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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at The Riverside

Fulham on the brink of Premier League promotion after Mitrovic's headed finish sinks Boro





Middlesbrough 0-1 Fulham

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s superb textbook header gifted Fulham all three points in a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough at the Riverside.


Fulham had their work cut out before scoring the crucial winner and simultaneously derail Boro’s own promotion hopes.


And the Cottagers are on the cusp of a stunning third consecutive promotion to the Premier League in less than four years, under three different managers.


But should they expectedly get the job done it will be their first straight promotion since Jean Tigana led the West Londoners to the promised land as champions in 2000/2001.


Marco Silva’s men need to rack up a few more points to mathematically secure a swift return to England’s top-flight but tonight was as big a three points and victory as they come.


Not only did they extend their lead to second-placed Bournemouth to a staggering 11 points, but by denying Boro the three points, they also preserved their 17-point advantage over third place, which Chris Wilder’s high-flying side could have moved up to had they won tonight and their next game in hand.


The fact that it was the Serbia international to break Boro’s resistance was indicative of the 38-goal talisman’s six-star campaign in the Championship.


When Fulham needed a moment of inspiration the ex-Newcastle striker delivered them just that in most games.


A bit of luck is needed too, with Middlesbrough squandering two gilt-edged chances to nick a point late on.


And it must be said that on the balance of play a draw would have been a fairer result.


Less than a minute into the game, Harrison Reed played a good ball across the face of goal but none of his teammates made the run with him.


Mitrovic then missed back-to-back chances to get Fulham off the mark.


He first fired his effort across the face from outside the box despite having time and space to advance before shooting or bringing someone else into play.


And minutes later the league’s topscorer’s header was effortlessly collected by ex-QPR goalkeeper Joe Lumley at the near post.


There was tension and apprehension in the air among the home supporters tonight at The Riverside as their team would have been fourth with a win and set a huge statement of intent in their play-off aspirations.


But Fulham are a different beast to Birmingham City and Peterborough, their latest victims in the league.


Fulham may not have created mayhem but were in the ascendant and asked most questions.


But despite that, the hosts came closest to taking the lead, had it not been for American skipper Tim Ream crucially blocking Matt Crooks’ net-bound effort on 40 minutes.



Five minutes inside the second half, Bobby Decordova- Reid was unable to bundle home Kenny Tete’s square pass in the crowded six-yard area.


Czech shot stopper marek Rodak then went down low to palm away Andraz Sporar’s thunderous effort in the 62nd minute.


Mitrovic then what he does best, hammering a header into roof of the net from Harry Wilson’s free-kick as the Boro defence was caught napping.


Before failing to score a single goal despite a late flurry of chances.


Sporar headed wide Marc Bola’s cross before Josh Coburn saw his glancing header flash just wide of the post on 87 minutes.


And Fulham rode their luck again when Duncan Watmore skied his effort in the fourth minute of added time.


Silva, his players and the supporters breathed a huge sigh of relief and should the Cottagers get the job done in the coming weeks they will look back at tonight’s scrappy win as one of the season’s defining moments.


Middlesbrough


1 Joe Lumley – Anfernee Dijksteel- 3 Neil Taylor- 6 Dael Fry- 7 Marcus Tavernier- 11 Andraz Sporar- 14 Lee Peltier- 16 Jonny Howson- 17 Paddy McNair- 18 Duncan Watmore- 25 Matt Crooks


Fulham FC


1 Marek Rodak- 2 Kenny Tete- 16 Tosin – 13 Tim Ream- 23 Joe Bryan- 6 Harrison Reed- 12 Nathaniel Chalobah- 8 Harry Wilson- 9 Fabio Carvalho- 4 Bobby De Cordova-Reid- 9 Aleksandar Mitrovic

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