Saturday afternoon sees North End travel down to London to face Fulham at Craven Cottage. A few thousand Preston fans will be making the journey down south with many taking the boat down The Thames as is the tradition.
Alex Neil’s side endured a tough evening on Tuesday, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to league leaders West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Callum Robinson was in outstanding form, which was almost heartbreaking to see but at the same time, I’m glad he’s showing he is too good for this league.
He contributed to both goals, could have scored himself if it wasn’t for a top display by Declan Rudd and some would argue that he effectively got Darnell Fisher sent off.
Alex Neil confirmed that club have appealed the red card, and this afternoon it was confirmed that their appeal was successful so Darnell will be eligible for selection on Saturday.
📝 #pnefc have been successful in the appeal of Darnell Fisher’s red card.
Following a successful claim of wrongful dismissal, his three-match suspension has been removed with immediate effect.
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) February 27, 2020
We were second in the form table based on the previous 6 games, sat just behind West Brom, heading into the game on Tuesday night. A disappointing result for us on the night but it was another night where results, on the whole, went for us in the midweek. Having said that we could do with getting at least a point from Fulham.
Of course, this is going to be a very tough game. Fulham have got arguably one of the strongest squads in the division and we know all about their main marksman…
They most probably have the best striker in Aleksandar Mitrovic. He’s scored 22 goals in 31 Championship games this season, as well as bagging 10 goals for Serbia in European Championship qualification.
North End know all too well about Mitrovic; he has an incredible record against us even going back to his time at Newcastle United. But, more recently, he has 3 goals in his last 2 games for Fulham against us. We will need our defence to be on top form to stop him this time around.
On Wednesday against Swansea City, Scott Parker started with Bobby Reid behind Mitrovic, and Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Cavaleiro on the wings. It’s a potent attack to say the least.
Tom Cairney in the middle of the park is the other one to keep an eye out for. Even though he’s not having his best season so far this season, he’s still capable of scoring from range or picking out a defence-splitting pass to open us up at the back.
This week, we welcome back Jack Collins of Bleacher Report and one of the folks from the Fulhamish podcast. You can find Jack on twitter here – @jackjcollins. He’s worth a follow if not for the Fulham take on things, just from a general football point of view.
Without further ado, it’s over to Jack…
Grinding our way along is perhaps the phrase that sums up Fulham’s season best. It seems weird to say, considering we’re third and just five points behind the automatic spots, but there’s a pervading sense that Scott Parker just isn’t getting the best out of the Fulham squad that he has at his disposal.
And yet, with the teams around us dropping points just as frequently as we are, Fulham remain in the box seat for the chasing pack, which is as confusing to us as it must be to everyone else. Losses to Barnsley and Hull at home juxtapose confusingly with a win over Leeds and doubles over Blackburn and Swansea.
There’s still a small but significant chance that Fulham could end up catching one of the top two, and that’s clearly the aim, but it’s not inconceivable either that we could end up outside of the playoff spots. It’s a strange league this year, but that’s the Championship.
If you were to push me for a prediction, I think Fulham will finish in the playoff spots, but it doesn’t feel like our year right now. Without Mitrovic, we’d be an absolute mess, but when you have the best striker in the division, anything can happen – every game feels like a lottery right now!
My prediction for the XI on Saturday is a 4-2-3-1 as follows: Rodak; Bryan, Ream, Hector, Odoi; Arter, Cairney; Kamara, Reid, Cavaleiro; Mitrovic.
I also think it’ll end all square at Craven Cottage, too. I’ll say – Fulham 2-2 Preston.
After the defeat against West Brom, we could do with getting something from this game. We need to keep the momentum going and hopefully stay in touch with Fulham, as well as Brentford and Nottingham Forest.
If we can do that and then try to increase the gap over Bristol City who have lost their last three then we’ll be in a good position heading into the last 10 games of the season.
Our recent record against Fulham is pretty poor actually. Obviously there was quite a gap when they were enjoying Premier League football, but we have only won one of our last eight games against The Cottagers with that win coming at Deepdale earlier in the season.
We’ve scored in our last nine games against Fulham though, and back in October 2017 we really should have come away with a win. At half time we were 2-0 up after early goals from Seani Maguire and Jordan Hugill and were 2nd in the table at that point. Fulham claimed a point though after a late error from Chris Maxwell.
Despite how strong Fulham are, they’ve had a few strange results in this season, most notably the recent 3-0 home defeat to Barnsley. I reckon if we score first they may panic, but it’s important we don’t concede early as we did in the West Brom game on Tuesday night. It’ll be tight but I reckon we’ll come away with a 1-1 draw.
Sean Maguire was a bit of a passenger in the West Brom game again, however, he does work well with our pressing tactics away from home. Despite that though, I think he may go with Jayden Stockley for this one.
Josh Harrop had a tight hamstring on Tuesday, whilst Scott Sinclair was dropped to the bench. It’s a hard one to try and predict but I’m going to go with the following XI in a 4-2-3-1: Rudd; Rafferty, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Pearson, Browne; Barkhuizen, Johnson, Sinclair; Stockley.
Harrop and Nugent may well get the nod for this one, and Paul Gallagher could be in with a shout but I can’t see any of the midfield dropping out for him. As I said, it’s a hard one to call, especially on the back of 2 games already played in the week.
How do you think the game will pan out? Let us know over on our twitter page – @fromthefinney.
Finally, if you haven’t yet listened to the latest episode of From the Finney Meets… Andrew Lonergan, give it a listen below.