Aleksander Mitrovic’s 36th and 37th goals – in just 36 Championship games – gave Fulham a deserved win at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
The prolific Serb first poked in Fabio Carvalho’s right-wing cross on 14 minutes, before sealing the deal from the penalty spot with little more than 10 minutes remaining.
“The Whites are going up” sang the visiting fans, who threw flares on to the pitch after both goals – and the confidence is flowing through both supporters and players.
Premier League whipping boys they may so often have been, but the Championship presents no such hazards for the men from SW6, and they now need an absolute maximum of just six points from their final eight fixtures to secure a return to the promised land.
For QPR, it is a fifth league defeat in six games, and a season which for so long looked to have promised so much, is now fizzling out like the flares thrown from the School end.
And with five of their remaining seven games away from home, it looks to be another season of disappointment for Rangers.
Mitrovic had a chance to put Fulham ahead after only two minutes. Liverpool loanee Neco Williams’ cross from the right was flicked on, and when it fell to the feet of Mitrovic, the marksman’s fierce shot flew inches wide of the left-hand post.
In a frenetic start to this derby, QPR then had a chance to open the scoring themselves. George Thomas was caught slightly off balance as his shot from the left of the penalty area found the side-netting at the end of the ground where the Fulham fans were massed.
But the confidence was oozing out of the visitors. Joe Bryan’s left-footed drive from 25 yards forced a save from Kieran Westwood after 10 minutes, and it wasn’t long until the Whites – playing in black – were in front.
A fine, flowing move down the Fulham right on 14 minutes ended with Mitrovic tapping in from close range Carvalho’s cross.
Fulham were keeping QPR to efforts from range – shots from Yoann Barbet and Dion Sanderson failing to cause too much worry in the Fulham back line, although the latter did call into action Marek Rodak in the Fulham goal.
The league leaders were almost two up on 26 minutes. Carvalho’s deflected shot looped up over Westwood and on to the Rangers post, before it fell to safety.
QPR did have a rare foray into the Fulham half shortly before half-time, but Lyndon Dykes’ touch let him down at the crucial moment, to the delight of the Fulham fans who had made the short three-and-a-half-mile trip across west London.
At the other end Bobby Decordova-Reid saw an attempt brilliantly blocked by the retreating Sanderson, and Thomas’ volley on the stroke of half-time was tame and straight at Rodak. Fulham deserved their lead at the break.
They then started the second-half where they had finished the first – on top. Harry Wilson’s drive on 53 minutes whistled just the wrong side of Westwood’s post from a Fulham point of view – and the keeper needed to push a Mitrovic back-flick over his crossbar soon afterwards following a corner from the left.
Rangers brought on Ilias Chair, but could not force an equaliser, and Mitrovic then made it 2-0 from the spot on 77 minutes, after Lee Wallace handled a right-wing cross. sending Westwood the wrong way – and Fulham, surely, back to the Premier League.