Dickov backs striker to end goal drought
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 13 March 2012
SHEFKI Kuqi has received the renewed backing of his manager as he bids to end his open-play goal drought.
Athletic’s leading scorer has 15 goals to his name this season, putting him fifth in the overall list in npower League One.
Jordan Rhodes (33) of Huddersfield leads the way, ahead of Sheffield United’s Ched Evans (25), Bradley Wright-Phillips of Charlton (19) and Wycombe's Stuart Beavon (17).
While his is a creditable return, Kuqi has not hit the net other than from a pair of penalties since scoring with a header against Bradford in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy back in early December.
Ahead of tonight’s tricky clash at Stevenage, Athletic boss Paul Dickov, though, is backing his luck to change.
“Shefki knows and I know that as a forward, if you are not getting into goalscoring positions then there is a problem,” he said, as Athletic search for a second successive away win at the Lamex Stadium (7.45pm kick-off).
“It is happening — he is getting chances — and it is the old saying that he needs one to go in off his backside, his back or his shoulder to get him going again.
“If he had scored against Yeovil, people would talk about what a fantastic performance he put in.
“He is experienced enough to know that you get your head down and keep trying to do the right things.
“It will come eventually. And though Filly (Morais) has chipped in with a few recently, with the attack minded players we have in the team the goals should be spread out a bit more than they have been this year.”
Athletic’s fit players all came through the Yeovil game with nothing more serious than minor knocks and there are no fresh doubts for tonight's game.
Dickov, who said that captain Dean Furman (knee) is set for a return to full training early next week, is determined his side match up to a Stevenage outfit enhanced by recent loan signings under new manager Gary Smith.
“We have to stand up and be counted, man for man,” said Dickov said. “It is like a lot of away games this year.
“They are a good team and have changed slightly the way that they play.
“If we match their work rate and desire — which I felt was missing on Saturday — then we have a really good chance of winning the game.”
Jean-Yves Mvoto, described as being “jaded” after a long run of games and not in the side against Yeovil, could return to give the defence a physical boost.
Athletic (probable, 4-4-2): Cisak; Lee, Mvoto, Diamond, Mellor; Morais, Brown, Adeyemi (???), Taylor; Reid, Kuqi.
Stevenage drew 2-2 at home with Chesterfield on Saturday, having been 2-0 down at one stage.
Scott Laird and Craig Reid grabbed second-half goals for Boro, who have modified their style to play a more patient game under Smith’s charge.
The line-up is unlikely to be changed, as Smith bids to build an understanding up front with on-loan duo Jordan Slew and Patrick Agyemang.
Stevenage (probable, 4-4-2): Day; Wilson, Laird, Ashton, Roberts; Shroot, Byrom, Bostwick, Freeman; Slew, Agyemang.
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