It was a day of positives for Fulham on Saturday- they beat promotion rivals Aston Villa comfortably, cut the gap to second to six points and welcomed back their talisman and captain, Tom Cairney .

He came through the 90 minutes of the 2-0 win unscathed , his first full match since the start of the year and that 4-1 win over Ipswich Town after a recurrence of a knee injury that has put him in and out of the side all season.

It's been a frustrating year for the 27-year-old, who after a stunning campaign in 2016/17 has found the going tough this time around as a result of that injury, but despite that he sees light at the end of the tunnel and hopes the worst is now behind him, comparing slotting back into the Fulham side like getting back on a bike.

He said: "It’s brilliant to play in this team, we always play the same way no matter what game so it’s quite easy to come back into a team like this because we always play one way - it’s just like getting back on a bike.

"It [training] hasn’t been easy, it’s been quite tough and I’ve had some down days, some okay days and hopefully everything is okay after this game and we’ll see how it is.

"It’s been so frustrating, I can’t explain how mind numbing it’s been all season. I was desperate to get out there today because it was the biggest game in the Football League and it was good to be part of.

"I have a strong family around me and team mates and physios - it’s quite hard but there will be light at the end of the tunnel and I can’t wait to get fully pain free and keep doing that.

"I didn’t really feel much pain today but I don’t know about after this, we’ll have to see how it goes."

At one stage in January, it seemed like we may never see Cairney in a Fulham shirt again.

Cantona-esque: Floyd Ayite takes in the celebrations at the Cottage after his 45-yard goal

Rumours were rife about a move away from the Cottage, with both West Brom and West Ham sniffing about, and when the skipper missed the trip to Barnsley only days before the window shut, fans feared the worst.

Fulham were adamant that the midfielder missed the trip because of rehabilitation on his knee (he travelled to the Republic of Ireland to undergo it), but the 11pm deadline on January 31 passed without incident in terms of outgoings.

Cairney has insisted he never thought he was going to leave, and has revealed he harbous dreams of taking Fulham up and captaining them in the Premier League next season.

"I don’t think I was ever going to leave," he added, "there’s a project here and my dream is to take Fulham up and be the captain in the Premier League - that would be a dream come true.

"I can’t do anything more than sign a contract extension, there was a lot of rumours and stuff but honestly, there was speculation about me but it means I’m just doing stuff right and people are appreciating it which is always good for me.

"It means I’m playing well but it’s the same for other players, teams would want other players in our side, like (Ryan) Sessegnon etc etc, just because we have a good team at the minute, and long may it continue."

The 2-0 victory was a fine display and a message of intent to the Championship that Fulham mean business, but the side can't rest on their laurels.

A trip to 6th placed Bristol City is next up, with only two points separating the Cottagers from a side who have had a strong season, and one that did a job on Fulham at the Cottage in a 2-0 win on Halloween.

It's the second match in a run of games that sees them take on the likes of Wolves, Derby and Sheffield United, and despite Slavisa Jokanovic insisting his team are taking it one game at a time, Cairney agrees doing that is hard when they know the next couple of weeks will define where the side finish.

He said: "It’s quite difficult, we know the next couple of weeks will define our season, we play teams in and around us or above us so it’s huge but I feel like we have the squad to deal with it and pick up some points.

Back in action: Cairney made his first start since the 4-1 win over Ipswich

"I don’t see why not (getting second), I think it’s six points we’re behind now with quite a few games left to go so if we play like this then I don’t see why not.

"They’ve [Bristol City] been brilliant this season and I think it’s a tough game, they have some good players but I think if we can dominate the ball and play like we know we can we can come away with three points."

On top of the 2-0 win and Cairney returning from injury, the Cottage witnessed a moment that may well go down in history should Fulham get promoted this season - Floyd Ayite's 45-yard goal.

The celebration was similar to that of a Frenchman who became an icon for it after scoring for Manchester United against Sunderland, and it was the name that came to mind for the skipper when he spoke about the goal.

"Yeah it was in all the way, I was right behind it and he stood there like Eric Cantona - it was a great moment."

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