Winning Spirit

Thursday 11 November 2004

It might not have been the most convincing of performances, but with the 4-2 Carling Cup victory over Nottingham Forest extending Fulham's winning run to four games, the team have clearly rediscovered the battling qualities that made them so difficult to beat last season.

The run has seen the Whites move away from the drop zone in the Premiership and into the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup, and defender Carlos Bocanegra thinks the improvement has demonstrated one vital aspect of the team - character.

"It was a tough game against Forest," Bocanegra said, speaking at Motspur Park this week. "And I think we made it a bit tougher on ourselves than we should have done. We just didn't pass the ball very well. I don't think we went into the game taking them lightly, but we didn't have our best game.

"But what we did do was show a lot of character, and we worked hard and battled, and that eventually got us our win.

"I felt that we were the better team overall. They worked hard, but we kept our work rate up and the goals eventually came. It wasn't good going behind like that, but as I say we showed a lot of character and battled back, and that's good for us.

"There's a spirit in the team that we feel we can win games now. We keep competing until the end and we keep going until the final whistle.

"This run is good for everyone's confidence and good for team morale. We needed a few of those wins - everyone was starting to get a little down on themselves. But now we've had a few good performances, especially by Norm who's kept us in a few games.

"So Wednesday was good; we feel confident and now we're looking forward to what is going to be a really hard game at the weekend against Chelsea. Hopefully we can get a point, or perhaps, with a bit of luck, steal a win."

Saturday will be Bocanegra's first home West London derby. Chelsea have spent a lot more money on the squad since he played in the 2-1 away defeat, and the current team is almost unrecognisable from that one. One of the new faces is Arjen Robben who has been hitting all the headlines in recent weeks - Bocanegra has had the dubious privilege of seeing the Dutch winger first hand at very close quarters.

"We played Holland with the US team earlier this year and Robben was quality," Bocanegra said. "He's just got so much pace. He was on the other side and basically I just got to watch him, which was a bit nicer than having to run with him for the whole game! But whoever has responsibility for Robben on Saturday, whether it's me or Volzy, will have their hands full.

"I played in the derby at Stamford Bridge last season. We didn't have such a great game, but they're a quality side and they've added a few more to their squad this time round. We know it's going to be a tough game but we've got confidence and we'll go out there and battle as hard as we can.

"I'll be up against either Damien Duff or Robben I guess, and they're not going to be the easiest two people to mark! But their whole team are solid from front to back, so we've just got to go in and make life difficult and basically make it an ugly game for them.

"If we can frustrate them, then maybe we can get a goal on the break. We've got so much pace up front with Andy, Boa and Radz who've all been doing fantastic for us.

"They're good on the ball, and sometimes you're going to put pressure on them and they're going to pass their way out of it. So we're going to have to get people behind the ball and put in a real good team effort.

"I hope we can keep this winning streak going and pull something out. It's a derby so you never know what's going to happen, but I think there's going to be a lot of energy from both teams and I hope that's going to be good for us and that we can go out and produce something memorable for our fans."