Fulham-Stoke City Preview

Jan 3, 2010 - 5:27 PM GEOFF McALLISTER STATS European Football Writer=

LONDON (SE) - Roy Hodgson is hoping to celebrate signing a new contract with a win as his in-form Fulham side travel to face a Stoke side desperate for Premier League points on Tuesday.

Hodgson gave Cottagers fans a welcome end of year boost by inking a new 12-month rolling contract last week, and takes his side to the Britannia Stadium looking to build on a run of just one defeat in their last six games.

The run, which includes the notable scalp of Manchester United at Craven Cottage, has raised spirits and expectation levels at the club, with talk growing of a possible top seven finish for the second consecutive season.

But despite their fine recent performances, Hodgson, who steered Fulham away from relegation after replacing Lawrie Sanchez two years, has warned fans to be 'realistic' with their expectations.

Hodgson said: "Firstly, I am delighted to have signed a new contract. It is nice they want me to stay and I've always made it clear I'm very happy here.

"Unfortunately, we must emphasise all the time that for us the important factor is to continue this run of years in the Premier League.

"We must be realistic that some years are better than others, not necessarily because we play much worse or work less hard, but because circumstances can contrive against you.

"At the moment we're in the top half of the table. Last year we finished seventh and it would be really good if we can keep that up.

"But we must be careful not to constantly raise the barrier because to do that we would have to change the fundamentals of how we work.

"We are trying to run the club in a sensible way and to use the chairman's money wisely.

"If we can do better than mid-table finishes we'll be busting a gut to do that but I'd like to think we will not sell our soul or alter our principles."

Hodgson will be hoping that red-hot striker Bobby Zamora's goal-scoring run continues as the Cottagers look to heap more misery on Tony Pulis' out-of-sorts Stoke.

Zamora has notched 11 goals this season already and may well be partnered by fleet-footed strike partner Andy Johnson, who made a welcome return from injury in Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup win over Swindon.

Stoke are in dire need of a goalscorer themselves, after a dismal run of three consecutive defeats and just two Premier League goals \2013 both in a home 2-2 draw with Wigan \2013 from their last six games.

Pulis admitted his side will need to strengthen in the January transfer window to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.

Pulis said: "We need a bit more quality in front of goal. We've lost our touch.

"We've also been looking for someone to control the midfield for us for a long time. Those players are difficult to get hold of, but we are looking.

"It's important we bring the right ones in, because we need to have the spirit that these players have got.

"The players have had a tough run of late and they could have dropped their heads they've had a right go and it's so disappointing that they haven't got their just rewards."






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