Fulham eye miracle survival, plan extra defending session
10 March 2014, 11:34
London - Fulham need a miracle to survive relegation from the English Premier League but defender Johnny Heitinga still believes they can avoid the drop as manager Felix Magath plans extra sessions to plug the team's leaky backline.
A 3-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Cardiff City on Saturday left Fulham rooted to the bottom of the table on 21 points, four away from safety, and without a win in nine games.
"It was not good enough. We have to take a look in the mirror now because there are only nine games left," Heitinga, signed in January from Everton until the end of the season, was quoted as saying by British media on Monday.
"It's not difficult to see what went wrong, we conceded too many goals. At the moment, this is a team that plays without confidence and concedes goals too easily.
"I still believe in the miracle. There are still 27 points to fight for, and we play some of the teams around us, but to stay in the Premier League now would be like winning the Champions League for us.
"It does not matter how we survive, but we have to find a solution to stay up and it needs to be quick, because it is already five past midnight now."
Cardiff went ahead through Steven Caulker on the stroke of halftime after the visitors failed to clear a long ball into the box then left the defender to slot home a cross from close range.
Another January signing, Lewis Holtby, put Fulham level 15 minutes into the second period but Caulker headed the home side back in front seven minutes later before another cross resulted in a Cardiff goal with Sascha Riether diverting into his own net.
"I am shocked that we concede goals from corners because that is the easiest situation. You have time to stand and organise so I don't know why," Magath told reporters.
"We have to talk and in the next week we will have training sessions on defending. Especially now on corner kicks because that is the first time I have seen we are so bad from corners."
Fulham have now conceded a league worst 65 goals this season with Magath so far unable to stem the tide that begun under the guidance of Martin Jol and then his replacement Rene Meulensteen.
Magath was appointed last month having steered a number of German clubs away from relegation but admitted saving Fulham and ensuring a 14th consecutive season in England's top flight for the southwest London club would be his greatest achievement.
"This is the most difficult situation I have ever been in because you have a team that is not used to a relegation fight but we have to get used to it fast," the German said.
"If we do not change our style of play we will have no chance. We need to win all five home games, that's the most important thing. I think that could be enough."
Fulham host Newcastle United, Everton, Norwich City, Hull City and Crystal Palace over the remaining weeks with tricky trips to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur also to come.
Fulham came close to relegation in the 2007-08 season before Roy Hodgson was able to lead them to four wins in their final five games to stay up only on goal difference.
Now England manager Hodgson signed Norway international Brede Hangeland in the January window that season to help avoid the drop and the tall defender said it was up to the players to preserve their Premier League futures once again.
"Everyone is deflated, it's a bit like losing a cup final, but we have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and fight together, as a group," he said.