There is one last match in the Sky Bet Championship over the Easter period and it could be a big one for Fulham as they host Preston North End at Craven Cottage on what could be an evening of celebration on Tuesday night.
Fulham head into the match knowing that if they win it they will secure their promotion to the Premier League. Preston North End are playing out time on their season but everyone loves to be the party spoilers at this time of year. Unfortunately there is no UK TV coverage of this one so we’ll have to rely on the internet for updates.
It has been apparent for three quarters of the season and more that Fulham would finish in the top two this term and here they have the second chance to seal the deal. They blundered in their first opportunity when they saw a 1-0 lead turned into a 2-1 loss at Derby on Friday night and now in front of their home fans they will be eager to ensure they get it right at the second time of asking. Given how dominant they have been this season it would be a surprise if they don’t take that opportunity.
Fulham do go into this match having suffered successive defeats for the first time this season. I’m not sure I would call it feeling the pressure of getting over the line but there is no doubt that they will be unhappy with the way they are finishing the campaign when you consider they have now just won two of their last six matches. Ultimately reaching the Premier League is the main goal and they are going to achieve that at some point over the next three weeks.
Preston North End
Technically Preston North End can still make it through to the play-offs but you sense Ryan Lowe’s men have left themselves with too much to do. They probably had too much to do when he took over earlier in the campaign but there is no doubt that they have improved and while that isn’t going to yield any goods this season it certainly gives them reason to be optimistic ahead of the next one. If they can take Fulham down on their way to the end of the campaign it will only further prove they could be dangerous next term.
Preston head to the capital having taken seven points from their last nine available but the problem is that came after a run of one win in seven which saw them drop out of contention for the play-offs. This division is crazy and there aren’t many teams above them who are on the up so there is a chance that if they win out they could still finish in the top six but that is pretty remote. Overall though Preston have only lost three of their last 16 so they aren’t the easiest team in the division to beat.
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Marco Silva has not declared any injury concerns although he might be expected to rotate his personnel after such a relatively short turnaround from the defeat to Derby. Neeskens Kebano came off the bench in that game and could start here.
Preston North End boss Ryan Lowe will assess the fitness of striker Emil Riis ahead of this match but he is unlikely to have his captain Alan Browne available after he picked up an injury on Good Friday. Ched Evans could partner Cameron Archer up top.
I’m not sure whether I would say Fulham are baulking at the finish line but there is clearly a level of anxiety among them which will only grow the longer it takes them to secure their promotion. That might well be something which Preston North End can feed on and use to their advantage. Preston have nothing to lose here. Ryan Lowe is a positive thinking and a forward minded coach but he is realistic enough to know the play-offs are gone so his team can play with a bit of a freedom in this match.
I’m expecting some goals here. When Preston North End get it right they are a tough side to stop in attacking areas. This is a team who have been to Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and West Brom among other places and won this season and they have already held Fulham at Deepdale so it would be wrong to think that this will be a walk in the park to promotion for the Cottagers. However when it goes wrong for Preston it can go badly wrong as their 4-0 demise at Luton last month highlighted. I guess you can say similar for Fulham in that when they get on a roll going forward they are absolutely devastating but they have been beaten at times when you wouldn’t expect them to have been. I wouldn’t say it makes them vulnerable but it certainly gives encouragement to sides who have a bit about them. That makes me think there will be goals here. Fulham will want to go up and do it in style but Preston carry a threat so I like over 3 goals here.
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