No wins in November saw us enter the festive period under a bit of pressure. December, unfortunately, was not to prove a good turning point in our season as we lost four from six to slip further out of the top half of the Barclays Premier League.
It all began badly on 1st December as we welcomed Tottenham Hotspur to the Cottage and fell to a 3-0 defeat. Bouncing back, we managed to rally and ensure we left home with a 2-1 win over Newcastle United thanks to goals from Steve Sidwell and Hugo Rodallega. But then we fell 2-1 against local rivals Queens Park Rangers and were crushed 4-0 away to Liverpool.
A 1-1 draw at home on Boxing Day to Southampton stopped the slide, but it didn’t last long as our final game of 2012 was another home defeat to Swansea City. Thankfully things were to improve in the New Year, but it was a pretty dismal December with which to say goodbye to 2012.
Our winless run was extended to a seventh match as we welcomed Martin Jol’s former team to the Cottage. On a freezing Saturday afternoon, Kerim Frei was given his first start of the season for the First Team but Tottenham, who included former Fulham favourites Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembélé in their side, came out on top in the second half. After good chances for both teams, Sandro struck a thunderbolt from 35 yards after the break to put Spurs ahead, then striker Jermain Defoe struck two goals in the space of five minutes to put the game to bed.
A Monday night provided the win we so sorely needed and, having not scored in three games, it was great to get two goals and all three points! Brede Hangeland made his return after suspension and it was no fluke that the team performed better with our Captain back at the helm. Former Newcastle man Damien Duff pulled a cross back and Steve Sidwell struck home the opener on 19 minutes, but Hatem Ben Arfa equalised with a long-range effort. We were back in front as Duff’s brilliant free-kick was headed home by Rodallega on 63 minutes and we had the woodwork to thank as Fabricio Coloccini curled an effort against the bar. A few more nervy moments followed, but we held firm to claim a vital three points.
Losing is always bad, but defeat to rivals QPR is even worse. At Loftus Road, as Christmas was approaching and our form had just showed signs of turning around, there was little festive cheer to find in defeat. QPR had not won all season, but went 2-0 ahead in the second half thanks to goals from Adel Taraabt. The first was deflected; the second a run from the halfway line which ended in a low shot into the corner. We hit back through substitute Mladen Petrić with two minutes left but it was too little, too late, and we also lost Sidwell for the trip to Liverpool after he picked up a fifth yellow yard of the campaign.
The defeat to QPR clearly had an impact as we travelled up to Anfield without Sidwell and with Duff ruled out through injury. Liverpool dominated the opening exchanges and went ahead through Martin Skrtel when the defender lashed home from close range in the eighth minute. By half-time, they were 2-0 up as Steven Gerrard ghosted in at the far post to score on 36 minutes. Fulham switched from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, but there was little we could do as Stewart Downing cut inside and smashed home for the third. Luis Suarez added a fourth in stoppage time and we went into Christmas Day without much to smile about.
Our away woes were soothed with a home game on Boxing Day against Southampton, but we were unable to get all three points from a frustrating encounter. Having gone into the match with just one win in our last 10, any points would have been seen as a success but we should have won the game at the Cottage as we had plenty of chances. Dimitar Berbatov put us ahead in the eighth minute as Kelvin Davies tipped Sascha Riether’s cross into his path but, as the rain lashed down, we were unable to get a second. Then we were made to pay as Chris Baird was penalised for handball in the 83rd minute and Ricky Lambert smashed home from the spot to save his side a point.
Another home game followed in quick succession as the festive fixture pile-up continued to give us issues. Six changes to the side that drew with Southampton brought some fresh faces into the line-up, with David Stockdale given a chance in goal due to an injury to Mark Schwarzer. But it was not a first appearance of the season to remember for our young stopper as Danny Graham and Jonathan de Guzman struck before Bryan Ruiz got one back in the 56th minute. Although we pushed for an equaliser late on, it was not forthcoming and 2012 drew to a close with us sitting uncomfortably in 14th place.