Mitrovic proving to be difference for Fulham as promotion push gathers pace after 3-0 thrashing of B
If there was a missing ingredient to Fulham’s promotion surge, then Aleksandar Mitrovic has surely provided it.
The Whites were not exactly struggling before he arrived and already embarking on the unbeaten Championship run, which now stands at 14 games. But the Serb has lit the blue touch paper which has Slavisa Jokanovic’s side truly believing this is their moment.
The muscular hitman may be unwanted on Tyneside, but he sure is wanted down by the Thames right now.
He scored twice in the opening half and came within a whisker of a treble before the break when he scooped a Ryan Sessegnon cross just over.
Having broken his duck two weeks ago at Bristol City, he just can’t stop scoring and made it four in as many games when he powered in a low Ryan Fredericks cross from close range after 31 minutes.
Tom Cairney was involved – the midfielder’s well-weighted pass allowing Fredericks to put in the decisive cross.
Then, just before the break, Fulham’s promotion muse ghosted in at the near post to apply a deft touch to a Stefan Johansen cross, beating keeper Jamal Blackman at his near post.
With Cardiff winning again, the Whites remain five points shy of the second automatic promotion slot, but there is still time to reel in the Bluebirds.
Fulham could have been behind when Blades skipper Billy Sharp was left unmarked in the six-yard box, but headed a right wing cross over the bar. And in truth there were a couple more near misses for the visitors.
But once Mitrovic began to impose himself, the Blades were always second best.
A low shot from Stefan Johansen which roused Fulham after a slowish start was the result of Mitrovic’s muscular presence and the striker then worked space for himself to get in another strike on goal.
Sheyi Ojo’s bursts of speed down the right flank kept the lines of attack going on both flanks and with Cairney and Johansen pulling strings, the result was never in doubt.
Lucas Piazon came off the bench just past the hour and promptly supplied an assist for Cairney to make it 3-0 – though Tim Ream winning possession and then Sessegnon scampering down the flank did the real damage.
It was only Cairney’s second goal of the season and first since the home draw with Bolton back in October - a time when Fulham were 13th in the table. Much has changed since then.
Mitrovic picked up a late yellow card for a fairly innocuous foul but was afforded an early exit from preceedings by Jokanovic, allowing him to milk deserved applause from home fans.
Fulham: Bettinelli – Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett – McDonald – Ojo (Piazon 58), Johansen (Norwood 65), Cairney, Sessegnon – Mitrovic (Rui Fonte 87). Subs not used: Norman, Ayite, Christie, Kamara.