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Ipswich v Fulham - Match Preview

last updated Tuesday 29th January 2002, 12:39 PM
Fulham Manager Jean Tigana Fulham and Ipswich living up to their renowned potential would make this fixture one for the purists. Ipswich set the Premiership alight and earned the plaudits with their slick approach play last season, just as Fulham were gaining promotion to the top flight under what can be deemed Jean Tigana's 'total football' philosophy.

Not surprisingly encounters between the two sides have been notoriously tight affairs over the past couple of years, with the Blues' 1-0 victory at Portman Road in March 2000 sandwiched between a goalless draw and more recently, a 1-1 stalemate at Craven Cottage.

But the goals have been free flowing from the Ipswich camp since they turned the corner in December and it will take a resilient visiting defence to keep George Burley's marauding side at bay. The Tractor Boys have averaged a trio of strikes per game in their last three home league matches in succession, which all ended in victory and maximum points again could see them make substantial moves up the table. However, a heavy FA Cup defeat against Manchester City will have rocked the foundations somewhat.

Fulham are currently gracing the Premiership top 10 and remain unbeaten in 2002 - a record they will be keen to build on in Suffolk. The team who won just once and scored only four times in six outings during December have also stumbled across better form of late.

Portman Road
30th January, 2002
Ipswich Fulham Div
Games 23 22 23
Goals scored 31 23 30
Ave goals per game 1.35 1.05 1.30
Shots(ex blocked shots) 294 248 253
Shooting Accuracy 40% 39% 44%
Goals to shots % 11% 9% 11%
Short passes 6782 7370 6615
Long passes 2586 2436 2471
Passes 9368 9806 9086
Pass completion % 75% 78% 75%
Crosses 778 525 565
Crosses completion % 25% 26% 25%
Tackles 565 697 616
Tackle success rate % 75% 72% 73%
Goals conceded 33 22 30
Ave goals conceded per game 1.43 1.00 1.30
Fouls 330 316 355
Yellow cards 32 28 37
Red cards 1 1 3
stats from opta

Matchday Referee: Alan Wiley

After taking charge of 14 games this season, Alan Wiley is holding his own near the summit of the referees' chart having awarded more fouls than any other top-flight official. However, despite such a show of authority Wiley has only flashed his red card on one occasion, which implies a rationality in his decision making.

In the Premiership he appears to have been reasonably evenhanded with little bias between home and away squads. He has refed only one Fulham game this season when we played Arsenal back in September. He booked 7 players amongst who were Boa Morte, Symons and Legwinski all for fouls. He perhaps could have been a bit firmer with the Arsenal backline.
Ref's score sheet
Total Match
Games 14  
Fouls 476 34.00
Penalties 3 0.21
Yellow cards 49 3.50
Red Cards 1 0.07
Full-back Steve Finnan, currently ranked the best defender in the top flight according to the Opta Index, admits that hopes are high within the camp: "There's a growing sense that perhaps we're capable of aiming beyond our original targets for the season. The boss said in the summer that he thought we'd finish between eighth and 12th, but there's a consensus now that with a bit of luck we could finish higher."

However, the Cottagers may need to improve in a couple of areas before such ambitions can be realised. Despite boasting the third best passing rate in the Premiership they still lack a cutting edge in attack and have tested the 'keeper with just 39% of their efforts. The return of Louis Saha, who missed the Sunderland clash with a broken nose, should bolster Fulham's strike force on the night.

The visitors also come off second best in the tackling stakes and with both sides eager to stroke possession around, ball-winning skills could be key to victory. If Town can dust themselves down after losing to the First Division leaders then good old-fashioned determination may be enough to see them through.
Source planetfootball by Mark Willis
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