Three points are the only real Valentine’s gift that Fulham fans want, as the Whites take on Nottingham Forest on the lovers’ holiday.
Neeskens Kebano’s last-gasp winner against Wigan rescued a vital three points for Fulham on Saturday afternoon, but a continued run of form is a necessity if the Cottagers are to keep pace with the play-off contenders.
And home form has been good recently, with only one loss (to high-flying Brighton) marring the last ten home matches in all competitions, with six wins in that time. Fulham fans will be hoping that it can continue against Forest at the Cottage this evening.
Forest, on the other hand, will be disappointed at where they lie in the table. A good start in the league was followed by a disastrous spell over September and October where six losses in eight games saw them slip from 7th to 20th within a matter of weeks.
Inconsistency has been the name of the game, as a small November recovery was followed by a dismal Christmas and New Year period, with Forest starting 2016 just a few points above the relegation zone.
Head coach Phillipe Montanier was sacked in the middle of January, and caretaker Gary Brazil looked to have steadied the ship somewhat, taking Forest to three wins in their first four games and slightly addressing the defensive lapses which had been far too regular for the liking of Forest fans across the season.
That said, Forest then went to Norwich on the weekend and were thumped 5-1, although in their defence, the Canaries did score four wonder goals. They also lost their goalkeeper Stephen Henderson to an Achilles injury which will keep him out for the rest of the season.
Young academy graduate Jordan Smith took his place at the weekend, although it is unclear whether it will be the youngster or the more experienced Serbian international Vladimir Stojkovic who will be between the sticks tonight.
There’s also the return of Ross McCormack to think about. Wearing an unfamiliar No50 for Forest; McCormack scored on his debut against Norwich and even if it was simply a consolation, the finish was enough to remind the Scotsman’s critics that he is still well aware of where the back of the net is. If he gets a bad reception this evening, you wouldn’t bet against McCormack to find the target in these goals he knows so well.
Their last 5 league results:
- L: Norwich City 5-1 Nottingham Forest
- W: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Aston Villa
- W: Nottingham Forest 2-0 Rotherham United
- L: Leeds United 2-0 Nottingham Forest
- W: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Bristol City
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
After Scott Malone’s disaster of a ninety minutes against Wigan, we’re pitching for a recall for young Ryan Sessegnon who was fantastic against Hull in the FA Cup, and we suggest a starting berth for Neeskens Kebano might not be the worst shout to allow him to try and continue where he left off. Ayité misses out for us, but we’d be happy with either of our returning AFCON stars in the berth on the left hand side of attack. We’d ideally like to see Tomáš Kalas return at the heart of defence, perhaps partnered with Michael Madl.
Thomas Cairney v David Vaughan
Fulham’s talisman is the conduit through which the Whites attack flows, and with him in the 10 role, the Whites are clearly a much better side. His ability to pick a pass and unlock defences is critical to the Fulham attack, and this is made clear by the fact that no Championship player has more assists this season than our own beloved TC. That said, he’ll face a tough test of his credentials when Forest come to town, as in the heart of their midfield lies veteran midfielder David Vaughan. The former Welsh international is an assured and tough presence in front of the defence and will have his orders to shackle Cairney in an attempt to try and thwart Fulham’s creativity. If he can do that successfully, Fulham will find it far harder to click into gear this evening.
Forest’s inconsistency is clear to see, but their league position belies the fact that there is sincere talent in their ranks. Britt Assombalonga is a Championship goalscorer of the highest order, and with the additions of Zach Clough and Ross McCormack, there can be no doubt that Forest have matchwinners in the side. There’s doubts amongst the Forest fans about their ability to win when the going gets tough, however, and if Fulham can get going quickly it could turn both fans and players against each other. We’re going for a 3-1 Fulham win.
Don’t forget to listen to Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this game and also the FA Cup 5th Round match against Spurs. Subscribe to the podcast on any of the following platforms (others are available):