Fulham will welcome Heidar Helguson back from suspension to face his former club Watford tomorrow afternoon.
The Icelandic international missed the enthralling 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge but will be determined to make an impact with Chris Coleman set to add Vincenzo Montella and Clint Dempsey to his attacking arsenal in the coming days.
The Whites will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to five games against the Premier League’s bottom side at Craven Cottage.
Fulham striker Heidar Helguson is available to feature at Charlton Athletic – despite some reports suggesting he is suspended.
The Icelandic international will serve a one-match ban after picking up five bookings but will miss the SW6 derby at Stamford Bridge rather than the London derby with the Addicks as FA rules state that the ban can only come into force seven days after the offending booking, which was against West Ham.
Heidar Helguson and Brian McBride grabbed the goals as Fulham moved four places up the Premiership table with an entertaining victory over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage.
Chris Coleman’s side ended a miserable run of four defeats in their last five games as his first choice forwards fired to pile more pressure on beleaguered Boro boss Gareth Southgate. The visitors actually made the brighter start but went behind after Helguson coolly converted a penalty after George Boateng brought down Moritz Volz. McBride made it two before the break with a curling effort that deflected in off Chris Riggott.
Middlesbrough made it a nervy finale for Fulham after Mark Viduka punished a poor goal kick from Antti Niemi to give the visitors a lifeline but Southgate’s side couldn’t force a late leveller. The Middlesbrough boss, who has taken just six points from a possible 27, might reflect on their failure to capitalise on a lightning start that saw Stewart Downing’s fourth-minute free kick clip the crossbar and James Morrison test Niemi after a mistake from Frank Quedrue.
Instead, Fulham took the lead from virtually their first attack when Volz ventured infield from the left flank and was caught by Boateng. Mike Dean gave the penalty instantly and Helguson converted a trademark spot-kick by waiting for Mark Schwarzer to commit himself and rolling his finish into the other corner. Radzinski spurned a great chance to extend Fulham’s lead by shooting straight at Schwarzer when clean through before McBride added a second ten minutes before the interval.
Radzinski found the American with an incisive pass to the edge of the area and McBride curled a lovely finish around Schwarzer into the bottom corner – although he was aided by a slight nick off Riggott. The veteran striker could have quickly doubled his tally but he shot fractionally wide after another rampaging run by Volz, who had a brilliant game in midfield.
Radzinski did the initial damage with a precision pass to McBride on the edge of the area and the USA striker’s shot took a slight deflection off Riggott before finding the bottom right corner. Fulham dominated the second half with Schwarzer clawing away a looping header from Helguson, but a terrible blunder from Niemi allowed Viduka to fire Boro back into the contest. The Finnish goalkeeper – just back from a knee operation – redeemed himself with a splendid save to deny Adam Johnson as Fulham saw out four minutes of stoppage time to leave Southgate only sitting above the relegation zone on goal difference.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Queudrue, Christanval, Knight; Volz, Brown, Routledge, Radzinski (Bocanegra 70); McBride, Helguson. Subs (not used): Lastuvka, Zakuani, N. Jensen, Runstrom.
GOALS: Helguson (pen 12), McBride (35).
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby (Wheater 88), Davies, Taylor, Arca (Cattermole 46); Riggott, Morrison (Johnson 73), Downing, Boateng; Yakubu, Viduka. Subs (not used): Jones, Christie.
GOAL: Viduka (74).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Heidar Helguson is considering a shock return to Watford just a year after joining Fulham, according to the Sun.
The Icelandic international is disappointed at his lack of game time after falling down Chris Coleman’s pecking order in recent weeks. The 29 year-old has managed ninety minutes in the league just twice and is the second Fulham forward to fall out with his manager over his selection decisions in recently weeks following Collins John’s angry reaction to being left out against Everton.
Watford are willing to offer their former forward a return to Vicarage Road in January as Coleman continues to prefer Brian McBride up front at Craven Cottage.
A late volley from Ashley Young rescued a point for Watford after Fulham staged an extraordinary comeback from 2-0 down at Vicarage Road and threatened to leave with all three.
The Hornets looked as though they were cruising to their first league win of the season when Young added to Marlon King’s opener just fifteen seconds into the second half. But Chris Coleman’s men mustered three goals in a mad ten minutes – culminating in a crazy own goal from Damien Francis – before winger young crashed home a brilliant volley to ensure the home side snared a share of the spoils.
There was little hint of the drama to follow during a sedate and scrappy first half. Hameur Bouazza saw an early effort pushed away from Antti Niemi before Moritz Volz wasted a great chance to give Fulham the lead when he fired wide having surged away from the home defence to be one-on-one with Ben Foster.
King netted his hundredth career goal midway through the first period when he breached Fulham’s offside trap to reach a lovely Young through ball and keep his feet to fire past Niemi. Michael Brown’s deflected drive almost brought the away side level before Bouazza threatened to double Watford’s lead but his shot rolled fractionally wide.
Coleman sent Fulham out early for the second half but he was soon tearing his hair out on the touchline after they conceded within fifteen seconds of the restart. Boauzza breezed down the left and his devilish low cross was gleefully tucked away by Young at the back post. Fulham tried to launch a comeback but Foster blocked well from former Vicarage Road favourite Helguson and Papa Bouba Diop headed wide from a corner.
Fulham did get a goal back when substitute Brian McBride punished Malky Mackay’s failure to clear Wayne Routledge’s cross with a brilliant volley from ten yards out. Helguson then came back to haunt the home fans, heading home the equaliser from Tomasz Radzinski’s cross after Diop had helped on a long clearance from Niemi. Worse was to follow for Watford as Francis thumped a panicked clearance into his own net after Mackay and Matthew Spring couldn’t clear a high ball.
Aidy Boothroyd’s side at least avoided defeat in the very last minute when Young capitalised on some nervy Fulham defending to majestically volley home his second of an incredible evening from fifteen yards out.
WATFORD (4-4-2): Foster; DeMerit, Shittu, Mackay, Stewart; Young, Mahon, Francis (Henderson 89), Bouazza; King, Smith (Spring 76). Subs (not used): Lee, Doyley, Jarrett.
GOALS: King (23), Young (46, 89).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Quedrue, Knight, Pearce; Diop, Brown, Volz (Radzinski 62), Bocanegra (Routledge 53); Helguson, John (McBride 59). Subs (not used): Lastuvka, C. Jensen.
BOOKED: Helguson, Pearce, Radzinski.
GOALS: McBride (71), Helguson (83), Francis (o.g. 87).
REFEREE: Mike Riley (West Yorkshire).