Hughes said, "Tiredness was a significant factor, we were missing key senior players today and we needed some energy because of a lot was expended on Thursday. We made a few changes to protect some other players as well with the next game coming up...
"Every goal we conceded was a poor goal, and the second made it really difficult because the energy we had used up in midweek made chasing the game difficult. We just did not have enough left to affect the game and get up to the Fulham players, who were quite happy to keep possession and pick us off in the end. There were just too many of the team feeling the effects of a long season and a difficult week."
I suppose he does have a point. Our team today was not that strong. The front three, Martin Petrov, Valeri Bozhinov and Kelvin Etuhu had between them started just four games this season before today, and were all coming back from long term absences. The midfield three had the opposite problem: Zabaleta and Ireland have started seventy-eight games between them now this season, and both have looked tired for a while. Ireland is struggling with an ankle injury. Nigel de Jong has struggled for fitness in his first season in England, having barely played for HSV before his move. So none of the front six were really in top condition.
But - so what? At this stage of the season no club in the Premier League has a fully fit first team squad from which to pick. One of Hughes' main selling points is his fitness and conditioning work - he's been promising all season that his training methods would leave the players in peak condition at this stage of the season. So why aren't they? And none of this explains the lack of passion and organization that was (according to those I know at the game) evident from today's performance.
Even down to Stephen Ireland's shot from the edge of the box, deflected into the far top corner: it's all too reminiscent of April 2008 for me.