Birmingham City v Fulham

Sammy James 2nd February 2017

Fulham face their fourth consecutive league away game on Saturday against mid-table Birmingham City, the second trip to the Midlands in just three days.

Wednesday’s convincing win against Burton was a perfect tonic after two disappointing results against QPR and Reading. With just 3 points separating ourselves and the play-offs, consecutive wins in February could finally see us enter that elusive top 6.

Fulham’s patience on Wednesday was rewarded with another 2-0 victory, with StefJo grabbing his 7th goal in 12 games. Even though the goals didn’t arrive until the second half, Fulham looked extremely comfortable on the ball for the entire 90 minutes, and some of the attacking play was truly sublime. 2-0 has been the winning margin in our last three victories, but it’s surely a matter of time before we increase this substantially.

Things haven’t gone too smoothly for Birmingham since a much lambasted decision by City’s Chinese owners to sack the popular Gary Rowett and replace him with Gianfranco Zola. The Italian has failed to win any of his first 10 matches in all competitions, and as a result they’ve slid down from 4th to 12th in just a matter of months.

After their latest defeat at home by Reading, Zola was visibly frustrated by the poor form and said “this anger will get the reaction that we need to have”. Hopefully this response doesn’t arrive on Saturday.

Zola has opted for a 4-3-3 formation in his last few matches, with former Fulham winger Kerim Frei on the left-hand side of the attacking trio. Kerim was one of numerous January signings – this was Birmingham’s biggest transfer outlay in nine years.

Birmingham were the first side to defeat Fulham this season in an assured display at Craven Cottage, our efforts hampered by a red card to Michael Madl, who’s never really recovered his starting place since. Clayton Donaldson missed one penalty but then scored when given a second bite at the 12 yard cherry.

Their last 5 league results:

  • L: Birmingham 0-1 Reading
  • L: Norwich 2-0 Birmingham
  • D: Blackburn 1-1 Birmingham
  • D: Birmingham 0-0 Nottm Forest
  • L: Birmingham 1-3 Brentford

Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:

With two sub appearances to ease him back in after AFCON, we think Slav might give Floyd Ayite a starting berth on Saturday. His directness should cure some of Fulham’s ponderous play that has been creeping back in a bit during recent weeks. Who Floyd replaces is difficult, and despite a brilliant performance on Wednesday, we reckon Piazon may get a rest for this one. It’ll be interesting to see if new signing Gohi Cyriac gets a substitute berth at St Andrews.

Opposition View

Tim Arstall – Brum Radio

Going into this weekend’s fixture as a Birmingham fan is a bit like going into 2017 as a Top Gear fan. You know the team you loved is long gone and past their best, but you kind of keep watching in vain hope something changes.

Zola’s reign (of terror) has still yet to yield a win and this season’s target is quickly becoming the petty feat of finishing above similarly flailing local rivals Aston Villa, rather than actually reaching the play offs. For those of you who aren’t clued in to the whole scenario, our new owners Trillion Trophy Asia (TTA) wanted their own man to spend their own money. That and someone who their mates would recognise in selfies, hence the reason for Rowett’s premature dismissal. If we’re keeping the Top Gear analogy at least Clarkson was dismissed for assaulting a producer over cold soup, Gary’s only crime was actually winning games with a reasonably unremarkable side.

But as our famous anthem goes ‘Keep Right On to the end of the road’. I’ve always enjoyed games against Fulham and the 7 goal thriller of a victory at Craven Cottage a couple of years back still seems fresh in the mind. We managed to win the away leg of this tie back in September too thanks to a Donaldson penalty, although with our talismanic striker out injured goals are now much harder to come by. Blues will win eventually and I hope it will be a case of sooner rather than later; new signings like Frei and the second coming of Craig Gardner excite me, but we still feel like a fractured club who have lost not only a manager but also a friend for no good reason.

What I can say to Fulham fans is that the fans’ morale is at a point where an early away goal could turn things ugly. I’ve been chatting to a fair few who are adamant Zola should be sacked after barely over a month in charge; these things matter in a home ground that is usually a fortress of sound. The championship is a league that can see last minute dashes of form yield untold rewards of play off success though, so here’s hoping both Blues and Fulham have a great end to this Championship season.

Fulhamish’s Prediction:

On paper this should be a Fulham win, but the fact that City haven’t won for so long does feel ominous. It’ll be tight, and we can see City scoring but we think an important 2-1 away win is on the cards.

Match reaction:

Don’t forget to listen to next Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this game and also the Burton Albion match. Subscribe to the podcast on any of the following platforms (others are available):