prediction for the clash at Craven Cottage tomorrow.
First question, what do you make of Prestons season so far?
“If someone was to tell me at the start of the season that by March we would be sixth and with a good chance of getting to the play-offs, I would’ve snapped your hand off. We (the fans) are happy where we are, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, its been a satisfying season so far but we are somewhat fearful we could slip down”
How are you feeling about your play-off ambitions at the moment?
“Optimistic, but skeptical, being aware of the teams around us it makes all these games ‘must wins’ as we need to start distancing ourselves away from Blackburn, Bristol City and Swansea. We haven’t done that yet, however I do believe the squad can grind important results, and it does help that some teams around us haven’t been very good , but it’s all down to whether we can take advantage of that or not.”
What do you make of Alex Neil so far this season?
“I think he’s improved us, he’s started to implement a more expansive, attacking style of play, but he still has his flaws, such as the very late substitutions and reluctance to take certain players out of the team. However, that doesn’t change the fact he’s performed miracles with a squad which is one of the cheapest in the league, and with very little backing from the board”
Do you have a player which Fulham fans should look out for this weekend?
“Daniel Johnson is definitely that player to look out for. His ability to control a game and make something for us is magnificent, and he also has goals to his name, not bad for a player we wanted gone in the summer!”
Finally, can I get your thoughts on tomorrows game and a score prediction?
“This has the potential to be a scrappy game as both teams need the points. Darnell Fisher’s red card being rescinded is a huge boost for us and that gives me hope we could put on a solid defensive display, but its hard to keep a player like Mitrovic quiet. I have no idea which way this is going to go but knowing us we could very much do a smash and grab and nick a win, so I’m going to be confident and go for a Preston win.”
Fulham doubts : Maxime Le Marchand, Joshua Onomah, Harrison Reed, Alfie Mawson and Terence Kongolo
Preston North End Doubts : Josh Harrop, Tom Bayliss, Billy Bodin and Louis Moult
My Fulham XI : Rodak, Odoi, Ream, Hector, Bryan, McDonald, Cairney (C), Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, Kamara
@pnetucker’s score prediction: Fulham 0-1 Preston North End
@FFCSeb’s score prediction: Fulham 1-1 Preston North End
Another game under the lights and a much anticipated double header at Craven Cottage kicks off on Wednesday evening when we host South Wales outfit Swansea City.
In the return fixture we managed to hold on to a 2-1 lead on what was an entertaining encounter back on a cold Friday evening in late November, and this game represents a massive chance to get back to winning ways following a frustrating three match winless streak. After making a very fast start to the season, Swansea seemed to have tailed off in the new year, however three wins in a row have put them firmly in the play-off race. Steve Cooper is one of the country’s most progressive and promising coaches, although he will be alarmed that one of the division’s most miserly defences has managed just a single clean sheet in their last seven league games – against QPR. which came at an out of form QPR side.
The man to watch for the Swans is definitely striker Andre Ayew, scoring 13 times this campaign, including one against us back at the Liberty Stadium. He’s formed a potent partnership with Sam Surridge, impressive on loan from AFC Bournemouth, scoring seven times in all competitions. The Swans have plenty of creative quality in midfield and will fancy their chances of exploiting any frailties in the Fulham defence.
Veterans Mike Van Der Hoorn and Wayne Routledge will both be missing tonight, but Aldo Kalulu is available despite being forced off in his last fixture against Huddersfield, while winger Nathan Dyer faces a late fitness test to be ready in time. Scott Parker has no new injury issues for this game. The game will fall just too soon for the return of Harrison Reed while Alfie Mawson, Maxime Le Marchand and Terence Kongolo are all still sidelined for the Cottagers.
A victory is crucial for Fulham as we continue to try and mount the pressure on the top two – but Swansea will prove a tough test.
My Preferred Fulham XI: Rodak, Christie, Odoi, Hector, Bryan, McDonald, Cairney (c), Bobby Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, Knockaert
Another helping of Friday night football sees Fulham make the journey north to face Phillip Cocu’s Derby County side at Pride Park this evening.
Tonight’s televised game is our first visit to Derbyshire since the memorable Championship play-off semi final and it comes off the back of a disappointing defeat at home to Barnsley last weekend. If Scott Parker needs to lift his troops, he might be able to raise spirits by recalling Fulham’s comfortable 3-0 dispatching of the Rams in November. Cocu and Derby have to be disappointed with their season so far, with the club currently nine points off the play-off places in thirteenth, although the arrival of veteran Wayne Rooney, who has scored nine goals in twelve appearances against Fulham, seems to have sparked something of a revival. Derby are unbeaten in four and have scored sixteen goals in their last twelve league outings.
The Rams, with Cocu finally able to transmit his vision to a squad that contains plenty of quality, probably still have realistic promotion aspirations – especially with how crazy this division remains. As well as Rooney, County have plenty of quality within their squad. Creative midfielder Tom Lawrence has seven goals to his name already this time and former Fulham striker Chris Martin, who has formed a potent partnership with the evergreen Martyn Waghorn up front, will be eager to remind us all of his talent. The pair have plundered nineteen goals between them so far this season.
The home side will have to do without the experienced Tom Huddlestone, a regular scourge of Fulham, who has succumbed to a long-standing calf problem. American midfielder Duane Holmes, scorer of a stunning equaliser at Middlesbrough, is also missing due to a leg injury but Cocu should be able to welcome back the former Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom from a hamstring strain.
Parker’s injury concerns are familiar. Harrison Reed is likely to miss out again, whilst defenders Alfie Mawson, Terence Kongolo and Maxime Le Marchand are long-term absentees. The Whites are in dire need of both a performance and a big result at Pride Park to breathe new life into their promotion push, especially after their meek capitulation against bottom of the table Barnsley. 700 Fulham fans are making the journey up to Derby tonight as Parker aims to put the pressure back on Leeds before Saturday’s fixtures.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Odoi, Hector, Bryan; McDonald, Cairney, Onomah; Decordova-Reid, Mitrovic, Cavaleiro
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.