Injuries force Coleman to play weaker hand for League Cup test

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The Independent Online

Chris Coleman insists he has Carling Cup ambitions, even though he plans to send out a shadow Fulham team for tonight's match with Lincoln at Craven Cottage.

Mounting injury problems have cost the Fulham manager the services of several first-choice players and convinced him not to take any unnecessary risks with his leading players. "This game has come at the wrong time of the season for us because of the size of our squad, it's a pain in the neck because of the injuries but it's a game we want to win," he said.

The Denmark internationals Claus Jensen and Niclas Jensen, Senegal midfielder Papa Bouba Diop and the central defender Zat Knight all joined the casualty list during last Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by West Ham.

"We can't risk those players," Coleman said. "If we lose any of them we will be in trouble for Monday night's game at Tottenham. Even if you go there with a full squad it's hard enough without having any extra injuries so we've got to be very careful."

The goalkeeper Tony Warner is suffering from a groin strain but will be on the substitutes' bench for tomorrow's match against the League Two side as Coleman has no fit back-up for 19-year-old Portuguese debutant Ricardo Batista.

He will draft in 19-year-old Dutchman Collins John and Iceland striker Heidar Helguson to spearhead his attack but has taken out insurance by also putting his top striking pair of United States international Brian McBride and Tomasz Radzinski on the bench just in case he needs extra firepower. Coleman is hoping that Helguson will grasp the opportunity after waiting for his chance since his £1.1m signing from Watford during the summer.

"He's itching to get 90 minutes under his belt," Coleman added. "He played for the reserves last week, got a couple of goals the week before and will be looking forward to this game, as will Collins John. Brian and Radi have been doing very well so they have had to wait."

But with defenders Alain Goma and Zesh Rehman returning to the side, Coleman predicted: "We will have enough talent on the pitch to win the game. It's just that it will be nothing like the team we had out on Saturday."

Not that he is underestimating the challenge of Lincoln. "They will be strong and physical," he added. "They lost on Saturday to Peterborough 2-1 at home and this will be a different type of game. They can go out and relax, they have everything to gain and nothing to lose against us so the pressure is on us.

"We are not expecting an easy game. It will be a tough game but if we apply ourselves right we should win it," said Coleman who is hoping for a good run in the Carling Cup. "We want to do well and the further you go the more chance you have but it's a difficult competition to win."

In the short term, the Welshman is looking for a confidence-booster for his squad, who are lying fourth from bottom of the Premiership after just one win and two draws from their opening six matches. "A win is a win and that gives you a bit of confidence. We lost to West Ham and it was disappointing because we have been playing well," he added.

"We did enough to win but we came off losing and psychologically that's hard for the players. So it's important we bounce back as quick as we can. We need another win in the league and hopefully that will happen after getting a win against Lincoln."

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