Fulham manager Mark Hughes praised his side after they recorded a superb 2-0 win at St Andrew’s against a Birmingham City side struggling to survive in the Premier League.
After collapsing to a 5-2 defeat at home to Liverpool last Monday, critics had suggested that Fulham’s players were already on the beaches – with nothing left for the Londoners to play for in their final three games.
But goals at the start of each half from the impressive Brede Hangeland blew away Birmingham and gave Hughes’ men all three points – something which clearly delighted manager Mark Hughes.
Speaking to reporters after the game, the Welshman said: “I was pleased to get the reaction I got. I didn’t doubt the players. Today it was about showing we haven’t switched off for the end of the season.
“We’ve got targets that we’ve set ourselves and we intend to reach them. We were fully focused and I think you could see that from the way we approached the game and thankfully we were able to get another away win which have been hard to come by.
“I think that’s our third and back-to-back away wins as well, so we have made a marked improvement in terms of what we can produce on the road.”
With Birmingham clearly nervous, Fulham’s first goal after just four minutes could have opened the flood-gates, with only poor finishing from both Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora preventing the away side from running away with the game.
Whilst Hughes admitted he was disappointed that his side didn’t take all their chances, the manager could not help but compliment his team on the way they played their football.
“We had a number of chances,” he added. “Maybe we felt there was too much time and space and we didn’t make the best of it and kill the game off early.
“I think everybody saw we are an accomplished team and we like to get the ball down and play the right way. And when we get our noses in front we are hard to beat.”
After losing 5-2 to Liverpool just six days ago, Fulham were clearly playing to show their fans that they haven’t given up on their season – despite Premier League safety being confirmed a few weeks ago.
And with their opponents struggling to avoid the drop, Hughes confirmed that his side planned to use the nervous atmosphere at St Andrew’s to pile the pressure on Birmingham.
“As a club and players, you don’t want to be in the situation that Birmingham have found themselves today.
“We knew that be to our advantage and if we started positively and put them under pressure then there is apprehension in the crowd and that was to our advantage.
“I think you could see that, it was a little bit frenetic at times and we were able to capitalise on that.”
The Cottagers host Arsenal next weekend, knowing that three more points could see them finish the season in seventh place – their highest ever Premier League finish. And Hughes believes that would be a fitting end to what started out as a difficult season.
“We feel obviously if we can win our last home game against Arsenal, and Chelsea beat Everton, then we may be seventh,” he added.
“That would cap a fantastic season for us given the initial problem we had with injuries at the start of the season. And that would be a real achievement for us.”