Basement battle as Fulham take on Hull in an early season six-pointer

Fulham v Hull, Premier League, October 19, 2009

Fulham 8/13; Draw 11/4; Hull 9/2

Often teams enjoy Monday night football in the Premier League as it gives them a couple of extra days rest to prepare for the match. But, after a couple of weeks without football for struggling Fulham (12/1 to go down) and Hull (4/7 to go down), you can expect that both sides will be chomping at the bit to return to the field and start an upturn in fortunes.

Fulham arguably exceeded expectations last season as Roy Hogdson’s charges finished in a creditable seventh spot ensuring qualification to this year’s Europa League (Fulham are 40/1 to win the Europa League). Yet, as so often happens in such situations, the Cottagers have struggled with second-season syndrome, with the West Londoners currently occupy lowly 15th spot in the division after seven games.

Fulham’s league position though is somewhat misleading. The Cottagers have begun their European adventure on the front foot, chalking up a couple of wins in the process, but their recent fixtures in the league have proved much tougher with Fulham narrowly losing 2-1 away at Wolves, 1-nil at home to Arsenal before picking up a plucky point in a 2-all draw at West Ham in their last league outing.

At this early stage of the season, Hodgson, as experienced and level-headed as any manager in the Premier League, will not be throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Yet the visit of Hull is definitely a winnable match for Fulham, and it’s time for the tide to turn.

Currently goal-scoring is proving a big problem for Fulham (17/2 on a goalless draw), the Cottagers have failed to score in three of their seven league games. Main-man Andrew Johnson (9/2 to score first) has yet to open his Premier League account and if you look around the side there are not too many players who are going to weigh in with a large amount of goals. While Clint Dempsey (7/4 to score) is also still to break his duck this season and Bobby Zamora looks to add to his solitary strike so far this term, the likes of Diomansy Kamara (5/1 to score last), Erik Nevland and newbie David Elm are all waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine.

Matters wont be helped on Monday by the absences of Simon Davies (ankle), Damien Duff (calf) and David Stockdale (knee), while Kagisho Dikgacoi, sent off on his debut at West Ham, begins a three-match ban.

But if Fulham have problems, Hull’s are worse.

Languishing down in 18th place, Phil Brown has been under almost constant pressure since the new season got underway. But the shoots of optimism emerged after the Tigers beat Wigan just before the international break and, coupled with the return of Jimmy Bullard (11/2 to score) from injury, things are starting to look a little bit brighter for the perma-tanned manager.

While Bullard’s return against his former employers will catch most of the headlines, if Hull are going to threaten their hosts on Monday then their danger man will be the mercurial Brazilian, Geovanni (10/3 to score). Whether scoring himself or teeing up others, Geovanni has had a direct hand in four of Hull’s last five league goals and remains the player who looks most likely to open up the opposition.

That said, Hull, having brought in a host of new players over the summer, have several new attacking options this season. Brown has to work out which of Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (20/1 to score first & Hull win), Kamel Ghilas, Daniel Cousin and/or Jozy Altidore (9/1 to score first) should form his tried and trusted forward-line. While further back in midfield there are again plenty of options as Peter Halmosi, Kevin Kilbane, Dean Marney, Seyi Olofinjana and arguably their player of the season so far – Stephen Hunt – all battle it out for a spot in the middle of the park.

On the flipside, Hull look to prove that they can cope with the loss of Michael Turner at the back as the Tigers have conceded a whopping 20 goals, including 13 on the road, already this season. (Hull are 4/1 to keep a clean sheet.)

Several statistics also cast a dark cloud over Hull’s trip to Fulham. The Tigers have only won away from home once in the Premier League in 2009, and although this came at Craven Cottage last season, another three points is hugely doubtful. And likelihood shrinks further when considering that it’s been 38 long matches since Hull won back-to-back league matches.

101gg predicts: Fulham 1 – Hull 0 (5/1)

Fulham 8/13; Draw 11/4; Hull 9/2

Full match odds here.