Finnan expects

Thursday 1 November 2001

Fulham will meet their target of a finish in the top half of the premier league despite their disappointing start to the season, Irish international defender Steve Finnan has said.

Fulham raced away with the first division title last season with an exciting brand of passing football and expectations were high for their first season in the top flight since the 1960s.

But they have found premier league defences much harder to break down and have won only two league games and claimed just two points away from home so far this season.

Finnan, however, believes Fulham have matched every team they have met so far, despite results like the 3-1 home defeat to Arsenal.

"I am sure we can still finish in the top half of the table. We have been playing quite well -- we haven't been outplayed at all," said the 25-year-old. "OK, Arsenal beat us but they are a very strong team, but we have drawn too many games and not taken our chances.

"This is our first season in the premiership and we are still learning and we have found out that if you give a team in this league one chance then they'll take it."

Fulham ended a run of eight games without a league victory by beating strugglers Southampton 2-1 at Craven Cottage last week and face a difficult trip across London to face West Ham United on Saturday. West Ham have put together a fine run of results since being thrashed 7-1 by Blackburn three weeks ago with wins against Southampton, Chelsea and Ipswich Town.

Finnan believes their turnaround has been inspired by a desire to ease the pressure on new manager Glenn Roeder after an indifferent start to the campaign.

"They are a quality team and those sort of results like the one against Blackburn happen, but they are a one off. "They are frightened for their manager and for themselves, but they have won three games on the trot and they will be full of confidence now."

Finnan believes that the victory over Southampton could be the turning point for Jean Tigana's side.

"We beat Southampton and a win changes a lot," he said. "The manager is happy and the players are happy -- now we just need to concentrate on making sure we get the right result at Upton Park."