Albion welcome Scott Parker’s Fulham to the Hawthorns on Tuesday evening for another key Championship encounter. Baggies boss, Slaven Bilić, has urged his players to embrace the inevitable pressure that they will feel in this promotion run in, but also to “screw [the] Blackburn” result as there were plenty of positives to take into the final three games.
Both sides are in good form with the hosts having taken ten points from the last twelve, and the visitors all twelve, albeit that the reaction in some quarters to the Baggies’ draw with Blackburn at the weekend would suggest that they are about to collapse.
As I suggested in my match report, the Baggies used up one of their chances to drop points at the weekend and, assuming Brentford win their remaining three games, they can afford to draw one more game and still guarantee a top two finish. The Blackburn game should have been wrapped up inside an hour but poor finishing let Albion down – that is not something that has affected them too often this season, so it seems safe to put it down to it being “one of those days”.
The fact that Albion are creating chances, as they have done consistently in their last four games, should provide the confidence that they will take enough in the next three to ensure that they get over the line.
The more worrying aspect of Saturday’s match was that there did seem to be an element of panic to Albion’s play in the last twenty minutes. That is something that Bilić picked up on and I’m sure he will look to address this ahead of the visit of Fulham. I actually think the Croat got his substitutions wrong, particularly with the introduction of Harper, but that is something that I have not said before this season – hopefully, it is a one off.
Scott Parker’s team are enjoying a good run of form having emerged from lockdown a little shakily with defeats to Leeds United and Brentford. It was perhaps surprising that they managed to turn around their form without their talisman, Aleksandar Mitrović, who returned from a three-match ban in Friday evening’s victory over Cardiff City.
When the clubs met back in September, the Cottagers dominated possession for the first hour but it took a stroke of fortune for them to take the lead when Knockaert’s cross found its way into the net. The Baggies are a better side now, but they will need to be every bit as solid at the back to keep the division’s top scorer, Mitrović, at bay.
Most felt that Derby County would present a challenge last week, but Albion controlled the game superbly and won comfortably in the end. Fulham present a different type of challenge with the multiple threats of Mitrović, Knockaert, Cavaleiro and De Cordova-Reid but I’m sure that Albion have the tools at their disposal to get the result they need.
Fulham really need the win to keep their hopes of a top two finish alive, and even a top three finish could be considered a significant advantage given that whoever finishes sixth would be the rank outsider in the play offs. I expect them to come at Albion, and they may well dominate possession, but that is not necessarily a bad thing for Bilić’s team as was demonstrated against Derby last week.
Furthermore, while there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters should the Baggies drop another two points, a draw would not be a bad result in this fixture. The pressure would be on, but they should be capable of beating Huddersfield and QPR if they need to.
Fulham have the honour of being the first team that Albion beat in the Premier League. Megson’s side beat the Cottagers 1-0 on 31st August 2002 thanks to a goal from Darren Moore having lost the opening three games of their debut campaign in the Premier League.
Since then, the Baggies have recorded just two league victories over Fulham, the most recent coming in 2010 when they came from behind to win 2-1 with goals from Youssouf Mulumbu and Marc-Antoine Fortuné, a result that put Roberto di Matteo’s side 4th in the Premier League.
In the three subsequent meetings at the Hawthorns, two have ended all square while the Londoners won the other 3-1 on New Year’s Day 2013.
The Baggies most recent big win came when the clubs met in the third tier in February 1993. Ossie Ardiles’ team stuck four past the Cottagers without reply opening with a second minute penalty from Bob Taylor, with further goals from Ian Hamilton, Mickey Mellon and Wayne Fereday.
Albion’s record win over Fulham is 6-1, a scoreline they have achieved twice, the first in 1946 and then again in 1962. Derek Kevan scored four on that occasion, and it was the first of a run of five games between the clubs at the Hawthorns when Albion scored 22 goals and conceded 6 – the results were 6-1, 3-0, 2-2, 6-2 and 5-1. Football was fun in the 60s!
All competitions; most recent game on the right
14 Sep 2019 – League Championship
Fulham 1 (Knockaert)
West Brom 1 (Ajayi)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
22 Feb 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Vydra)
Fulham 1 (Dejagah)
23 Oct 2010 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Mulumbu, Fortuné)
Fulham 1 (Carson (o.g.))
Albion’s Record against Fulham