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Fulham 1, Birmingham City 1: Another laborious draw

28 November 2010

I didn’t see yesterday’s match as my wife decided it was a good day to give birth to our daughter! ­čÖé

Imagine what shape Fulham would be if not for Clint Dempsey's prolific head.

So, with Fulham sitting on 15 points through 15 matches after coming back to claim a 1-1 home draw with Brum, here are a few thoughts going forward:

— With Moussa Dembele out on top of Bobby Zamora’s continued absence, Fulham (sadly) is in virtual “any point is a good point” mode. The Cottagers simply don’t have the firepower to assume they can handle anyone with a semblance of quality at this stage, even at home.

— As predicted several weeks ago, Fulham will be lingering right above or in the relegation zone come New Year’s. Four of Fulham’s six matches through Jan. 1 are away to Arsenal, Liverpool, Stoke and Spurs. Getting more than two points from those four, given Fulham’s general away form and the limited attacking options, would be optimistic. That puts significant pressure on the two home dates in that span: Sunderland and (especially) West Ham, which really needs to be three points. If Fulham gets six points in that stretch, they’ll be on 21 points through 21 matches, essentially on pace to hit or barely be above the relegation cutline.

— After a first 15 games filled with difficult home matches and variable road affairs, Fulham’s schedule flips now. In addition to the four tough trips in the next month, Fulham still have to travel to Villa, Man City, Everton and Manchester United, which are four more matches that Fulham will have trouble scraping more than a couple of points from.

— How difficult Fulham’s season will be could come down to the four games after New Year’s Day, which come before Zamora’s expected return but after Fulham can find help in the transfer window. They are home to West Brom, at Wigan and then home to Stoke and Newcastle. Good results there will provide a bit of breathing room, as the schedule down the stretch is not particularly favorable. An additional complicating factor is Fulham could be riding backup goalkeeper David Stockdale in at least the first three of those matches. If starter Mark Schwarzer isn’t sold in the January window, he is expected to be with Australia for the Asian Cup for most of the month.

As important as Zamora’s return will be, Fulham can’t count on him being anywhere close to last season’s form. I think what the team does in the transfer market in January will be the bigger news and will determine how nervewracking the stretch run will be.

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