Assistant manager Neil McDonald spoke to the media ahead of the game against Fulham on New Year's day.

Ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage, McDonald was quizzed on the upcoming January transfer window, the latest team news and for an update on the fitness of Andy Carroll.

Morning Neil, very nice to see you as always, but where's Sam?

NMc: "He's very busy on the phone at the minute, obviously we've got a few defensive problems and with the window coming up his phone is non-stop so he's just asked me to do it today."

So that's potentially good news on arrivals to fill some of the gaps?

NMc: "Potentially, yes. I think we need some reinforcements to try and boost the players that we have here. Sam's working very hard behind the scenes here with everybody else to try and do that so he apologises for not being able to do the press conference today."

I guess it's central defenders that he's after?

NMc: "Of course, yes. We've got our three main centre halves injured at the moment and we're obviously trying very hard to get them fit. We're trying to bolster that area."

And I imagine you're looking to bring in strikers as well?

NMc: "Yes, of course. We're trying to improve the squad as much as possible, they're the two main places that we're trying to strengthen."

And he has the board's backing for that financially?

NMc: "He's on the phone to the Chairman as we speak so you would imagine so."

Do you feel that this game, like some described it, is a must-win game like against West Brom?

NMc: "It's certainly don't lose the game, that's for sure. When you're playing a team in and around you that's the most important thing to do. We've scored three goals against West Brom but conceded three so we need to stop conceding and keep scoring as we have been doing. We're creating lots of chances but it's difficult when you haven't got all of your defenders fit. Going into the Fulham game in this scenario it's a game that if you win it puts you right up the table which is great, but it's more important that we don't lose."

That difference between getting three points and not can really reflect on your position in the table?

NMc: "It shows that even if we'd beaten West Brom that would have pushed us right up the table, another back to back win over Fulham could have pushed us right up to halfway so that's how very tight it is, how close it is and how very important it is to pick up a point. You have to respect the point if you get it because that could take you further up the league."

On the central defensive area, what's the news on James Collins and James Tomkins?

NMc: "It looks as though they're not going to be fit for the Fulham game and we will assess them straight after for the Nottingham Forest game. It's more likely that they will both be fit, fingers crossed, for the Cardiff City game."

What will he do in that area against Fulham?

NMc: "The plan would be to pick some players who are going to keep a clean sheet and we're going to keep our cards close to our chest on that front."

What's the latest on Andy Carroll?

NMc: "He's done a training session yesterday which is very encouraging. It's still early stages and it's a work in progress with him. Work one day on the training pitch, massage and rehab the next day and let's see how it goes. It's positive the fact that he's on the training pitch but it's slow progress."

Do you hope that relatively soon he'll be able to play some part in the rest of the season?

NMc: "When you've been out for seven months I don't think you can rush anybody back. Obviously we're all desperate for him to come back into the team as quick as we possibly can but we have to be sensible. He's getting closer."