Fulham climb to third after polished stroll over Derby County
Fulham 3 Derby County 0
Bobby Reid finally broke his duck for Fulham and Aleksandar Mitrovic helped himself to his 13th goal of the season as Fulham racked up their third win in a row.
Skipper Tom Cairney added the icing on the cake a minute from time.
The Whites always looked in control against the Rams, who have now won only one of their past 15 games at the Cottage, which includes the famous play-off defeat in west London two years ago.
Victory has at last given Scott Parker’s men a bit of momentum after a stuttering autumn and they are up to third all of a sudden and threatening to live up to the pre-season hype.
The only downside was injuries to two of the night’s best performers which robbed the hosts of some of their urgency, though the hard work had already been done.
Reid’s goal and intelligent play was one of the big plus points for the hosts.
The on-loan midfielder/striker was given a brief to patrol the spaces behind Mitrovic and he relished the role, timing a run into the box perfectly to get on the end of a pinpoint cross from the right from Abou Kamara and toe-poke home.
As well as giving Reid a lift, the seventh minute goal was a perfect follow-up for Kamara to last Friday’s two goal haul that settled the west London derby against QPR.
He played because of Mitrovic’s one-game suspension last week but deservedly kept his place in the team, at the expense of Anthony Knockaert.
Kamara’s bullish presence on the right flank troubled Derby constantly and another of his charges in from the right offered Ivan Cavaleiro a sight of the target – Rams stopper Kelle Roos needing to stretch to his left to tip away.
Soon after, Kamara had a go himself – a low shot with his left peg keeping the Derby keeper honest - before a switch to the left flank saw him create another chance for Cairney.
But of course you can never hog all of the headlines when Mitrovic is around and the Serb announced his return to the side with a simple header from a Cavaleiro corner to make it 2-0 after 40 minutes. There will be inquests about how he managed to get the better of a static defence.
After the break, Kamara and Mitrovic combined before the latter stung the keeper’s palms – no sign of last year’s tensions between the pair here – before Mitro sent a header just over.
Kamara was unlucky to have his night ended too soon by what looked like an ankle injury. He had been enjoying himself and the same misfortune befell Reid, who took a knock and was subbed before an hour had been played. But the pair made telling contributions.
A late breakaway saw Mitrovic feed Cairney for his sixth goal of the season. By then Derby’s token response had been easily repelled.
Before Fulham had got going, Tom Lawrence spurned a great early chance for the Rams, miscuing from about six yards. It was, in truth, as close as they got to having a say in the night’s proceedings.
Line-up: Rodak – Odoi, Mawson, Ream, Bryan – Johansen, Cairney, Reid (Onomah 60) – Cavaleiro (Christie 80), Mitrovic, Kamara (Knockaert 54). Subs not used: Bettinelli, McDonald, Kebano, O’Riley.