Cairney's goalscoring return caps happy night for Fulham, as Cardiff flounder in the rain
Fulham (0) 2 Cairney 57, Mitrovic 63
Cardiff City (0) 0
Tom Cairney made the most dramatic of returns to the fold with a glorious rasping drive to set Fulham on their way to another home win.
The Scot has endured a frustratingly lengthy spell on the sidelines, recovering from a knee injury and just the sight of his arrival off the bench for the second half warmed the hearts of the Hammy End faithful.
Soon, he was warming them even more with a beautiful strike from 18 yards after a Harry Wilson run had ended in a Cardiff defender toeing it invitingly into Cairney’s path.
It was his first appearance since a draw at Newcastle last December and he missed the entire second half of the Premier League campaign. But he was quick to make up for lost time as Fulham had fun in the teeming rain.
With Cardiff’s resistance finally broken, the Whites soon doubled their lead as Aleksandar Mitrovic swept the ball home from a Bobby Reid cross for his 15th of the season for club and country.
How the Serbian loves the Championship.
Fulham are up to second after this win and seemingly over that recent mauling at Coventry City. Sunday at Nottingham Forest can’t come soon enough.
The Whites were predictably buoyant after Saturday’s 4-1 demolition of neighbours QPR and soon on the attack – Reid glancing a header just wide from a Harry Wilson cross.
Neeskens Kebano scuffed a low left-footer against the base of a post. Harrison Reed ended a run from deep with an arrowed shot from the edge of the penalty area arc which needed to be helped behind by Alex Smithies.
It was all quite a contrast with their moribund opponents who have fallen away badly under Mick McCarthy this season.
The Bluebirds contested the play-offs with the Whites two seasons ago but are just above the bottom three having lost six on the bounce before tonight, and were smarting from a 3-0 weekend drubbing at rivals Swansea.
Wales striker Kieffer Moore clipped the top of the crossbar early on to suggest there might at least be some obstinacy from the visitors, but Marco Silva’s men always had too much for them.
Ex-Cardiff man Reid took plenty of stick from the visiting fans but came close to the opener at the start of the second half, as he had at the start of the game. Only a trailing leg from defender Mark McGuiness denied him with a block.
But his busy work would produce an assist and, along with Wilson, he had Cardiff fretting all night long with his zestful running.
Marek Rodak had little to do but pulled off a fine one-handed save to deny Moore from 12 yards in the dying embers of the game.
Whites: (4-2-3-1) Rodak – Odoi, Tosin, Ream, Robinson – Seri, Reed (Cairney h/t) – Kebano, Wilson (Stansfield 90), De Cordova-Reid – Mitrovic (Muniz 89). Subs not used: Tete, Gazzaniga, Onomah, Mawson
Bluebirds: (4-2-3-1) Smithies – Ng, McGuiness, Flint, Bagan – Pack, Vaulks - Giles (Evans 66), Bowen (Collins 66), Colwill (M Harris 72)– Moore. Subs not used: Phillips, Morrison, Brown, Patten