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HUGHTON'S NOTES

Posted on 31 January 2006  - 12:00

Chris Hughton gives his regular assessment of our forthcoming opponents - next up, Fulham at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night.

Chris Hughton gives his regular assessment of our forthcoming opponents - next up, Fulham at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night.

I WENT TO watch Fulham's game at West Ham last week and, as they say, it was very much a game of two halves. In the first half West Ham were the better side, they had good width and forward movement but having said that, they scored two fantastic goals and Fulham would have probably felt at half-time that although it wasn’t one of their better performances, they didn’t warrant being 2-0 down.

In the second half Fulham scored, made a couple of changes and they might well have felt over the 90 minutes they deserved a draw.

Most people recognise that they are a good footballing side, I think one of the best, a side that always plays a passing game.

They play different systems and started in a diamond shape in midfield at West Ham before changing it in the second half. They have creative players in Boa Morte and Malbranque, a very exciting player, and strong options up front.

I think they will go with a 4-4-2 system against us with two front players and it’s really how they line-up in the central midfield and wide areas. Against West Ham they went with a holding midfield player in Elliott with Malbranque in front of him and that meant the wider players, Boa Morte and Legwinski, played more narrow.

Niemi is a very highly rated goalkeeper. He’s been out of the Premiership with Southampton and unfortunately for him, the Premiership is covered more in the press these days and the fact he’s been out of the Premiership for a while means perhaps people are not aware of the reviews he’s had.

Wayne Bridge played at left-back at West Ham and I’m sure he’ll line-up against us. He did well at West Ham, it would have been natural for him to be a little rusty but he played well and got forward. They have choices at centre-half and at West Ham it was Bocanegra and Zat Knight. Rosenior played at right-back and the other options are Jensen at left-back or left midfield and Goma, who was on the bench at Upton Park.

Up front, Collins John came on as sub at West Ham and he’s been in and out of the side but they’ve also got aerial strength in McBride and Helguson, so they are able to play a passing game and capable of winning balls in the box.

I think McBride has done very well. He gives them very good options and is a good target man. Helguson scored a lot of goals at Watford and it was no surprise one of the Premiership sides picked him up. Boa Morte is one of the best natural left-sided players around and he’s added more to his game now, over the last season or so he’s played more infield and the fact that he’s had the captaincy says it all.

I don’t think they will be too different from what we saw at Upton Park and, as is always the case at Craven Cottage, we'll expect a very tough game.