Fulham 1 Birmingham 1: Mark Hughes still upbeat as Cottagers slip down the table

27 November 2010 10:26
Mark Hughes brushed aside talk of arelegation battle as Fulham slid to within three points of the bottomof the table after a fifth successive Premier League match without awin.

The Fulham boss, beset by injuries to his first-choice team, says there is no cause for concern.

Ful stop: Sebastian Larsson fires a free kick against the Fulham wall

'We're aware of where we are,' hesaid. 'But it's very tight and we're only five points away from seventhplace. We have to keep the belief, which I saw in abundance out theretoday, and we'll be fine. We just have to get the injured playersback.'

Against a Birmingham side who havenot won away since March, Fulham needed Clint Dempsey to save them witha second-half equaliser after Sebastian Larsson had put the visitorsahead against the run of play.

Hard times: Fulham manager Mark Hughes (left) and Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish on the touchline

But at least Fulham showed plentyof spirit after their feeble showing against Manchester City lastSunday, which earned a roasting from owner Mohamed Al Fayed.

'I was really pleased with the way the players responded', said Hughes.

In a lively start Fulham almost went ahead but Aaron Hughes' volley was cleared off the line by Larsson.

American hot: Clint Dempsey scores Fulham's equaliser

TEAMSFULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido (Pantsil 24min); Davies (E Johnson 73), D Murphy, Etuhu, Gera; Kamara, Dempsey. Subs (not used): Stockdale, Kelly, Duff, Dikgacoi, Greening. Booked: Dempsey.

BIRMINGHAM (4-5-1): Foster, Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Bowyer, Hleb (Zigic 61), Ferguson, Fahey (Murphy 85); Jerome. Subs (not used): Doyle,Phillips, Michel, Parnaby, Beausejour.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

The Swedish winger then showed hisquality at the other end, calmly driving his shot into the bottomcorner after Alexander Hleb raced into the penalty area to set him up.

'It was one of those magnificent pieces of play that we associate with Hleb,' said Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, whose hopes of a first away win of the season were dashed when Zoltan Gera headed a corner from Simon Davies back across goal and Dempsey dived in to divert the ball past Ben Foster.

McLeish laughed off his side's inability to win away from home, after Scott Dann's late header came back off the crossbar.

'We may not win away for two years but so long as we keep winning at home and stay in the Premier League, I'll be delighted,' said the Scot.

For these two teams, staying up is all that matters.

 Fulham boss Hughes keeps the faith after Fayed's training ground visitBoss McLeish vows to sort out new deal for Birmingham midfielder Seb LarssonBIRMINGHAM CITY FC

Source: Daily_Mail