After missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season Fulham must regroup and go again as they face Derby County over two legs in the play-offs, with the first leg kicking off at Pride Park tonight (KO 19:45).
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The Cottagers were hit with a double blow on Sunday, not only did they miss out on a top two finish but they also saw their remarkable 23-game unbeaten run come to an abrupt end following a disappointing defeat at struggling Birmingham.
The Blues, who were fighting for survival, outplayed Slaviša Jokanovi?’s side for large spells of the game and thoroughly deserved all three points to secure their stay in England’s second tier.
Derby County head into Friday’s first leg at Pride Park full of confidence after securing their play off spot on the final day of the season with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Barnsley.
The Rams looked to be suffering the standard end of season Derby County wobble and their place in the play-offs looked uncertain throughout April.
But two wins from their final three games helped secure sixth spot and set up a tie with the league’s form side.
If Gary Rowett’s side are to return to the Premier League they’ll have to improve on a record that has seen them fail in five of their previous six Championship play-off campaigns.
After finishing 6th it’s no surprise to see Derby as the rank outsiders for promotion, and they’re available at 5/1 to be playing Premier League football next season.
Derby are expected to field a similar eleven that beat Barnsley on Sunday as Ikechi Anya and Sam Winnall remain sidelined by injury.
Fulham meanwhile will assess the fitness of Matt Targett nearer the time. Neeskens Kebano and Sheyi Ojo are both doubtful. for the game.
It will be interesting to see how Fulham respond after Sunday’s disappointment!
Can Slaviša Jokanovi? refocus his side who have enjoyed an outstanding second half to the season? Or can Gary Rowett and his gutsy Rams prey on Fulham’s heartache?
Derby are an attractive looking 2/1 to hold the advantage after the first leg, but for me the draw looks the best bet at 12/5, with both sides not wanting to give anything away in the first leg
It could be a game of fine margins and with so much at stake, I expect a tight encounter across two legs.
The race for promotion to the Premier League hots up – don’t miss this one.
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