Mark Hughes refused to criticise Clint Dempsey after the striker’s last-gasp penalty miss forced Fulham to settle for a 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Monday night.

Dempsey saw his spot-kick pushed away by Blues keeper Petr Cech as the Cottagers looked set to seal a rare victory over the West London rivals.

But the Fulham boss was in no mood to take his frustration out on the American forward.

Hughes said: “I was never brave enough to take a penalty myself in my career so I am certainly not going to start criticising Clint Dempsey.

“Unfortunately for us you know when you are up against a keeper like Cech if he guesses the right way there is a very good chance he will save it and that proved to be the case.

“If anything we are a bit aggrieved that the ref did not order the penalty to be retaken.

“Didier Drogba had encroached so far into the box he had to check his run so as not to overrun the ball which is simply not on and I have no idea why we did not get to take it again.”

The battling point still ensured the Craven Cottage side maintained their four-point cushion from the Premier League drop-zone.

And Hughes reckoned their recent revival is very much down to the defence.

He added: “We are defending very, very well at the moment.

“Our players are not really getting the plaudits but over the past few weeks things have been really improving.

“We are at a stage now where we think we can get something from every game we play, certainly if we are at home.

“We have the FA Cup at the weekend and we are at home again so we have to feel confident about progressing.”

Fulham’s next three matches: Feb 20 Bolton/Wigan (FAC, h), 27 Man City (a), Mar 5 Blackburn (h)