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Middlesbrough v Fulham - Match Preview

last updated Thursday 20th December 2001, 8:07 PM
Jean TiganaFulham meet Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday and with both clubs averaging just 1 goal a game a goal fest is not on the cards. Middlesbrough have notched just one goal in their last five outings, while Fulham have merely doubled this tally during the same 450-minute period.

This is not to say that valuable points have not been mustered along the way, as both teams have proven resilient at times. Two goalless draws and a narrow victory over Aston Villa have prevented Boro from sliding into the relegation mire, just as a run of four consecutive clean sheets has kept the Cottagers in the upper half of the table.

Nevertheless, stringency at the back cannot be a permanent substitute for a lack of punch in attack and Jean Tigana knows that his side are floundering desperately in the opposition half.

"I think possibly we need some new blood, but I won't be going out and signing anybody right now, that is something for the future," he lamented after the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Tottenham. This marked Fulham's heaviest defeat since the Frenchman took charge at Craven Cottage.

Ironically, Middlesbrough have also averaged a rather lacklustre solitary goal per game this season and have relied too heavily on Alen Boksic to kill teams off. The Croatian has netted half-a-dozen goals
Riverside Stadium
22nd December, 2001
Middlesboro Fulham Div
Games 17 17 17
Goals scored 17 17 21
Ave goals per game 1.00 1.00 1.24
Shooting Accuracy 43% 37% 44 %
Goals to shots % 12% 9% 11%
Passes 6479 7735 6662
Pass completion % 76% 79% 76%
Crosses 285 382 415
Crosses completion % 22% 26% 25%
Tackle success rate % 70% 72% 73%
Goals conceded 23 17 21
Ave goals conceded per game 1.35 1.00 1.20
Fouls 257 250 262
Yellow cards 22 21 28
Red cards 3 1 2
stats from opta

Matchday Referee:
Graham Barber

Graham Barber is one of a select group of six top-flight referees who have awarded in excess of 300 fouls this term so it could well be a stop-start affair at the Riverside on Saturday. But with Middlesbrough and Fulham residing in the lower reaches of the disciplinary table, niggly fouls should be as about as hairy as it gets.

Mr Barber was the ref for Fulham v Derby in the Workington Cup during which he booked Rufus and Sean. He also ref'ed West Ham v Fulham when he booked Boa, Bazza Hayles and Andy Melville.
Ref's score sheet
Total Match
Games 10
Fouls 318 31.80
Penalties 5 0.50
Yellow cards 35 3.50
Red Cards 3 0.30
Disc points 45.60 4.56
and tested the 'keeper with more shots than any of his colleagues this season - the same sort of individual input that kept the club afloat in the top flight last year.

Barry Hayles has also hit six for the Londoners and as a unit Fulham have shown more ambition in front of goal than their hosts by unleashing an extra 40 shots. But the Premiership newcomers have converted just nine percent of their efforts - only four other teams have registered a worse rate this term - and this explains why Tigana may be forced to delve into the transfer market sooner rather than later.

However, if the current front pairing of Louis Saha and Hayles can forge a way past a Boro rearguard that has been breached 23 times this season then they may get a temporary reprieve, before more competition arrives. It took a Mark Crossley fumble for Manchester United to find a way through on Saturday, but Fulham have completed a quarter of their crosses and their crisp passing ability could see them through.
Source planetfootball by Mark Willis
Since 1998
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