After the jubilation of our long-awaited victory at Goodison Park, Parker’s side added a valuable point in midweek at another of our bogey grounds. Yet, all that hard work has the potential to be undone if we don’t take the 3 points tonight in what can only be described as a must win game…
It seems a long time ago now that both sides picked up their first point of the season at Bramall Lane in October. Since then, The Blades have been rooted to the bottom of the table, whilst Fulham have struggled to turn draws into wins. Despite their misfortunes on the pitch, it’s fair to say that in their own way, both sides have turned a corner recently. After breaking the record for the worst start to a domestic season, dating back to the 1800s, Chris Wilder’s side need just the one point to better Derby County’s lowest Premier League points tally. A record they seemed destined to beat a couple of months ago. Meanwhile, Fulham have become the draw specialists this season but performances against some of the top sides and an unexpected victory at Goodison Park, have given a potential route to survival.
With only 3 league wins each so far this season, you’d be forgiven for assuming that this one will end in a draw. But this is a game where neither side can afford to drop points, setting up what will hopefully be an open game with an all or nothing mentality. Sheffield United did leave Old Trafford with all 3 points recently, proving that anything is possible in this topsy turvy season and although we have our hearts set on the 3 points, we will need to be at our best.
Scott Parker has been reluctant to commit himself to games being must wins in the past but even he has labelled this as a fixture Fulham simply can’t afford to drop points from. It’s refreshing to hear Parker speak with such assertion as a win here, followed by a defeat for Newcastle tomorrow at Old Trafford would put our destiny in our own hands. An opportunity we can’t afford to throw away.
If you exclude the first 3 games of the season when our back 5 was completely different, our defensive record is phenomenal for a side in our predicament. We’ve conceded 22 goals in our last 21 Premier League matches and face a Sheffield United side who have scored the least goals so far this season (15). In fairness, our attack isn’t much better, as only Burnley, WBA and The Blades are more goal shy than us as things stand. Hopefully, Josh Maja can continue his bright start and we will put in a performance like we did in our only home win, against West Brom in November. That game ended 2-0 and I fancy the same score line again.
Assuming there are no injuries, I would like to see us keep the same eleven for the third game in a row. It’s proven to be a good formula in the past week, so continuity makes sense. COYW!
PREDICTION: FULHAM 2-0 SHEFFIELD UNITED
PREFERRED LINE-UP: 4-4-2
HEAD TO HEAD
LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- GAMES PLAYED – 56
- FULHAM WINS – 21
- DRAWS – 12
- SHEFF UTD WINS – 23
- GOALS SCORED – 91
- GOALS CONCEDED – 84
LEAGUE RECORD (HOME)
- GAMES PLAYED – 28
- FULHAM WINS – 15
- DRAWS – 6
- SHEFF UTD WINS – 7
- GOALS SCORED – 64
- GOALS CONCEDED – 35
BIGGEST WINS AT CRAVEN COTTAGE
- FULHAM 7-2 SHEFF UTD (1934/35)
- FULHAM 4-0 SHEFF UTD (1936/37, 1999/00)
- FULHAM 6-3 SHEFF UTD (1957/58)
- FULHAM 5-2 SHEFF UTD (1961/62)
- FULHAM 3-0 SHEFF UTD (2015/16, 2017/18)
LAST 5 GAMES
- SHEFF UTD 1-1 FULHAM
- FULHAM 3-0 SHEFF UTD
- SHEFF UTD 4-5 FULHAM
- FULHAM 3-0 SHEFF UTD (LEAGUE CUP)
- FULHAM 0-1 SHEFF UTD (FA CUP)
- FULHAM – DWDLD
- SHEFF UTD – LLWLW
COLLINS JOHN’S VIEW
Our level dropped in midweek and we struggled to match the energy of Burnley. So, to not play at our best and still come away with a point is not a disaster. We do need to make winning a habit if we are going to get out of this situation but looking at the bigger picture, 4 points from Goodison Park and Turf Moor is a good return. It’s all for nothing though if we don’t win tonight!
We looked a bit leggy against Burnley and I wonder if Scott will have to rotate a couple of players to keep us on the front foot. We also looked a little shaky at times defensively which is very out of character for us and I’m sure the players will be determined to put that right tonight.
Sheffield United need the win as much as we do, so we need to be careful not to lose concentration as I expect Fulham to have most of the possession. But this a must win game, so it has to be a Fulham win. I believe in this group of players!
PREDICTION: FULHAM 2-1 SHEFFIELD UNITED
BATTLE TO WATCH
JOSH MAJA VS AARON RAMSDALE
Football is a straightforward game which can be over complicated at times. Therefore, the battle I have opted for could not be simpler. Josh Maja proved to be the difference against Everton with two goals that on the surface seemed harder to miss. But it was his movement and instinctive attributes in the box that put him in a position to have those tap ins and these are the bread-and-butter goals that we have struggled to score all season.
Aaron Ramsdale has played in all of Sheffield United’s league matches so far this season, conceding 40 goals in 24 games and keeping just the one clean sheet in their 1-0 home win against Newcastle last month. Only Leeds United have conceding more goals in the Premier League (43). Fulham’s Achilles heel for months has been the lack of match winners on the pitch, with a lot of games fizzling out into draws. Maja’s main objective is to be that match winner on Saturday night, and as the last line of defence, it’s partly Ramsdale’s responsibility to prevent him doing so.
Whoever does their job more effectively on the day will give their side a very good chance of winning the game.
LAST TIME OUT
SHEFFIED UNITED 1-1 FULHAM (18/10/21)
If either side are relegated at the end of this season, this will be a result that they will reflect on regretfully. Both sides had spells in the game where they did not look like a side who were still searching for their first point of the season and it was Sheffield United who started brightly, creating several chances but failing to make them count.
As the Blades tired, Fulham began to dictate the tempo of the game and after several surging runs on the counterattack, Ademola Lookman finally opened the scoring with a superb solo run and finish into the top corner, much to the relief of Mr Mitrović. Our Serbian talisman had already missed a penalty earlier in the second half and as if that weren’t enough to damage his confidence, VAR then pulled play back to give a foul against him and awarded the home side a penalty. Billy Sharp did what Mitro could not and converted the spot kick, leaving both sides still winless but no longer pointless…
PLAYERS IN COMMON
FULHAM APPEARANCES: 50
SHEFFIELD UNITED APPEARANCES: 58
Gary Brazil, Michael Brown, Alan Cork, Danny Cullip, Jeff Eckhardt, Chris Guthrie, Jon Harley, Barry Hayles, Geoff Horsfield, Toni Kallio, Ray Lewington, Reg Mathewson, Kevin McDonald, Ollie Norwood, Paul Parker, Paul Peschisolido, Terry Phelan, Martin Pike, Bjorn Helge Riise, Andy Sayer, Richard Stearman, Alan Warboys, Gus Uhlenbeek.