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Fulham’s hopes of avoiding relegation were given a boost on Monday night when midfielder Jimmy Bullard played all 90 minutes of his side’s 2-0 reserves victory over Arsenal at Barnet’s Underhill.

Livewire midfielder Bullard played just a handful of games for The Cottagers after his 2006 move from Wigan Athletic before suffering a horrific knee injury in Fulham’s 2-1 win over Newcastle United in September of that year.

The player tore cruciate and anterior knee ligaments in a challenge with Scott Parker and his recovery has been hit by setbacks, but he is now closing on a return, the Arsenal game coming swiftly on the back of two specially-arranged behind-closed-doors friendlies against Reading and Bristol City in the last three weeks.

To add to the positives for Fulham, winger Lee Cook, who joined from Queens Park Rangers in the summer but suffered an almost immediate knee knock of his own, played an hour against the young Gunners as he too looks to be well on the road to a first-team return.

Bullard was involved in Fulham’s opening goal on Monday evening and could return for Roy Hodgson’s side for the crucial trip to Bolton on January 29 or the home game with Aston Villa five days later.