Build up to Bury

Tuesday 5 November 2002

As Christian Damiano and the rest of the backroom staff prepare their squad for Wednesday's Worthington Cup third round encounter against Bury at Loftus Road, the assistant manager took some time out to talk over recent events on the pitch.

Of course, one topic has been dominating the headlines since Sunday's defeat to Arsenal - Jeff Winter's decision not to award Fulham two penalties. Whilst many fans were delving into the realms of conspiracy surrounding Mr. Winter and his recent displays officiating Fulham matches. Christian Damiano was reserved in his judgement of Sunday's man in black.

Instead, more content to focus on the performances from his players, Damiano was evidently happy with what he saw on Sunday.

"It was a great performance against Arsenal," said Damiano. "We played very well against one of the best teams in the country and Europe. Perhaps they were in a difficult position because they had lost two games in the Champions League, but they had still qualified so there was no big consequence.

"But our players had a fantastic game; they played at the same level against Arsenal as they did against Dinamo Zagreb."

Both of last season's encounters against the Gunners resulted in defeats for Fulham, with the Whites suffering a 3-1 reverse at the Cottage and going down 4-1 at Highbury. So, whilst Sunday's result wasn't what the supporters were looking for, there was clearly a marked difference in the resistance put up by Fulham, as Damiano explained:

"We saw a lot of progress from last season, it was the same against Manchester United. We have shown that we were very close to getting points against both sides this season."

However, progressing in terms of performance and actually getting results are two different matters. Speaking after Sunday's match, Steve Finnan was all too keen to point that fact out.

He said: "I suppose you can say that we've progressed, but you can carry on saying that for ever, until we get the points you can't really say that. Sometimes it's not about the performance - it's about winning, no matter how you do it."

And on Saturday, a win for Fulham is a must. Whilst the Premiership campaign has been interrupted by Fulham's participation in the UEFA Cup, the White's league form of late has been far from ideal.

With the last win coming against Charlton back at the beginning of October, Saturday's match against Aston Villa marks Fulham's return to 'bread and butter' Premiership encounters.

Looking ahead to that match; Damiano insisted that Fulham need to pick up the points in order to put an end to the recent losing streak.

"Every game is different but against Aston Villa we need to get a good result, it's very important for our league position and the spirit of the players. If we can repeat our performances against Zagreb and Arsenal, I think we will be able to come back with a good result."

Before that, Fulham are faced with a tricky fixture against Third Division Bury.

Having progressed through the second round at the expense of Bolton, the Shakers are a side who should not be taken lightly. And having come off a weekend win at Leyton Orient, Bury boss Andy Preece was relishing a second crack at Premiership opposition.

"The constant level of noise our fans made at Orient on Saturday was magnificent and made all the difference to the players," said Preece, looking ahead to Wednesday night's game.

"It was the same kind of backing we had at Bolton in the last round and, hopefully, we'll get the same for the Fulham match.

"There's nothing like hearing your own fans cheering you on for the full 90 minutes, the atmosphere really brings the best out of the players.

"It would be brilliant to get a result down there but we are well aware of how tough it will be. Fulham are one of the best passing teams in the Premiership and it will be a big test for us as we like to knock the ball around a bit ourselves.

"I know for a fact that Fulham have had us watched in every game we've played since the draw was made," added Preece.

"They aren't taking the match lightly and they probably see the competition as a good way of getting into Europe.

"They are enjoying playing in the UEFA Cup this season and will be keen to qualify for next year's competition."

Whist Fulham are weathering the current storm of fixtures thanks to Tigana's squad rotation policy, the fact that Fulham have just played two games in the space of four days could mean that the boss will be looking to give some players a much-needed rest.

Refusing to reveal the extent of any potential changes, Damiano was keen to point out that Fulham will by no means field a token side.

"We will field the best team we can for this match but, at the same time, we have to keep a good balance because some players have been involved in many games and we need to respect the fact that they need time to recuperate.

"We now have all of the national and international competitions ahead of us and this is the price if you want to grow and become a great club. We need to manage the squad and be well organised."