Bolton preview

Tuesday 23 April 2002

This evenings match at Craven Cottage is a chance for supporters to show Jean Tigana that they back him 100% after nasty rumours were circulated in the weekends media.

Fans reaction to the news means that tonight's atmosphere will be hot - and Tigana can expect a fabulous reception from all four corners of the Stadium...

Let's take a closer look at this evening's Premiership encounter between two of last season's promoted teams...

The Trotters

To all intents and purposes, Wanderers secured their Premiership future, and that of a number of other clubs who were looking nervously over their shoulders, when they defeated and demoralised Ipswich at the Reebok a couple of weeks ago. Saturday's point against Tottenham gave them some added insurance against George Burley's Tractor Boys producing the most miraculous conclusion to a season ever, but it now looks certain that all three teams promoted last year will avoid the dreaded drop.

After being widely tipped as favourites to go straight back down, Bolton got off to an amazing start to the season, topping the table for several weeks before reality set in. The rest of the campaign has turned into the expected slog, but a finish anywhere other than the bottom three will be viewed as a tremendous success.

Manager Sam Allardyce was awarded a ten-year contract after winning the Wanderers promotion last season, and he has worked shrewdly this season, strengthening his team with loan stars that have not over-committed his club financially.

Form

The Bolton players had a two-week break before facing Tottenham, and in theory came back refreshed and invigorated. Prior to that draw they were off the back of a run that had seen them win three out of their last four games, one of which had been the crucial 4-1 victory over Ipswich.

The Team

Fulham fans will be familiar with Bolton's away tactics, although this season has increasingly seen them play in a similar fashion at home. Tuesday night will likely see the Trotters play with a lone striker up front, while a packed midfield will try to stifle the Whites and hit on the break.

Striker Michael Ricketts was on fire earlier in the season and was widely tipped as a contender for Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad. Since then he has struggled to get a shot on target, and despite still being Wanderer's top scorer with fifteen goals, he has recently been finding himself on the substitute's bench, Rod Wallace ploughing the lonely furrow up front.

Manager Sam Allardyce's most inspired bit of work has been in bringing French International Youri Djorkaeff to the Reebok. One of the world's finest players, he has been in magical form since his arrival in England, and he has surely played himself into Roger Lemerre's squad for Japan.

Defender Kostas Konstantinidis was missing from the Tottenham game on Saturday through suspension, but Gudni Bergsson returned after a four-match absence with a knee injury. Ricardo Gardner, Paul Warhurst and Stig Tofting are all still doubtful.

Last Time Out

In an eminently forgettable game in November, Fulham held the previously high-flying Trotters to a goalless draw at the Reebok, a result that kept both teams in mid table. Chances were few, as were incidents, but an away point against a team who had been topping the table was a welcome one.

The previous home game, in last season's First Division, was anything but short of incident. Fulham were twelve points clear at the top of the table, while Bolton, in second place, were nervously looking over their shoulder at Blackburn who were only two points behind with two games in hand.

Fulham, playing some exhilarating football, gave Bolton a ninety-minute battering. The Trotters played for a draw as though their lives depended on it and scored from their only shot on target. The Whites had numerous chances to win the game, and how the Wanderers escaped from the cottage with a point is something that will remain a mystery forever.

The game ended in controversy when Luis Bo Morte, clearly targeted from the off, finally retaliated after being on the end of some brutal tackles and was sent off. The bizarre nature of the refereeing that day has unfortunately followed Fulham into the Premiership.

Fulham went on to win the Division in grand style, and Bolton were promoted via the play-offs.

Not Many People Know That

Bolton conceded fewer goals away from home (17) than any other team last season. But you probably knew that already.

Team News

Fulham midfielder Luis Boa Morte will be examined by club physio Jason Palmer on Tuesday morning to decide if he is fit to play. The winger was forced off after just nine minutes at Elland Road with a knee injury and is doubtful. Midfielder Lee Clark (calf) is out until pre-season training in July.

Bolton's Greek defender Kostas Konstantinidis is available again after missing the Tottenham game through suspension. He could replace Mike Whitlow, who picked up a groin injury at the weekend and is rated doubtful.

Meanwhile Bolton manager Sam Allardyce reckons Fulham should be disappointed with their achievements this season after spending more than £30 million on players.

Bolton spent only £1.4m on new players following promotion last year and Allardyce said: "I think it is a compliment to us and what we have done that we are in similar positions.

"Staying in the Premiership is all that matters but if we finish above Fulham or Blackburn with their resources that would be nice. Every penny counts for us, probably a bit more than them.

"This season has probably been disappointing for Fulham because of what they have spent."

Fulham's main achievement this season has been to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Premiership survival may now also be judged as a success but at the start of the season Tigana claimed he would not be happy with finishing in the lower half of the table.

Allardyce added: "Fulham have not won as many games as they would have liked. The ultimate for anybody is goals. The rest of the team has functioned but they have not scored as many as they thought they would.

"Both of us are just interested in maintaining our Premiership status now and getting our plans ready for next season.

"They will probably be a better force next season because of the experience they have gained and the players will have learned a lot about the standard needed."

Fulham midfielder Sylvain Legwinski believes any pressure the players may have felt eased with their win at Elland Road, giving them a seven-point advantage over third-from-bottom Ipswich.

He said: "It was a very important win. I think we need to be more relaxed now. Even if we are not mathematically safe it will be difficult for Ipswich to survive and we have to work to get our confidence back for next season."

MOST SIGNIFICANT STATS

CURRENT LEAGUE POSITIONS

FULHAM: 14th 40 pts Best poss: 11th Worst poss: 16th

BOLTON WANDERERS: 15th 40 pts Best poss: 11th Worst poss: 16th

SEQUENCES / RECENT FORM

FULHAM: LOST LAST 3 AT HOME - all Prem NOT SCORED IN LAST 3 AT HOME

BOLTON WANDERERS:

SCORED IN EACH OF LAST 6

GONE 8 SINCE A CLEAN SHEET

POTENTIAL CAREER MILESTONES

FULHAM: Barry HAYLES is a double strike away from 50 goals for Fulham

BOLTON WANDERERS:

Dean HOLDSWORTH needs one strike to record 50 goals for Bolton

Nicky SOUTHALL is a hat trick away from 50 career League goals

If he plays, Michael RICKETTS will be making the 150th League appearance of his career (excluding Play-Offs)

If he is involved, Kevin POOLE will be making the 300th League appearance of his career (excluding Play-Offs)

NOTES

Both sides need a win to be mathematically free of relegation.

The first ever Premiership meeting between these clubs in the reverse fixture in December was an uneventful goalless draw.

FULHAM'S PREMIERSHIP RUN-IN:-
27 Apr - Leicester C (H)
11 May - Blackburn R (A)

BOLTON'S PREMIERSHIP RUN-IN:-
29 Apr - Arsenal (H)
May 11 - West Ham (A)

PREVIOUS MEETINGS: Played 59 Fulham wins 16 Bolton wins 26 Draws 17

HEAD TO HEAD NOTES

This is the first ever Premiership meeting of Bolton and Fulham at Craven Cottage.

The clubs drew their last two League meetings, one at each ground.

The last two League meetings at Craven Cottage were drawn, as were five of the last seven.

Fulham's last home League maximum over Bolton was 4-2 in the old League - Division Three on 16 September, 1986.

Bolton's only win in four visits to the west London club was 1-4 in Division Two on 21 November, 1992.

Fulham's Luis Boa Morte was sent off when these two last met at Craven Cottage in the Nationwide First Division on 4 March 2001. The game ended 1-1.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE - PAUL DURKIN (Portland, Dorset)