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Fulham at Newcastle: Match Preview

last updated Friday 15th May 2009, 4:25 PM

Fulham strikers Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora return for the crucial Barclays Premier League clash with Newcastle.

Johnson has recovered from the knee injury that forced him to miss the 3-1 victory over Aston Villa while Zamora has shaken off his hip problem and is available to start.

Midfielder Giles Barnes is missing because of an Achilles injury.

Team Newcastle Fulham
Games Played 36 36
Goal Attempts
Goals 40 38
Ave Goals per game 1.11 1.06
Shots (excl blocked shots) 291 348
% Shots on Target 40% 41%
% Goals to Shots 14% 11%
Short Passes 11,253 13,076
Long Passes 2,145 2,187
Overall Pass Completion % 74% 76%
Total Crosses 829 736
Cross Completion % 21% 23%
Goals Conceded 57 32
Ave goals conceded per game 1.58 0.89
Tackles 701 775
Tackles Won % 77% 74%
Blocks, Clearances & Interceptions 1948 2315
Fouls 432 424
Yellow Cards 56 37
Red Cards 6 1
Opta Index - Tom Kell at SetantaSport
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson intends to delay Newcastle's escape act but expects Shearer's presence to ultimately inspire the Magpies to survival.

"All of us expected Alan to take the reins one day so it wasn't surprising when they turned to him,'' said Hodgson. "Alan is the iconic figure that was necessary for Newcastle in the situation they found themselves.

"It gave the fans in particular a huge boost because the idol was returning to his stamping ground. It probably gave the players a lift as well.

"His appointment has given the club a clear chance of avoiding relegation but we're going to do everything we can to make them stumble.

"Perhaps Alan will still take them to safety. The victory against Boro was an incredible step as they're out of the bottom three.

"The Geordie faith in their idol Alan will be justified. It's our job to put a spanner in the works but it will be a difficult task because of Alan's presence.''

Hodgson sympathises with the emotions Shearer is experiencing after guiding to Fulham to safety himself on a dramatic final day at Portsmouth last season.

"Being in that position is nerve-wracking. In training during the week it's not so bad because you're fully in control of the situation,'' he said.

"But on the Saturday when they take the pitch you're powerless. It's very frustrating, especially if you think the team has been well prepared for the match.''

Newcastle boss Alan Shearer will again be without left-back Jose Enrique.

The Spaniard has been ruled out with the hamstring injury which has sidelined him for the last two games while midfielder Alan Smith is rated at only 50-50 as he battles a thigh problem.

Obafemi Martins did not train on Thursday but is expected to be fit as the Magpies attempt to nurse him through a groin injury. Joey Barton is suspended.

Shearer has served warning that Michael Owen will make up for lost time once he ends his goal drought.

The 29-year-old striker has not scored since January 10. That amounts to a run of 11 appearances, two of them as a substitute, since a 2-2 draw with West Ham more than four months ago, which has sparked concerns over his form.

Indeed, there were claims the former Liverpool and Real Madrid player, who has lost his place in the England squad despite have 40 international goals to his name, is considering retirement, although they were vigorously denied by his representatives.

Shearer was quick to pour scorn on the suggestions and remains convinced Owen, whose contract expires at the end of the season meaning the game could be his last in a black and white shirt at St James' Park, needs just one goal to re-ignite his season.

He said: "I understand why the question has been asked about Michael because he needs a goal, just like every centre-forward needs goals.

"But once he gets one, then I am sure the rest will follow. We have got to keep on creating chances and if we do that I have no doubt about that.''

Shearer went through barren patches during his own illustrious playing career, which brought him a record 206 goals for his home-town club, and has no doubts as to the best answer to the critics.

The 38-year-old, who described the retirement claims as "totally ludicrous and totally untrue'', said: "Go out and score goals. The player has always got the last opportunity to go out and do the business on the football pitch.

"He always as the chance to have the last laugh. My mind will never change with Michael Owen - if you give him chances, eventually he will score goals, I have no doubt about that.

Three points, coupled with defeat for Hull at Bolton, would all-but end the club's fears of slipping into the Coca-Cola Championship.

However, Shearer is taking nothing for granted and said: "That would be ideal but we are relying on other results for that. We have just got to go out and do our stuff and then see what happens elsewhere.

"It's very important to keep the momentum going but it's also very important not to get carried away. We have got a great chance, but we will respect Fulham because they are a tough side to beat with a very experienced manager.''

Pivotal Player: Danny Murphy. Turn it on and Newcastle's defence will be left chasing shadows. 

Prediction: 2-2

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