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  • By Yann Tear at Craven Cottage

Yo-yo Fulham secure another promotion as more Mitrovic goals usher in elevation

Fulham (3) 3 Mitrovic 9, 42 Carvalho 34

Preston North End (0) 0

Well of course they are back up. It’s an even year isn’t it after all?

The Whites may have suffered an unexpected mishap at Derby at the start of Easter, following the home loss to Coventry City, but they were hardly blown off course.

Here, in front of their own fans, they made it three promotions in five years – underscored once again by a couple of Aleksandar Mitrovic goals. It’s become quite the routine.

Unlike the previous two occasions, a nerve-jangling play-off final will not be required. Hopefully, neither will be the instant relegation which followed hot on the heels of those Wembley play-off wins.

Next year, they need to do a Brentford and not a Fulham.

This has been a really curious season by Fulham standards. There have been some setbacks. Some duff results. Form has looked a bit patchy of late. But it has never amounted to anything resembling a potential derailment. It has been as serene and jeopardy-free campaign as they could have wished for.

There was very little tension in the air too. It was another pleasant evening stroll down the Thames. The very best trouble-free experience parachute money can buy.

And already by half time, they could contemplate getting the party started. It was 3-0 by then and as good as over.

The obligatory post-match pitch invasion – mostly from the Hammersmith End – felt almost mundane. It was expected of the fans, so they did it. But in all honesty, there was more gut-wrenching excitement and passion in a semi-final play-off win against Derby a few years ago than here.

The promotion currency is still very much sought after, but has nevertheless been a little devalued because of its abundant supply.

But at least everyone could lap it up in person. Two years ago, they went up with a fine victory over Brentford at Wembley that no-one saw because the pandemic condemned it to be played behind closed doors.

North End were in it for a few minutes. Ched Evans almost slid in an early goal, but Tosin got back well to block. Marek Rodak had to stretch to tip over a deflected shot from Ben Whiteman.

It was soon all irrelevant, though. On nine minutes, Joe Bryan cut in from the left, slipped a ball behind Liam Lindsay and there was Mitrovic – who else – to slip the ball through the legs of keeper Daniel Iversen.

Easy as pie. As it has been all season for the Serb, who has now amassed a ridiculous divisional record of 40 goals in 42 games.

We did not need to wait too long for more. Fabio Carvalho bent a shot wide from just outside the box after smart work from Neeskens Kebano and Mitrovic, Harrison Reed headed over from a rehearsed corner floated to the edge of the area.

Then on 34 minutes, Mitrovic played in Kebano with a flicked header and a deflected cross fell perfectly for Carvalho to clip home at the near post. Not long after, Harry Wilson ran at the heart of a retreating defence and slipped in Mitro again for a crisp low strike inside Iversen’s left hand post.

It was the team’s 98th goal of the season and they are only 10 behind Man City’s record for the Championship with four still to play.

Preston tried to show a little defiance and Cameron Archer had a shot tipped onto the bar by Rodek, before Mitrovic burst through to strike the crossbar at the other end after a fine deflected block by Iversen.

The over-worked keeper then made an excellent double save to thwart Carvalho and Mitrovic as the floodgates threatened to open.

There was to be no hat-trick for the no9 this time and Marco Silva withdrew him 13 minutes from time. But by then, the job was more than done.

Whites: (4-2-3-1) Rodak – N Williams, Tosin, Ream, Bryan – Cairney, Reed (Seri 70) – Wilson, Carvalho (De Cordova-Reid 75), Kebano – Mitrovic (Muniz 77). Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Hector, Chalobah, Robinson

Lilywhites: (3-1-4-2) Iversen – van den Berg, Lindsay, Hughes – Whiteman – Potts (Sinclair 69), McCann, Johnson, Earl (Diaby h/t) – Evans (Maguire 25), Archer. Subs not used: Cunningham, Rafferty, Huntington, Hudson


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