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Prematch Comment - Bolton v Fulham

last updated Friday 08th April 2005, 6:03 PM

Fulham boss Chris ColemanFulham Manager Chris Coleman and his men travel to the Reebok Stadium looking to pull further away from the Premiership drop zone and Coleman admits victory over Bolton might be enough to preserve their top-flight status.

He said: "Even if it's mathematically impossible for anyone to catch us, you can't relax. There are plenty of games left and we must finish as high as we can. If you finish the end of the season well, you normally start the next season well.

"We're six points clear of West Brom who are third from bottom. But they have seven games left, so there are a lot of points there to be had. They're on a good run but if they lose and we win, then it will be nine points.

"That's a lot of ground for them to make up. We have to go to Bolton and get some kind of result. If we win up there and results go our way, we will be nine points clear, so that could be the victory that keeps us up."

Brian McBride is set resume his strike partnership with Andy Cole after inspiring Fulham to victory over Portsmouth last weekend.

McBride has been the chief victim of manager Chris Coleman's insistence on using a 4-5-1 formation with Cole - the club's top scorer - preferred as the lone forward.

Coleman's tactics have drawn heavy criticism which appeared to be justified when McBride's arrival in the second half against Portsmouth last Sunday changed the course of the match.

"Brian has done a great job for us. He's not played that much this season but he's the type of player who is useful to have on the bench," said Coleman.

"You know he is likely to put in a good performance like he did against Portsmouth because he's such a professional. Now he's made a strong case for starting tomorrow. He took his goal very well.

"We used him and Andy Cole up front earlier in the season and it worked for a while. But then it wasn't so effective so I changed things around.

"I didn't play a new formation in the second half against Portsmouth because of outside forces - we needed a little bit of a change in direction and it paid off for us.

"I'm not going to tinker with it on the weekend as we won the game. If it's not broken don't fix it."

Portsmouth coach Joe JordanBolton Manager Sam Allardyce has thanked Chelsea for paying Bolton the greatest compliment possible by copying their style of play for Wednesday's Champions League win over Bayern Munich.

The Trotters boss has consistently been attacked for his team's long-ball approach, with critics claiming it is a throwback to the Wimbledon days of 20 years ago.

With his side occupying sixth spot as they head into Saturday's Reebok Stadium match with Fulham, Allardyce could justifiably argue his tactics produce results.

Instead, he merely points a finger at Chelsea's monumental midweek triumph, which left them on the verge of a semi-final berth for the second successive season.

"On Wednesday, Jose Mourinho decided to play direct off Didier Drogba because he didn't think the two Bayern Munich central defenders would be able to cope with it - and he was right," smiled Allardyce.

"That is exactly the kind of thing we have been doing for the past five years. The only difference is when people are describing our tactics it is a long ball, when they talk about Chelsea, it is long passing.

"I truly believe football at the top end has gone soft. For me, there is no greater sight than seeing the look on defenders' faces when they have been battered by Kevin Davies.

Allardyce could stick with the side which performed so creditably at Liverpool last weekend before eventually falling to Igor Biscan's late strike.

He is anticipating a far different contest against a Fulham side looking to continue their push away from the drop zone.

"Fulham are a very resilient side, who will fight and battle to preserve their Premiership status," said Allardyce.

"I expect them to try to hit us on the break, which means we might have to be patient.

"We cannot afford to let our frustrations increase and over-commit because it will just play into their hands.

"In Tomasz Radzinski and Luis Boa Morte they have two very quick attackers and Andy Cole is likely to take any chance he is presented with."

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