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Mon 4 Feb 2008 07:54 AM

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Hodgson backs Fulham to beat drop

Roy Hodgson believes Fulham can use their 2-1 win over Aston Villa as a springboard to avoid relegation.

Roy Hodgson believes Fulham can use their 2-1 win over Aston Villa as a springboard to avoid relegation.Hodgson's side had gone 14 matches without a win and were in danger of being cast adrift in the bottom three.

But Jimmy Bullard ended that winless run when he struck with four minutes to play at Craven Cottage on Sunday after Simon Davies had cancelled out Fulham defender Aaron Hughes's own goal.

Bullard's match-winning performance will give Fulham renewed hope of beating the drop and Hodgson said: "On the back of a draw at Bolton it was a good result and narrowed the gap. This is the first step on the ladder.

"There are a lot of positives but it's only a start. We have got to build on this and there are many more games to go."

It was fitting that Bullard should be the game's key figure. The midfielder only recently returned from 18 months out with a knee injury and this was the kind of moment he would have dreamed about during his gruelling rehabilitation.

Bullard said: "After so long out to comeback like that is unbelievable. I can't believe I scored the winner."

"Just to be out there kicking a ball, let alone scoring, is fantastic."

"Even when we went a goal down we still believed. We know we are still in a fight but if we show that every week we will be fine."

Villa's eight-match unbeaten run in the league is over but manager Martin O'Neill will be just as worried by an injury to Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was forced off at half-time with a hamstring problem that looks certain to rule him out of England's friendly against Switzerland on Wednesday.

"We didn't play well enough and probably didn't deserve to be in front, and after that we just didn't do enough to win the game," said O'Neill.

"There was not enough creativity and we didn't do enough to win the game."

Villa were in front after 69 minutes when Shaun Maloney's corner was flicked on by Olof Mellberg and former Villa defender Aaron Hughes, attempting to hook clear, succeeded only in deflecting the ball off his knee and into his own net.

Villa's lead was shortlived though as Hodgson's side levelled four minutes later. Bullard's cross was perfectly weighted for Simon Davies to run across his marker and glance a shot into the far corner.

Bullard wasn't finished yet. In the 86th minute, Curtis Davies fouled Diomansy Kamara and Bullard stepped up to curl the free-kick past Scott Carson.

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