Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunderland v Fulham: Leaving Home

After our dominating 3-0 victory over Bolton inside the glowing confines of Craven Cottage, Fulham has to head out into the dark woods of another away game. The Cottagers head north on Saturday to face an injury-riddled Sunderland team that picked up their first victory since January 22 last week when they beat Wigan. Its been the same question all season: can we take the good things that we show at the Cottage and take them on the road? Its been a miserable, constant pattern.

In January, we beat West Brom 3-0 at home and then drew at Wigan 1-1. We beat Stoke 2-0 at home and then lost at Anfield 1-0. We beat Tottenham 4-0 in the FA Cup and drew Newcastle 1-1 both at home and then drew Aston Villa 2-2 away. In March, we looked good at the Cottage when we beat Blackburn 3-2 and then lost 2-1 at Goodison Park. Finally, after beating Blackpool 3-0 at home earlier this month, we lost 2-0 at Old Trafford and drew Wolves at Molyneux. 

It has been a puzzle that is driving all Fulham fans nuts, including me. We have played some very good football inside the Cottage, but it seems that the moment the team leaves the banks of the Thames, they lose their ability. Its an issue that must be overcome if the club hopes to make the next step. If we hope to consistently qualify for European competition or win some domestic silverware, we have to take more points away. Its as simple as that.

I'm hoping this game against Sunderland will be a good starting point for us turning around our away form heading into next season. If we can't beat a team in miserable form that is absolutely rocked with injuries simply because we aren't playing in the Cottage, we are going to find it difficult to raise the level of our competition. 

To take the 3 points at the Stadium of Light, we are going to need another solid performance from the midfield, especially defensively. The midfield players were dominant against Bolton. They closed down any attack that they tried to make and gave them fewer passing lanes, making it easy for the back four to make interceptions. The opposite fixture in this matchup ended up as a goalless draw. I doubt this one will end the same. 

My prediction for the game: I think we'll take the points. This could be wishful thinking, but we have the quality, the momentum and Sunderland has the injuries. They are going to struggle immensely up front with no true striker on the pitch for them due to injuries. Hangeland, Hughes and Schwarzer ought to be able to keep their attack in check. With Zamora, Johnson, Dembele and Dempsey looking good, its hard to imagine us leaving the pitch without a goal. I tip us for a victory: 0-1.

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