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Fulham away at Derby: Match preview

last updated Friday 28th March 2008, 10:20 PM
Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed
Fulham chairman
Mohamed Al Fayed
Striker David Healy is a doubt for Fulham's visit to rock-bottom Derby after suffering an ankle injury on international duty with Northern Ireland.

Hodgson is hoping Healy will recover in time to travel but the rest of his internationals appear to have come through their games unscathed.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller is set to continue in goal ahead of Ricardo Baptista as Fulham look to bring an end to a run of 18 months without a win away from home.

Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed insists he will "keep on believing'' that Roy Hodgson's side can survive in the top flight this season.

Fulham have failed to win on their travels for 18 months.

But Al Fayed remains confident that Hodgson can steer the club out of trouble at the foot of the Premier League.

"I know that we are in a difficult situation and a win would be an enormous step forward in our fight for survival, but regardless of the result, there are still enough points to play for,'' said Al Fayed.

"I want to encourage the boys to play with freedom and self-belief at Pride Park, to endeavour to get the best result possible to improve our current position. "Of course we are realistic about where we are, but it is important that we are confident that we can reverse it.

"Our fate is in our own hands and having spoken to many of the players I know that they remain focused on the challenge ahead and committed to keeping Fulham in the Premier League where we belong as a club.

"Roy has organised his team and got them playing better football than we were previously. Obviously we haven't scored enough goals recently and of course that is something that we need to improve if we are to be in with a chance of survival.

"Again I am convinced that we can do that. I have said it before - no task is insurmountable and this one is no different.

"We still have enough games left to change our own fortunes and I believe that we can, and until such time that it is not mathematically possible for us to remain a Premier League team, I will keep on believing.''

Derby are waiting on the fitness of defender Jay McEveley ahead of their Premier League game against Fulham. The left-back returned from international duty with a dead leg but Derby are hopeful he will recover in time to play.

Tyrone Mears is on his way back after an operation on his left shin but will not be involved and Alan Stubbs is still out with a calf injury - but goalkeeper Roy Carroll and midfielder Mile Sterjovski will play after recovering from groin injuries which forced them to withdraw this week from international duty.

Derby's relegation from the Barclays Premier League could be confirmed against Fulham, but manager Paul Jewell is already planning the club's return to the top flight.

The first relegation of Jewell's managerial career is only a matter of when, not if, and Derby will be down if they lose and either Birmingham or Bolton win.

Jewell is still looking for his first league win since he replaced Billy Davies and knows that a Fulham team without an away victory all season gives him a good chance to break his duck.

"I've never had a relegation as a manager and it isn't pleasant,'' Jewell said.

"But I've had two promotions from the Championship so I know what it takes and I've never been more determined in my life to see a job through as I am with this one.

"I think Fulham will see this as a game they must win but they haven't got a great away record and we should take some confidence from that.

"Our only objective is to get past 16 points for the season but if we do go down against Fulham and come straight back next year, I will settle for that.''

Jewell admits the jury is still out on some of his squad but there is no doubt that there will be plenty more comings and goings before next season.

"From next season, there will be no grey areas,'' he said.

"This will be a vibrant place to come and work but, for me, there are too many grey areas at the moment. I want to make it black and white, just like the colours we play in.''

Source soccernet
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