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Mar 29, 2014

Win or bust for Whites

We might as well call for the priest on Sunday if Fulham fail to put away Everton in the day's early kick-off. With the advantage of 24 hours extra preparation for this televised encounter, results from Saturday mean the Whites know they can climb two places off the bottom by winning. That would certainly send a shiver through the teams above us, and with our run-in a scenario where Cardiff, Sunderland and WBA end the season as the relegated three becomes a genuine possibility.

Plus the fillip of a second successive home win would do wonders for team morale ahead of next Saturday's crunch visit to Aston Villa. Felix Magath's bottom feeders are going to have to find a win somewhere along the road, and trips to Stoke and Spurs hardly inspire me with enthusiasm. But all of that will surely be academic with anything less than a win over Everton. Fail here and it's time to administer the last rites and start planning for life in the Championship.

Behind the scenes, the club are already adjusting to the grim reality of the drop. All contract negotiations went on hold this week until our fate is resolved. Another weekend and another no show from the club's record signing Kostas Mitroglou will reinforce the view that we are unlikely to see the Greek marksman make any contribution at all to the relegation fight. Rumours are circulating our striker needs a knee operation, with his priority now making it back in time for the World Cup.

Should this be the case, the club have dropped a massive clanger with the chairman's money and I expect heads to roll in the summer. Fulham are effectively attempting the near-impossible in the survival stakes with no recognised striker in the side. This is akin to putting a high school kid with elementary maths in charge of a space shuttle.

In a pitiful season where Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Hugo Rodallega, Darren Bent and even Clint Dempsey have come across as wheezing old geriatrics too slow even for a game of dominoes, it beggars belief to see the club's fortunes riding on the slender shoulders of 19-year-old Cauley Woodrow. Scan the Cottage pitch Sunday to Everton's striker Romalu Lukaku and shudder -- a player in successive windows plucked from under Fulham's nose.

Roberto Martinez is having a fine first season at Goodison while David Moyes is being kept awake at night by low flying aircraft. They've not missed Marouane Fellaini in the least and arrive in London after four straight wins. If they are on their game, as they were against Newcastle last time out, it's curtains for the Cottagers.

The one bright spot is the absence of Steven Pienaar. Fulham are still missing Scott Parker but see Ashkan Dejagah restored to full fitness. As to what starting eleven Felix Magath goes with, that's impossible to guess.

It's just possible Fulham may replicate their success over Everton in the League Cup last September. My, but that seems a long time ago now. I was behind the goal that night as Dimi and Darren fired the second-half goals that secured our come-from-behind win -- thinking this was the start of a great goal-scoring partnership. How wrong could I be.

Everton have had the whip hand over us in recent seasons. They get the ball from back to front at speed, have excellent wing-backs and play to a tempo Fulham cannot match. Fielding the leakiest defence in the league, Fulham supporters must pray for a miracle. Well, we've been here before in our history, so while things remain in the balance. COYW!