The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 1 April 2014 12:15

With six games to go, it’s not impossible for Fulham to survive but it’s getting harder and harder as each week goes by.

We turned in a decent performance against Everton on Sunday but suffered another defeat. We were unfortunate not to be leading at half-time but the name of the game at this stage of the season is to win matches, and sometimes it needs to be ugly.

Everton were there for the taking in the first half when they didn’t look on their game. But they took the lead in fortuitous circumstances just after the restart and that was a real blow.

We equalised out of nothing, though, and it was a fabulous strike by Ashkan Dejagah. From then it only looked like there was going to be one winner and that was Fulham but our frailties came back to haunt us and the second goal was a horrible one to concede as John Arne Riise had been caught upfield. If he’d got back into his left-back spot I don’t think the goal would have occurred. At 2-1, we were then chasing another equaliser and they grabbed the third. Leighton Baines was offside when he played the ball across to Steven Naismith but these things happen when you’re down there.

We’re on 24 points and I think we’ll need at least 13 more from our remaining games to have a chance of staying up. We certainly can’t afford to lose at Aston Villa this weekend.

I’m told Fulham will have nearly 3,000 away fans making the trip, with a lot of my friends amongst them. It’s been tough for the supporters this season - with the players we’ve got Fulham shouldn’t be in this position. But we have to take hope and heart because we did it before under Roy Hodgson all those years ago and games are there to be won.

I’ve seen a fair bit of Villa this season and they’re very hit and miss. They tend to beat the better sides and lose to the lesser teams and seeing as we’re in the latter category, hopefully that trend will continue. Christian Benteke was out of form earlier in the season but has found his feet again recently and that’s lifted Villa. He really is their main man. With him, Andreas Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor, they’ve always got a threat in attack. They’ve got pace and strength up front but their back four and midfield isn’t the best defensively. 

To beat them, we have to go at them. It’s no good sitting off them, it’s a game we can dominate. The Villa midfield isn’t strong and we need to show a bit of physicality in there and get the ball down and play to overpower them. That sounds nice and easy but that’s where Villa’s weaknesses are.

I know how the Fulham players will be feeling and psychologically it’s hard. I was relegated with Fulham once and twice with West Ham United. When you concede first, it can be a case ‘oh, here we go again’. So the first goal is so important when we take on Villa.

Hopefully we’ll get a good result at Villa Park to take into the next home game against Norwich City and my old mate Chris Hughton. I’m commentating on that game and Norwich are poor away from home. Every time they’re in trouble, they seem to pull a rabbit out of the hat and win at Carrow Road but their away form is not good at all. I don’t think Norwich will go down, I think they have enough to survive, but they do lack a little bit of belief.

We’ve also got a good record against them this season having beaten them twice, in the league and the FA Cup, so that should give us confidence.

There was a bit of transfer news last week in that Mahamadou Diarra re-signed for the Club until the end of the season. He’s worked hard to get back to fitness and it gives us another body which we’ll need in the run in. Hopefully he can play a part having been out for so long. Fair play to him because some players might have called it a day but he refused to give up and the hard work has paid off. 

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