Fulham travel to Wigan for a Premiership fixture this weekend, their first fixture for what seems an eternity.
The fixture gives both teams the ideally opportunity to seek out that win that should stave off the threat of relegation. However, for Fulham to do so it will mean the Cottagers having to improve on a run of Premiership form that has seen them win only one Premiership game in the last eleven.
Wigan, on the other hand, can reflect on two successive 1-0 victories that have seen them climb to within one point of Fulham.
Perhaps the sensible punters money is on a draw seeing as Fulham remain the Premiership`s draw specialists having drawn twelve of their twenty-nine fixtures this season. We here at Vital Fulham wonder if Chris Coleman might secretly agree with the lunatic plans of Lord Brian Mawhinney whereby draws would be settled by a penalty shoot-out.
If Fulham are to get that elusive victory that should end any thoughts of dropping into a relegation battle, they`ll need to end a record that has seen them fail to register a victory at the JJB Stadium. Indeed, their last win over Wigan (3-1) was as long ago as 1992.
The corresponding fixture at Craven Cottage ended in a 1-0 win for Wigan with their lively striker, Henri Camara, beating our keeper in a one-on-one situation.
With Arsene Wenger having been charged by the FA only yesterday, Paul Jewell is in exulted company in also facing a rap form those in charge. Indeed, the charges levelled at Jewell have taken away some of the focus on this forthcoming match. Here`s what Jewell had to say regarding his brush with the authorities,
‘We, as a club, will be fighting this tooth and nail.
‘We owe it to our supporters to fight this because if I just shrug my shoulders and do nothing when I feel an injustice has been done, it would be letting them down.
‘I have been overwhelmed with the support I have had from inside the game, big figures who I respect a great deal.
‘They have told me in no uncertain terms that I must take this all the way, and that’s what I intend to do.’
Wigan Team News:
Fulham will need to be aware of the threat that the Wigan twin strikers of Henri Camara and Emile Heskey present. Heskey`s ability in the air coupled with Camara`s lightning pace have resulted in each of them netting six goals each in the Premiership. Indeed, the much travelled Heskey only needs one goal to reach a century in English football. Please don`t let it come against us. Camara, on the other hand, has overcome an injury and is likely to start.
Definitely out are the injured duo of Paul Scharner and Arjan De Zeeuw whilst Leighton Baines, Lee McCulloch and Fitz Hall are all suspended.
Player to watch: Emile Heskey
The much travelled striker who has played for Leicester, Liverpool and Birmingham still has the strength to trouble the best of defences. Whilst some may bemoan his goals to games ratio, Emile can, on his day, leave his mark on a match. Let`s hope it`s not against us.
Fulham Team News:
Chris Coleman will be looking to Brian McBride to score the goals that`ll bring the three points back to London. McBride has12 goals to his credit, nine in the Premiership and has been the mainstay of our attack this season. Elsewhere, Liam Rosenior, perhaps harshly overlooked by Steve McClaren for inclusion in the England squad, looks set to continue as the only Fulham player to play every minute of every Premiership match. Jimmy Bullard, currently recovering from injury, would no doubt have relished the chance of facing his former club; however, hopefully it is something that will happen next season as Bullard continues his rehabilitation.
On a brighter note Philippe Christanval returns to the squad having recovered from injury although Vincenzo Montella is absent completing the final game of his three match ban received for his red card against Spurs in the FA Cup.
Player to watch: Anti Niemi
After having recovered from the horrific looking injury he received, our keeper will be looking to get back in the swing of things. This should be his third appearance since the injury and Wigan`s physical presence could give the agile keeper a torrid time. If Anti plays well then Fulham could get the result they deserve.
Match Facts & Stats
Games between the two sides are inevitably tight with both of the last two fixtures ending with 1-0 victories to Wigan. Wigan, compared to last season, are eleven points behind where they were last season having apparently suffered form the dreaded second season syndrome.
Steve Tanner (Somerset) – Will be taking charge of his second Premiership game and has yet to issue a card of any colour. Hopefully, both teams will give him a combative, but fair game.
With the two previous games having finished 1-0 allied with the fact that Wigan have scored one goal in each of their last five Premiership games, it doesn`t look as if we`ll witness a high scoring game. In fact, it would seem that if Fulham are to prevail we could well need a couple of goals. Wigan, to their credit, have scored more goals in the opening five minutes than any other Premiership club, strangely enough, they`ve also conceded the most goals in stoppage time. Therefore, don`t be surprised if Fulham concede an early goal but we may just nick this one in stoppage time. After having rested up for a week, courtesy of a lack of fixtures, we`d hope that their will be a fresh impetus about our play and hopefully a 2-1 victory will be greeted by the travelling faithful at 16:50 on Saturday evening.
Fulham entertain Portsmouth before a making the trip to Goodison Park to play Everton. Wigan are away to Charlton before facing Bolton at the JJB.