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West Ham Utd v Fulham

Filed: Sunday, 18th January 2009
By: Preview Percy

Next up a derby match against a Fulham side who, quietly, and with little fuss somehow find themselves sitting one place above us in 9th place.

Although level on points with ourselves and thus ahead of us on goal difference, they also have a couple of games in hand, having yet to play either Blackburn or Man Utd away. The Blackburn match fell foul to the recent spot of sub-zeroes at Ewood, whilst Man Utd were in Monaco playing in some Mickey Mouse European Hyper Super Cup thing, a trophy whose only purpose is to give Fergie an excuse to whinge about fixture congestion later on in the year.

They haven’t been too active in the window so far, unless you include the departure lounge in your deliberations. Fans’ favourite (not) Seol has exchanged frostbound pitches for the oil wells of Saudi Arabia, signing a loan deal with Saudi champions Al-Hilal to the end of the season – though few expect (or possibly want) to see him back at the Cottage again.

Also out are Lee Cook and Hameur Bouazza, though you could be forgiven for not realising they were ever at Fulham in the first place. Cook has been on loan at QPR all season, a deal that has been confirmed as permanent whilst Bouazza has swapped one loan spell at Charlton for another at Birmingham. Of the more established line-up, Jimmy Bullard has been the subject of an enquiry from Bolton, though that would appear to be a non-starter, and, unlike us, there appear to be no flocks of vultures circling overhead waiting to pick up a player or two.

Quite how Fulham have reached 9th spot is a bit of a mystery. They have failed to register on anybody but their own support’s radar in a sort of stealth attack on mid table. A look at their results gives it away a bit – they haven’t won much but have picked up points here and there. They have drawn 8 of their 19 league games this season, including six of the last seven since beating Spurs at home on 15 November. Of those six dawn games, four ended up 0-0 (Liverpool, Villa, Stoke and Spurs away), the others being a 2-2 draw at neighbours Chelsea and a 1-1 home draw against Man City.

Their most recent outing was a 2-1 win up at Hillsborough in the Cup and their last league win came at home to Boro’ on the Saturday before Christmas when they went mad and scored three. That seems to have been very much the exception to the rule and they have often struggled to find the net – especially away from home where their nine games have seen them hit the back of the net only twice. In retrospect Fulham’s position reflects their standing n the great scheme of things – they are there but nobody really notices or cares outside the immediate vicinity.

With no injuries to speak of and, at time of writing, nothing much occurring on the transfer front, we can probably expect a similar starting line up to that which snatched a last minute draw at home to Chelsea after Christmas. In goal that day was former Boro’ shot-stopper Mark Schwarzer and he will have two former Hammers in front of him in Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil. When Pantsil arrived he insisted that his name was spelt Paintsil and, despite attempts at student-style post-modern “irony” from some parts of the ground during his time at the Boleyn, that still remains the most interesting fact about the player, though his feigned injury in Fulham’s match up at Stoke comes a close second in the embarrassment stakes. In the middle they are likely to go with Hangeland and Hughes.

The one change from the Chelsea line-up in midfield is likely to be the return of the aforementioned Bullard who has a good partnership with Danny Murphy in the middle of a four man unit. Bullard, of course, can be a bit useful from set pieces and Murphy had a decent match against us in the reverse fixture earlier this season notching a penalty on the hour to set up a slightly nervy finish. On the right is likely to be Clint Dempsey, whose name might be daft but at least he can spell it. Dempsey got both goals against Chelsea and the midfield quartet will be completed by Sean Davies, whose career recovered from a move down in the world from Peterborough to Spurs, a double deal that also saw M Etherington esq make the trip from London Road to temporary obscurity before a better club took pity on him. Etherington, of course has now moved back down in the world by going to Stoke, though he’s still above Spurs.

Up front they will probably go with the less than prolific pairing of Johnson and Zamora. Johnson had a nightmare in the match at the Cottage, though there are those in West London who would suggest that his second yellow was unfortunate. It wasn’t and, in any case, the red card was more than deserved for the horror tackle he’d earlier perpetrated on Ilunga. Zamora has only scored once since his move from the Boleyn and I can’t work out whether to be comforted by this fact or worried that he will bring an end to the drought this weekend. I hope the former but fear the latter.

For us I expect us to be unchanged from last week as long as Man City don’t actually guess the magic number that is in the club’s collective mind for Bellamy. The last few matches have seen a renewed confidence, particularly in the case of the often maligned Carlton Cole, whose goal up at Newcastle was the work of someone who has realised that he’s not as bad as some have made out after all. Bellamy too has been looking on decent form and if the pair are both fit and available this weekend (Bellamy came off with a slight knock up at SJP) I can see them causing the opposition defence all sorts of problems in this one.

A win will push us further up the table and further away from the drop zone which, even now after a decent run of form, is still only six points away. Fulham’s away form has been less than impressive – as mentioned they’ve only netted twice on the road and, with Stoke, they are one of only two sides not to have won away in the Premiership this season. I’m therefore going to play the cautious optimism card on this one and go for a 2-0 home win, a result that would leave us a mere 11 points from the mythical 40 point landmark. Unfortunately a long-standing family commitment has clashed with Sky’s buggering about with the fixture list and the Percy family will be huddled round the television apparatus for this one – something that normally guarantees my missing something special!

Enjoy the game – on my behalf!

Last season: 2-1 Two fine goals from Ashton and Ferdinand livened up a an otherwise dull match

Danger Man: Jimmy Bullard – set pieces are always a worry with him – though honourable mention must go to Zamora who is due a goal by the law of averages sooner or later.

Look Out For: Anyone who looks like an oil sheikh. If they ask which one is Bellamy point at the fattest, person you can see in the crowd and remark how fit he’s looking these days. It might just work. (Note this applies to real rich Arabians only – not to Mohammed Fayed).

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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