Fulham – three easy points ?


Last season's three relegated clubs have had varied fortunes in The Championship this year. Norwich have regrouped and stand a good chance of automatic promotion. Cardiff have under achieved and have rarely been above mid table. But Fulham have had a dreadful season.

Under the bizarre Felix Magath they lost seven of their first eight games and found themselves bottom of the division (below Blackpool !) towards the end of September.  Magath was sacked and Kit Symons was appointed as caretaker manager. Things immediately improved and the team went on a run of eight wins, three draws and three defeats (to Boro, Brentford and Watford). By Christmas they were in mid table and Symons had been confirmed as manager.  The run included the 3-0 win over Charlton when the result was all but secured in the first eleven minutes.

There was then a little wobble with four games without a goal but home wins against Reading and Forest kept them comfortably in 14th place towards the end of January.  Since then, however, they have gone into freefall - winning only twice in their last thirteen games and one of those wins was at Huddersfield at the end of March when Chris Powell's team obliged by missing two penalties.  Fulham's last three home games have all been defeats with an aggregate of two goals scored and twelve conceded.  They warmed up for Tuesday's match at The Valley by losing 1-4 to Brentford whom Charlton saw off 3-0 only a few weeks ago.  They are now only seven points above the drop zone and, although they are unlikely to be dragged into a relegation scrap, they will not have been happy about Good Friday's result at The Den. Their next three games are against Wigan, Rotherham and Blackpool so their fate is clearly in their own hands.

So once again we ourselves are playing a team in terrible form. Surely we only need to keep eleven men on the pitch to take the three points ?

The concern for Charlton supporters is that our team seem to be struggling to stay motivated now that mid table security has been attained.  The first goal will be crucial as it seems that Fulham's spirit is weak and heads may drop if they go behind. If they nick a lead however, it remains to be seen whether Charlton have the drive to battle back.  Ross McCormack may have been absurdly overpriced when Fulham shelled out £11m for him but he is a good player at Championship level and has scored 16 goals this season. He will have good memories of The Valley, having notched 4 for Leeds there last season. His partner up front (Hugo Rodallega) has 14 goals but has been out of favour recently and was an unused sub against Brentford. Youngster Cauley Woodrow has taken his place.

Scott Parker has missed the last two games and may not be available for Tuesday.  Michael Turner, however, is on loan from Norwich and is very likely to play. And behind the scenes Alan Curbishley will be offering his experience to Kit Symons until the end of the season.

Fulham's shaky defence means that this is a game Charlton really should win and we have the right to expect a better first eleven minutes than at Craven Cottage in October. However, in front of a small and somewhat apathetic crowd it may prove hard for the home team to maintain a head of steam.  We will be looking for something more convincing from Chris Eagles if he is going to be offered a new contract and it would be good if Igor can find some sharpness again.  The return of Buyens will be welcome and Joe Gomez will presumably slot in at right back.  Tony Watt running at Michael Turner sounds promising but we can't pin all our hopes on him every week.