Fulham return to the Cottage for the first of four crucial home games in March this Saturday as they take on a Preston North End team defying the odds and just behind the Whites in the table.
Preston have officially named the fixture as their ‘Gentry Day’ clash, which is an annual tradition for the club to remember those fans who have passed away beforehand – what it means in real terms is that their entire fanbase will be in suits and bowler hats – and almost 3000 will be making the long trip from East Lancashire to South West London.
What’s more interesting though, perhaps, is that there’s only one point separating the two sides and so this is 7th against 9th, with 8th place Norwich playing Sheffield Wednesday in 6th Spot. That in itself means that this is a crucial weekend for Fulham to pick up points and either extend their lead on the chasing pack, or edge even closer to that fairytale 6th spot.
Whilst Preston’s form has been good of late, Fulham can take heart from the visiting Lilywhites’ away record. In fact, the last time that PNE won away was on the 2nd January against struggling Burton Albion, which has to be a good omen.
That said, the return to form of Aiden McGeady, and the powerful presence of Jordan Hugill up front means that the Fulham rearguard will have to be on top of their game, and if the foundations are right, then the rest will follow.
Ben Pearson and Tyias Browning are doubtful for the visitors at the back, and Jokanovic will be hoping that his creative unit will be able to exploit the gaps that these injuries may leave to full effect, although whether he plays with a recognised striker is yet to be seen.
There’s talk of young George Williams being drafted into the squad in the absence of Lucas Piazon, and we think a bench appearance is possible, if Jokanovic wants width. His 11 goals in 11 PL2 appearances would suggest that the Welsh international is in fine form.
A big test for Fulham then, against a good Preston side who will have a vocal away support backing them all the way – a loud Hammersmith End and a good start would do nothing to help the Whites’ chances, in what promises to be an entertaining fixture between two sides who are not short of goals between them.
Their last 5 league results:
- W: Preston North End 2-1 Queen’s Park Rangers
- D: Wigan Athletic 0-0 Preston North End
- W: Preston North End 2-1 Birmingham City
- W: Preston North End 4-2 Brentford
- L: Cardiff 2-0 Preston North End
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
We’re not sure if Slavisa is going to plump for Malone or Sessegnon on Saturday. We’re hoping for Sessegnon, but think Malone’s experience might give him the edge with the gaffer. With Chris Martin not even in the matchday 18 last Saturday, we’re assuming we’ve seen the last of the big man, and we’re guessing that Slavisa might give Cyriac his first start after Piazon’s season-ending injury.
NB: Since writing, Ayite has been ruled out with injury
Scott Malone/Ryan Sessegnon v Aiden McGeady
The ups and downs of Scott Malone’s year at Fulham have been well documented over the past few weeks as his defensive vulnerability has finally been picked up on by the majority of the Fulham faithful. Ryan Sessegnon, on the other hand, continues to pick up plaudits every time he plays, with his performance at Bristol City again one that was assured and belied his tender years.
That said, whichever of the two plays on Saturday, they’re going to have a tough time of it against a resurgent Aiden McGeady, with the Irish international showing glimpses of the form that made him such a fan favourite at Celtic and Spartak Moscow, having been involved in 11 goals from 22 games this season, including 3 strikes in his last 4 games.
If Fulham can keep McGeady quiet, and our left backs can get a foothold in the attacking end of the pitch, there’s plenty of hope that Fulham will be able to nullify Preston’s threat and enjoy another win at the Cottage.
This is a tougher game than it looks in many respects, but we’re taking heart from Preston’s form on the road recently, and going for a 3-1 Fulham win, to keep the pressure on the top six.
Don’t forget to listen to Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this game and a whole lot more Fulham related discussion. Subscribe to the podcast on any of the following platforms (others are available):