If there is one side that seems to have the measure of us in recent times it has to be Fulham. Top four excluded of course.
Last season brought a return of one point from the two games as the two sides played out a 0-0 draw at St James’ Park with Fulham winning the return at Craven Cottage 1-0 thanks to a strike from Newcastle old boy Damien Duff.
However it was an improvement on our fortunes in the relegation campaign when we lost 2-1 at Craven Cottage and 1-0 on home turf in our final home game of the season. Howard Webb has a lot to answer for disallowing a perfectly good Mark Viduka goal that afternoon. I’ve watched it many times since and I still can’t see what the problem was.
That aside, you have to go back to 2008 to find our last victory against the Cottagers – a 2-0 win in July of that year which followed a 1-0 victory for Newcastle at Craven Cottage, with the recently departed Joey Barton grabbing an injury time winner from the penalty spot if my memory serves me correctly.
Hopefully this time around will be different although fans will understandably be anxious to see the response of the players after the departure of yet another player in the shape of Joey Barton. They will have to pick themselves up quickly and regroup, and the game on Sunday will provide the perfect opportunity for them to do just that in front of a home crowd armed with scarves attempting to bring back the atmosphere to St James’ Park.
Mike Williamson and Hatem Ben Arfa are both out through injury whilst Shola Ameobi and Steve Harper are both rated as doubtful due to respective hip and knee injuries.
Cheik Tiote will return to the side along with Jonas Gutierrez after both were rested against Scunthorpe in midweek and obviously we’ll need to bring someone in to replace QPR’s #17 Joey Barton. With that in mind I’d probably go with a team like this.
Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best, Demba Ba.
Obviously you could play Sylvain Marveaux instead of Obertan although I feel that playing him too much after an injury is asking for trouble, especially when you consider that he is probably knackered after playing the full 120 minutes at Scunthorpe on Thursday.
As for the strikers, well you can take your pick really. I’ve put Best in there but it could easily be Peter Lovenkrands in truth. I just happen to think that Best is a little better than Lovenkrands. I’ve also put Demba Ba in there on the basis that he needs games to get his fitness and form back so has to get playing time somewhere along the line.
John Arne Riise will miss the match after being stretchered off in Fulham’s Europa League qualifying tie on Thursday with a leg injury. Simon Davies has been ruled out for five months so, fairly obviously, won’t be included. Bobby Zamora is doubtful for the match.
Fulham lost their last league match 2-0 at Wolves last weekend where they lined up with a teamsheet of:
Mark Schwarzer, John Arne Riise, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos, Arran Hughes, Damien Duff, Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu Pajtim Kasami, Clint Dempsey, Andy Johnson.
Facts and stats
Fulham have the edge in matches between the two sides having come out on top 26 times to Newcastle’s 24 victories. There have been 13 draws between the two sides. A win for Newcastle would signal our best start to a Premier League season since 1995.
Cheik Tiote avoided being booked for the first time in six matches last week against Sunderland. Must do better.
This will be Fulham’s 11th competitive game of the season. They have kept 10 clean sheets in their last 15 games although 64% of goals that they have conceded since the start of last season have been in the first half of a game.
Steven Taylor has made more defensive blocks (six) than any other Premier league player so far this season, and if the defence can manage another clean sheet it will be our best defensive start to a league campaign for 50 years.
Whilst I recognise that Fulham are in European competition it’s worth pointing out that they didn’t qualify through league position. Essentially it doesn’t matter as I’d take the Fair Play route into Europe aswell if offered, although with Cheik Tiote in the side I’d say our chances of qualifying that way are slim to none.
This is one of those games where we fell over last season so it will be interesting to see what happens. In my view Fulham are in that group of teams that we should be looking to beat at St James’ Park although in reality it doesn’t always work out like that.
A win would be great though and would be just the tonic to end another bad week with and would send us into the international break with a points return of seven from nine available. If you’d have offered me that at the start I’d have snapped you hand off. Let’s wait and see though. We need to score goals first.
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 28th August, 2011
Time: 1pm kick-off
Venue: St James’ Park
Referee: Kevin Friend