Assistant urges Fulham fans to give Hughes time

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The Independent Football

Mark Bowen today insisted Fulham supporters had been too quick to hurl abuse at manager Mark Hughes during their side's damaging Barclays Premier League defeat against West Ham.

Hughes was subjected to chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' and 'Hughes out' after the Cottagers threw away the lead in yesterday's 3-1 home defeat to the Hammers.

The result sucked Fulham into the drop zone, level on points with their previously rock-bottom opponents, and piled the pressure on Hughes less than six months into his reign.

Asked if fans were too quick to turn on their manager, assistant boss Bowen said: "I'm bound to say yes because I'm at the sharp end of the stick."

Hughes yesterday admitted supporters were within their rights to call for his head and Bowen added: "I'm sure Mark fully accepts it. He's used to it, he's got broad shoulders.

"You take stick as a player, when you play poorly, from fans because they pay the wages and they're entitled to their opinion.

"It's the same with managers and coaches.

"You're always happy to take the pats on the back when you're winning and things are going well."

The chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' began when Hughes withdrew Dickson Etuhu and fans favourite Clint Dempsey early in the second half, with Fulham 2-1 down.

Bowen said: "When we walked in at half-time, Clint Dempsey had got a dead leg.

"He came in at half-time, he iced it through the whole of half-time and he wasn't right.

"We looked in the first 10 minutes of the second half and he was holding it a bit and he wasn't moving well on it."

Despite dominating almost the whole of the first half yesterday, Fulham's defence was simply unable to cope with West Ham strikers Carlton Cole and Frederic Piquionne.

Bowen accepted the home side "defended poorly" but hit out at suggestions they had been "shambolic" at the back all season.

"Before yesterday's game, we were joint fifth in goals conceded in the Premier League," he said.

"It was a bad day yesterday and we accept that.

"More to the point, our problem has been trying to put the ball in at the other end."

Indeed, Fulham have badly missed star striker Bobby Zamora, who will not be available until February.

Bowen pointed out the club also struggled when the England international was injured last season, saying: "Bobby Zamora missed 12 games last year for Fulham and, in those 12 games, Fulham won two."

Yesterday's defeat was the Cottagers' sixth of the league campaign, fewer than some of the sides in the top half of the table.

Their downfall has been drawing too many, but finding that elusive victory will not get any easier for Hughes' men, who travel to Stoke tomorrow and then to Tottenham on New Year's Day.

Like West Ham until yesterday, Fulham have not won away since the opening day of last season but Bowen insisted they would look to do just that at the Britannia Stadium.

He added on talkSPORT: "There's a magnificent team spirit in the dressing room.

"It didn't transfer onto the pitch yesterday and it hasn't for a few weeks.

"But, having said that, there's a great togetherness there.

"We're all focused on the task before us."