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Matchday 9: Fulham vs West Brom (Dawn of the Replacements)

22 October 2010

Here's a picture of the guy who's logged the most minutes on the pitch for Fulham this season: the team physio.

It’s funny what one match (and one questionable call) can do to both a club’s and a fan’s outlook.

Entering last week’s home match with Spurs, I was encouraged by the Cottagers’ battling start despite some pronounced injury concerns. Unbeaten despite just one win, Fulham had persevered despite a lack of firepower, scraping together the odd goal and the regular point. Then Team Luckbox arrived, tapped in one off a crossbar and then got the winner on a baffling reversal of an offside call, and suddenly Fulham had a loss and I was significantly more grumpy about a season that starting promisingly and now seems to be running off the rails.

The Cottagers head to The Hawthorns tomorrow lugging not only the albatross of a 22-match Premiership road winless streak but also an unwieldy infirmary list that is rapidly making them into a Championship-level side. It is fairly likely that Fulham will start tomorrow’s match without all six of its first choice strikers and midfielders, which creates both a complete mess of a lineup and the possibility that West Brom fans will see a lot of familiar faces.

Former Baggie Zoltan Gera, rumored to be headed to either Werder Bremen or Stoke City in January because of his lack of a role in Mark Hughes’ setup, should find a spot, possibly alongside Diomansy Kamara, who also previously plied his trade for WBA. A third former Albion player, the completely mediocre Jonathan Greening, (who somewhat comically said earlier this week that he wouldn’t celebrate a goal after scoring just eight times in five Prem seasons for West Brom) most likely will start in central midfield again, possibly with Chris Baird, who could return to the holding midfield role. The means Dempsey and … someone (Bjorn Helge Riise?) will man the wings, unless Gera moves outside and Hughes rolls the dice on the health of Andy Johnson (or the hobbled Moussa Dembele) or Eddie Johnson up top.

Whatever the lineup, it’s a mess, and it would be surprising if it is enough to get something out of a match at one of the early season’s surprise packages. West Brom are unbeaten at home and just got a magical 2-2 draw at Old Trafford despite not having breakout striker Peter Odemwingie, who may also miss out against Fulham with a knee knock.

Roberto Di Matteo’s men play an attractive style and I was looking forward to seeing two teams knock the ball around the park with quality intentions. Instead, I’ll get to see Fulham debut their curious green third strip, which if it looks like this mockup, may be OK. Sadly, it may be the most interesting thing about tomorrow’s match.

Prediction: West Brom 2, Fulham 0. The away malaise continues, injury-style.

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