Fulham manmager Chris Coleman blamed the heavy festive fixture schedule for his side’s 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth.

The London side were without key performers as they fell to a Gary O’Neil strike, and Coleman, an outspoken critic of the hectic period, blamed the congested fixture list for his side’s inability to compete.

“At the moment for us we are suffering from this fixture congestion,” said Coleman.

“We are made to play 11 percent of the season in the space of eight days which is ridiculous, especially for a squad like us, we’ve got half a dozen players that we can’t call upon so this was always going to be a tough game.

“We had to rest Mark Crossley from last week, Carlos Bocanegra wasn’t fit to start the game, Sylvain Legwinski wasn’t really fit but we had no choice we had to play him, obviously Dean Leacock as well.

“Heidar Helguson’s gone off in the first half with a groin problem so it looks like we’ve lost him as well, so we are at the bare bones at the moment.”

Coleman may even have to call upon the club’s youth ranks for the next outing against Sunderland.

“We are going to have to bring in one or two young lads,” the Welshman added.

Despite his bitterness about the defeat, Coleman fully conceded that Pompey deserved the three points, even if O’Neil’s winner had a hint of handball about it before he slotted past Tony Warner.

“Well it looks like its handball doesn’t it?

“But we aren’t going to make any excuses, it wasn’t a great performance from us I think they were better on the day, they deserved the win.”

Defeat leaves Fulham just three points ahead of Harry Redknapp’s side and the Premiership relegation zone, and Coleman has called on his charges to maintain their composure ahead of what could be a crucial 2006 for the club.

“Even if we’d have won today we would still have been concerned, it’s hardly a massive gap between ourselves and the bottom three and there is a lot of points to play for and a lot of games left.

“We have got to keep our composure, simple as that, hope we get our players back as quick as we can and go from there.”