Parker praises grit shown by Fulham to get over the line to land a slot at Wembley
Scott Parker hailed his side's resilience after they came through a searching examination to book a place in the Championship play-off final.
They had to endure a torrid second half against a robust Cardiff who threw the kitchen sink at them in an attempt to force extra time.
In the end, the Whites were just happy to hold on to a 2-1 defeat to progress 3-2 on aggregate – setting up a Wembley final against Brentford on Tuesday in a west London derby.
“When the going gets tough, there are some points in football matches when technical ability, the sort of player you are, what qualities you have, the skills, whatever they are, go right out of the window,” said Fulham’s head coach.
“There’s always points in matches which are nothing to do with tactics, nothing to do with technique...it’s to do with a mindset and that was a prime example tonight.
“They [Cardiff City] constantly put you under pressure because they can put the ball in the box from all over the pitch and at times we didn’t deal with that well enough. I think we recognise that.
“In the end, though, it was about mentality. It was roll-your-sleeves-up, you need to do all you can because at the end of it is a massive prize.
“It’s the final we all wanted - to have an opportunity to try and get into the big league and in those moments you’ve got to have a desperation to do all you can. Big players have to step up. Marek Rodak made some very good saves to keep us in it.”
He added: “To get to the final is an incredible achievement. The goal was just to get to the final and we’ve done that. I think the performance tonight and where we were was tough. Cardiff made it very difficult for us.
“They came here with nothing to lose and you could see that difference between the two teams. There was a bit of an edginess to us and their goals changed the complexity in terms of when they were scored.
Parker was proud but relieved more than euphoric – in stark contrast to the elation demonstrated by celebrating Brentford players the night before in their semi-final.
He is mindful that nothing has been won and that the toughest test awaits against a side who beat the Whites twice in the regular season.
“Brentford are a very good side,” he said. “In this league, you always need to step up. You need to produce performances. We’re playing a very good side, we understand that.
“It was a good result for them last night coming off the back of three defeats. But a final’s a final. Form goes out of the window. We’ll go into this game fully prepared. We’ll dust ourselves off, regroup and go from there.”
Aleksandar Mitrovic was missed last night. It will be touch and go whether he is fit enough to play a part in Tuesday’s final but Parker is optimistic.
“We’re hopeful. He was close tonight,” he said. “The medical team did all they could, we pushed and pushed but tonight he just wasn’t ready. We have a few days and we’ll do all we can to get him out there.”