I’m pretty optimistic because I saw enough in the first game to suggest we can beat them, but the circumstances are entirely different and I think it depends on which manager takes the game more seriously with their team selection.
It’s possible to take the game seriously and make changes, and that’s the balance that Tony Mowbray needs to strike.
We can’t afford to lose any of our first choice attackers to injury and I’d be tempted to give both Amad and Jack Clarke the night off.
Alex Pritchard’s return is timely and he can step in for Amad, whilst Jewison Bennette deserves an opportunity to show what he can do.
Similarly, I’d rest Dan Neil and play Pierre Ekwah on the basis that we need him ready for Saturday. I’d give Luke O’Nien a game too, possibly in the Dan Neil/Corry Evans role, and I’d start Joe Anderson in place of Danny Batth.
The fact that Isaac Lihadji didn’t make the bench on Saturday tells me that he isn’t quite ready and I doubt we’ll see him for a few more weeks yet.
The carrot dangling in front of us is the mouthwatering prospect of a game on TV against Leeds United, and I wonder how much that influences Mowbray’s team selection.
The likelihood of us getting through depends on how many changes he’s likely to make, and whilst I wouldn’t blame him for chopping and changing I think a part of him will want to go as strong as possible. I guess we’ll see!
Andrew Smithson says…
Clubs from higher divisions are sometimes less likely to struggle in replays because there isn’t the element of surprise and they’re on their guard a bit more.
I think the way we play means we can still give Fulham a game though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get through. The Lads seem fearless at the moment and they’ll see this game as another chance to impress.
It could come down to who’s most clinical with their chances and I’m expecting a fairly open match, so this could be the time to start Isaac Lihadji.
From what I’ve read, he’s able to carry the ball forward at pace, and as a bit of a wild card off the bench, he could be a good option to run at tired defenders. I’m unsure what his fitness levels are like, but obviously Tony Mowbray and his staff will have a better idea having seen him in training.
We’ve done well recently with those that are unfamiliar with English football and blooded them in over time, but Lihadji has good pedigree and once he’s found his feet I’m excited to see what he can do.
I also feel that dropping anybody at the moment would be a bit harsh based on current performances, so the recent arrivals will have to work hard to force their way in.
New players like to get going as soon as possible and should have a spring in their step, and in the case of Pierre Ekwah, his cameos so far suggest he can offer something a bit different.
I suppose there’s a little bit of room to tinker given how physical it was at Millwall and the fact there’s another game coming up on Saturday means that Mowbray could decide to freshen things up.
Ekwah appears to have the legs you need for midfield, and based on the reactions of the West Ham fans when he left, he could be ready to step up.
I know a slightly lower crowd is expected on Wednesday night and that there are many reasons for this.
On a purely personal basis, I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to attend, and I must say that I’m looking forward to it. We go into the replay with very little to lose and I’m hoping to see more signs of our development as a team.
I’m excited for it!
I think that sticking to what we know is the best opportunity we have to progress, as unlikely as that is in itself.
The Lads know what they’re doing alongside each other, but if we’re able to play the best of our style of football, we’ll be capable of beating Fulham.
Even though I know I’m far too optimistic about our chances on Wednesday, playing the new lads would diminish those prospects.
In summary, we should stick with a regular starting eleven and go out and win it!
Malc Dugdale says…
I’m quietly optimistic that we can progress.
We played well both with and without Ross Stewart in the first tie, and at the weekend we showed that we can score goals even against teams who are determined to stop us playing football.
Fulham will be more up for decent football than Millwall, so if we do what we did at Craven Cottage, we should do well.
Anthony Patterson and the defence will need to be on their game, however. Little mistakes such as the shot he spilled at Millwall will be punished against on Wednesday night.
On Pierre Ekwah and Isaac Lihadji, both are good options to have available, especially because in Joe Gelhardt’s absence. After the impact Alex Pritchard made at Millwall, I can see him being a big factor too.
Clearly Lihadji is the more attack-minded player of the two new lads, but he came to us partly due to being unsettled at his last club so he might not be fully to speed.
These boys could be good impact substitutes in the second half, but hopefully we won’t need that to get back into the game.
Our wonderfully creative frontline is capable of damaging many a defence, so ideally we’ll take the lead and use the subs to build on or defend it.
Whatever the result on Wednesday, the lads have done us proud. It’s Sunderland on the BBC, so let’s have it!