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Matchday 7: Fulham at West Ham

01 October 2010

Green's schoolboy error on Dempsey's shot at the World Cup helped hand the U.S. a crucial point.

Hey, remember this? The split-second of Robert Green’s life that spawned “Hand of Clod” headlines and tooth-gnashing all across England? Well, if there’s any intriguing subplot to Fulham’s trip across town to Upton Park to face West Ham United, it’s Clint Dempsey’s chance to launch more speculative 25-yard shots at the Hammers’ keeper to see what happens.

Somewhat sadly, that may be Fulham’s best chance to score as the hobbled Cottagers try to scrape through one more match before an international break that should see them return several competent strikers to health.

First things first, though. This trip to East London remains a valuable opportunity for an away win that has eluded Fulham in Prem play since August 2009, and it kicks off a month’s worth of matches that could decide whether Fulham has any chance at a European push. After next week’s international break, Fulham wraps up October with home dates against Spurs and Wigan wrapped around a trip to West Brom. Nothing in the Prem will be easy this season, but if the Cottagers have designs on a top-seven finish, they probably need to get at least seven points from this four-pack of matches. Things get much more difficult through New Year’s.

Given the lack of options, expect Dempsey to start up top again with Zoltan Gera, with the normal midfield foursome of Duff, Davies, Murphy and Etuhu. Diomansy Kamara and Eddie Johnson remain the most likely second-half attacking subs, with Dempsey likely moving back into the midfield to replace Duff.

For whatever reason, Fulham doesn’t play particularly well against West Ham. Though the Cottagers took four points from the Hammers last season, they only have won two of the last 14 meetings between the sides. West Ham has played much better in its last three matches, so even though their current lineup, with the fairly punchless Victor Obinna and Frederic Piquionne up top, doesn’t appear too imposing, this would be a match a wounded Fulham side would do very well to get three points from.

It’s not too original to suggest a draw, given Fulham’s 83 percent draw rate this season, but this smells like another match where offense will be at a real premium. 0-0 is too depressing to forecast, though …

Prediction: West Ham 1, Fulham 1

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