• Bolton lose their fifth league match in a row
• Crucial game against Blackburn on Tuesday
There will be some hard truths to confront when Bolton Wanderers roll into Ewood Park on Tuesday night to face Blackburn Rovers, who are just a point better off than Owen Coyle's bottom feeders.
Lose that one and the Scot and his players will stare in the mirror with their club in the position from which, in the history of the Premier League, only West Bromwich Albion have escaped after being bottom on Christmas Day.
Of the 18 teams who have propped up the division on 25 December, 14 finished there. In a parade of self-flagellation Coyle and his band took turns to accept responsibility after Bolton lost insipidly to Fulham but an unpalatable truth is that their past five league outings have been defeats.
Coyle said: "Tuesday night is a test for both clubs. Tuesday night will not be about going out there and playing the prettiest football. It is about getting those elusive three points for both teams for obvious reasons. That is why it is a derby – it is a huge game.
"It is absolutely killing me, I have got to say that. Ultimately as a football manager, you have got to accept and expect that total responsibility. I do that, I do that willingly and I do that openly: I have never been evasive in my life so I won't be now. I am judged on results. We know it [the Rovers game] can set us up for Newcastle and Wolves at home which will become big games as well."
While Everton must also be faced before Bolton play Macclesfield Town in the FA Cup on 7 January, regarding his prospects of keeping his job Coyle said: "About me I am very comfortable with the relationship I have with my owner [Eddie Davies] and my chairman [Phil Gartside] but I totally understand that whatever happens in football, if they came to me to say this and that – I don't have a problem with that."
Coyle's big concern is that his side do not look as if they might break the losing sequence soon. Fulham's opener was a sublime glancing header by the under-rated Clint Dempsey, their second an equally supreme scooped finish from the ever-improving Bryan Ruiz moments later, on 34 minutes.
Bolton's chances of scoring were scarce and they dozed in defence and midfield. Following his manager, Nigel Reo-Coker offered a mea culpa on behalf of the team: "As players we are very disappointed. On the management side of things I don't think they can do anything more. They have filled the lads with confidence and the reality of it is we have to take responsibility as players."
"The reality of it is we are fighting for our survival and we have to take full responsibility as players. That is it now. This next period of games we have will separate the men from the boys. Every league game is crucial but at the moment there is more emphasis on Tuesday because Blackburn are down in the bottom half of the league like us and people will call it a six-pointer and that's the reality. We can't shortcut it. We've got to be men about the situation. It's as simple as that. It's a six-pointer and one we must win."
Last week Coyle had spoken of his personnel feeling fear but Reo-Coker denied this. "That's the manager's assessment of the situation. He is the manager and that's how he feels. At the end of the day the manager can't take responsibility for that. We are grown men. This is our job and we have to realise the situation now."
Reo-Coker was part of the West Ham United team in the relegation zone on Christmas Day 2006. "It was a similar situation," he said. "We were in the bottom three over the Christmas period and we still managed to come back and do it."
Martin Jol said of the three points for Fulham: "You can imagine how it would be if you don't have the results. It is such a heavy schedule [in the festive period], it was a must win game for us."