It's December and Fulham are languishing at the wrong end of the table - a 3-1 defeat at Griffin Park to Brentford is the latest result to go against the side.

The Whites are 15th with two wins in their past nine games and a repeat of the previous season is looking less and less likely as the weeks go by.

But fast forward to February, and a run of seven wins in 11 games, with just one loss, has seen the Cottagers shoot to fifth place with one eye on the last automatic promotion spot held by tomorrow's opponents, Aston Villa.

It would be unfair to lay the success of that period on the door of Marcus Bettinelli, but the return of the 25-year-old to the Fulham goalmouth has coincided with that stunning run of form that has seen the team go from mid-table nothingness to a potential Premier League team next season.

While what has changed in the side from one that was struggling in November to one that is flying now is the talk of the town, Bettinelli doesn't think his Fulham side have been given the credit they deserve for a run that has seen them lose just twice in 15 games.

“We knew the start wasn’t great and we were trying to find our form and I think a lot of people think it’s easy when you go from being in a Play-off position last season like we was," he said.

“I think you can see this season, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading, they were two teams in the play-offs last season, two teams that were there the whole way through probably and this season it seems like a totally different challenge for them.

“It seems like the challenge for them is to stay in the league rather than get promoted so I think people don’t realise how hard it is to keep that form and have another promotion push.

One of our own: Marcus Bettinelli

“A lot of people haven’t given us credit so far in terms of what we’ve done and where we’ve got to.

“In November we were 17th, and to come from there to where we are now is a huge, huge pat on the back for us because that’s not easy, this league isn’t easy, every game is tough.

“It showed that last week away at Bolton, they dug deep and got a good result against us but we’re confident going into every game, we’ll go into tomorrow full of confidence against a really good side and I’m sure they’ll come with loads of confidence too.

“Our job tomorrow is to play our football, not get dragged into the importance of the game or position in the league, it’s more about us playing our football, going out there and playing our stuff and try and get the win.”

Last season, Fulham left a promotion push late, pipping Leeds United to a spot on the second last day of the season.

Over the line: Marcus Bettinelli

This year, however, they've broken into that top six a lot earlier, meaning they're now there to be shot out by clubs looking to imitate what the Cottagers managed last season and haul in one of the current teams occupying those four spots.

A lot of people are wondering whether second place is now the target for Fulham, but Bettinelli insists the side are well aware of what is around them as they hunt Villa and second.

He added: “As much as we have one eye on second place, of course we have to be aware of what’s coming behind us.

“We were a team that was out of it last season and chasing the teams, I think Leeds were in it nearly the whole season and just towards the end they fell out of it.

“We’re well aware of the teams chasing us and we’re aware of how close second is as well, and that’s great.

“We put ourselves in this position, football is never easy, Wolves have made the league look completely easy this season but very rarely does a team do that and that’s credit to them and what they've done.

“For everyone else, you have a good start, a couple bad games and I think everyone around that top six other than Wolves have had that at some point this season.

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“Villa are on a great run at the moment and they’ve kind of been similar to us in the way in the last couple of months they’ve won massive games and kept clean sheets.

“They’re on a great run and so are we, I think the last time we lost was Sunderland away and since then we’ve drawn two.

“We’re on a great run ourselves and we just have to keep pushing, take it game by game starting with tomorrow and seeing where it goes."

In his press conferences, Slavisa Jokanovic insists that he's not thinking about the massive period of games Fulham have coming up, a run that includes Wolves and Derby, but is instead taking it game by game.

It's hard to believe, though, that there isn't any thought on those six games and what it could mean for the season - win them and Fulham are staring automatic promotion in the face.

And Bettinelli agrees that it's difficult not to give those fixtures thought, especially after he considers his side have given themselves a great chance to do "something really special this season".

He said: “It is hard, but these fixtures have been in place for a long time and we all knew at some point this run of games was going to come.

“Personally, I’d much rather be facing these run of games now with the position we’re in the league now rather than where we were back in November.

“We’ve given ourselves a great chance to do something really special this season, we know the next five games are key to what we’ll do this season, if we’re going to push on and have a great chance for promotion or if we’re going to not get into the Play-offs and end in mid-table.

“That’s the reality of it, I’m sure after these six games we’ll have a good idea where we are and where we stand.

“If we do lose tomorrow, it can’t be a case of ‘that’s our season done’ because that’s not how it will be - we’ll deal with the result tomorrow but we’re confident going into the game, we’ve not lost in a while and neither have they and I’m sure it will be a great game.”

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