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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Hughes: We're in good shape

Mark Hughes has boldly declared Fulham's slump over as he looks to mastermind a fourth win in five games at Wigan on Saturday.

The Cottagers found themselves sucked into a relegation dogfight towards the end of 2010 after winning just two of their opening 18 games, but they have doubled that tally in their last three league matches to climb out of the drop zone and are also through to the fourth round of the FA Cup after thumping Peterborough 6-2 last weekend.

Hughes said: "At the moment, we're getting results and we're pleased with that. That's three wins in four games.

"I think we're in good shape. We're enjoying our football at the moment, playing some good stuff, scoring goals - thankfully - now and we're getting players back as well.

"We look in better shape than we were just prior to the Christmas period."

Hughes' poor start to life at Craven Cottage piled the pressure on the former Manchester City boss, who had to endure taunts from his own fans following the Boxing Day defeat to West Ham.

He said of the run: "I'd rather go through that at the beginning of the season than the second half when it's the business end. You've got to be moving forward at the crucial end of the season.

"You've got to be really strong in the second half and I'm confident that we'll be fine. In the second half of the season, my teams are always stronger."

Fulham find themselves just a point outside the bottom three, despite losing only seven of their 21 league games - proof of how damaging draws can be.

"Draws don't really push you up the league, so we're looking for positive three-point wins if we can," Hughes said. "Because that's what moves you up the league, that's what consolidates your position."

Victories away from home can also be vital for a struggling side and Fulham travel to the DW Stadium having won on their last outing at Stoke, ending a drought that went back to the opening day of last season.

"We just got our first win on the board away from home, so we're looking forward to the game," Hughes said. "It's another opportunity to build on the great performance that we showed away at Stoke.

"I think it's only Man City that have conceded less goals away from home. It's important that we're resolute on our travels because that's been a weakness in our play in recent times. I think the squad will get stronger as a consequence of working together and we'll keep on improving."

Just seven points separate promoted Newcastle in eighth place and Aston Villa in the relegation zone in what has developed into one of the tightest ever Premier League seasons.

"I think the clubs that have come up this year have been stronger than in previous years," Hughes said. "Most of the clubs that have come up have done really well. We feel that we've come through a period when we were playing well but not picking up points."

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