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Fulham at Wigan - Match Preview

last updated Friday 06th February 2009, 4:35 PM

Wigan have every reason to be confident of victory against Fulham on Saturday as Roy Hodgson’s away-day blues continue.

Wigan still remain the best of the rest – seventh in the table despite four games without a win following the late victory over Spurs.

Team Wigan Fulham
Games Played 24 22
Goal Attempts    
Goals 26 22
Ave Goals per game 1.08 1.00
Shots (excl blocked shots) 274 209
% Shots on Target 37% 43%
% Goals to Shots 9% 11%
Short Passes 6,458 7,686
Long Passes 1,445 1,370
Overall Pass Completion % 73% 75%
Total Crosses 623 469
Cross Completion % 27% 23%
Goals Conceded 24 19
Ave goals conceded per game 1.00 0.86
Tackles 602 506
Tackles Won % 74% 72%
Blocks, Clearances & Interceptions 1541 1427
Fouls 311 264
Yellow Cards 40 21
Red Cards 3 1
Opta Index

But, having played Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Aston Villa in that time, there is little cause for panic, and Steve Bruce is now looking at closing the four-point gap on sixth-placed Everton.

"It was a tough January, but to get five points after playing Tottenham, the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Aston Villa is fantastic,” he told the Wigan Evening Post.

"We now play Fulham at home and, if we can beat them, maybe our target can be to catch Everton.”

January was a difficult month in more ways than one for Wigan. Emile Heskey and Wilson Palacios left the club – along with the less influential Kevin Kilbane, Ryan Taylor and Henri Camara – and Bruce has had an unexpected rebuilding operation on his hands.

The former Birmingham boss has proved extremely adept in the market since arriving at The JJB Stadium, though, and, if new signings Charles N'Zogbia, Mido and Hugo Rodallega can hit the ground running, those departures may be swiftly forgotten. "I think our fans will be excited to see them in action," Bruce said.

If there is one significant problem for Wigan ahead of the weekend, it is fitness. Both Amr Zaki and Antonio Valencia are struggling with injuries, while Rodallega is set to feature on the bench again as he is still getting up to speed having not started a game since November.

For Fulham, currently ninth in the table and with two games in hand over Wigan, it remains difficult to feel confident despite a hugely encouraging first half of the season in which they beat Wigan 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

For one thing, they have not won a meaningful game at Wigan since 1992 – but it is their away form this season that could really spell danger.

Late wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Kettering in the FA Cup aside, Fulham have not won away this season and, in their 11 league games on the road to date, have scored just three goals.

They have, at least, broken the wretched run of form that followed Jimmy Bullard’s exit.

Fulham had not won a league game since the 3-0 win over Middlesbrough on December 20 – Bullard’s penultimate game – but Saturday’s victory has ended that particular poor run.

"We had a very important win against Portsmouth in our last match,” Hodgson said.

"In this league, every victory is so hard to come by and when you are a club like ours it seems that you play 38 cup finals, so every win is like getting a trophy.

"Coming on the back of the defeats at West Ham and the rather unfortunate loss at Sunderland, it was good to get back to winning ways and we now want to build on that.

"Once you get those three points, your position in the league all of a sudden looks that much more secure."

Perhaps crucially, Hodgson has finally moved to replace Bullard, with Giles Barnes and Olivier Dacourt ready to make their debuts against Wigan.

Source Robin Hackett at Setanta Sport
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