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Chris Coleman doesn’t mince his words. Not for him a litany of excuses after Fulham folded to a disappointing defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday.

“The bottom line is that we’re not good enough at present. We train like demons during the week but last season there was a grittiness to win tackles and refusal to be beaten. We need that will back and to take responsibility. All the signs are there for a relegation dogfight. We’ve got to fight like dogs and work like dogs.”

Coleman will demand a response as soon as the Whites return to the second season to face Birmingham on Wednesday night – even if league points are not at stake. The confidence that carried an exuberant band of over-achievers to ninth place in May has evaporated. You could spot that in the way Luis Boa Morte elected not to have a pop at goal from promising positions on four occasions against Aston Villa. Fulham will need to be much more ruthless in the weeks to come.

There are some mitigating circumstances. Coleman is juggling a horrendous injury list that only got worse at the weekend. Ian Pearce was supposed to add some experience and ballast to a leaky defence but limped off with a ligament problem early on. That meant young Zesh Rehman joined Zat Knight at the heart of a nervy back four for his Premier League debut. The top flight’s first British Asian let nobody down but failed to shut down Lee Hendrie late on, allowing the midfielder to settle matters by curling home his third goal in four games.

Fulham’s lack of luck had been summed up by Hendrie’s part in the opening goal. The lively midfielder miscontrolled the ball after it broke favourably for him outside the box, ran into Papa Bouba Diop and Phil Dowd generously gave a free kick. Nolberto Solano drove it home to give David O’Leary’s side a lead their scratchy play scarcely merited. Coleman had planned to introduce Tomasz Radzinski early in the second half but was robbed of the Canadian international’s energy when he tweaked a hamstring warming up during the interval. Just to improve the Welshman’s mode, Dowd declined to give a penalty when Claus Jensen’s free-kick struck the raised arm of a jumping Hendrie in the Aston Villa wall whilst it was still 1-0. When your luck’s out, it’s definitely out. And Fulham are overdue some good fortune.