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Mark Hughes admitted Fulham’s fans were within their rights to call for his head after the 3-1 home defeat to West Ham dragged the club into the Barclays Premier League drop zone.

The Cottagers boss left the field this afternoon to chants of “Hughes out”, having earlier been subjected to taunts of “You don’t know what you’re doing” as he watched his side throw away a one-goal lead against the rock-bottom Hammers.

The result – an eighth game without a win for Fulham – ensured they would end the weekend in the drop zone, level on points with today’s opponents.

Hughes, who is now under real pressure less than six months after succeeding Roy Hodgson, said: “When you lose home games I think they’re well within their rights to vent frustration, because they’ve seen their team lose at home, which is not something that’s happened on that regular an occasion.

“But I think deep down, the vast majority understand what we’re trying to do and it will take time, and we’ve just got to be patient.

“If we do that, there are good players here and we’ll come through the other end.

“But, at the moment, it’s frustrating for everyone because we’re better than we’ve shown.”

Hughes inherited a squad that reached last season’s Europa League final but he maintained the loss of key players to injury was destroying his hopes of building on his predecessor’s success.

The loss of star striker Bobby Zamora has been particularly telling and Hughes revealed he desperately needed to sign a forward when the transfer window opens on Saturday.

“I think that’s evident from what we’re producing,” he said.

“We do okay to a certain extent in terms of keeping possession and looking neat and tidy but you need that physical presence and cutting edge like I keep talking about.

“We’ve got AJ (Andy Johnson) who’s been out of the game for a long, long time and is still building his fitness and sharpness, and that’s understandable and it’s difficult to hang your hat on him when he’s been out for so long.”

Johnson was guilty of wasting more than one chance to score today, most notably when Fulham were leading 1-0 through Aaron Hughes’ first goal for more than six years and completely dominating their beleaguered opponents.

But they were architects of their own demise, Dickson Etuhu and Hughes inadvertently playing in Carlton Cole to score either side of a goal from strike partner Frederic Piquionne.

Manager Hughes admitted his side were bullied by West Ham’s powerful front two, saying: “Today, we weren’t as good in that regard and I think that’s credit to the two guys they had up front.

“Big, strong, powerful guys and at times they messed us around somewhat.”

In stark contrast to Hughes, today’s result eased the pressure on West Ham boss Avram Grant, whose job is reportedly on the line over the festive period.

The former Chelsea boss hopes the club’s first away win in the league since the opening day of last season – 27 games – will prove the turning point in the club’s season.

He was also praying for more of the good fortune they enjoyed today, insisting they deserved it.

“I hope, I hope. We deserved more than this before,” said Grant, who hailed Cole’s alertness for his two goals.

“I always say to the players, when you work hard – we worked hard also in the first half – sometimes things like this happen and you need to be awake.

“He was very awake because it was dead ball and he took the chance.”

Grant, who is looking to become only the second manager to save a side from relegation having been bottom at Christmas, revealed his daughter had sent him a text message congratulating him on his win.

Asked if a he had received a similar message of support from the club’s owners, he said: “The owners are very good with me.

“I need to stick in my job and I’ll say again, I only care that I speak with the owners and the owners were very supportive, even in the difficult times.

“We have a vision at the club; it’s not easy to turn things in a few months but people do it.”