It was a nervous opening five minutes again here as Preston, with seemingly little to play for, twice went close early on through Cameron Archer and Ben Whiteman.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man as those inside the Cottage breathed a collective sigh of relief with the much needed opening goal. Of course it was ‘Mitre.’
His 39th goal of the season was simple in its creation. Joe Bryan drove forward and slid the ball into the Serbian’s path where he touched the ball between the legs of the onrushing Daniel Iversen.
Carvalho’s goal came 11 minutes before half-time with a first time finish into the far corner after Neeskens Kebano’s cross had deflected into his path, before Mitrovic swept in his second four minutes before the break.
There was a rare foray forward for Preston at the start of the second half as Rodak saved magnificently to turn Archer’s shot onto the crossbar.
An awful pass from Bambo Diaby then let in Mitrovic for a hat-trick chance. Iversen got his leg to the attempt and the ball looped onto the roof of the net.
Iversen then made an impressive double save to deny first Carvalho and then Mitrovic as Fulham laid siege to the away goal. No further goals came but a mass pitch invasion greeted the final whistle.
Are Fulham better set to establish themsleves in Premier League this time?
By Nick Szczepanik
The end of another season approaches: time for Fulham to change divisions again. This will be the fifth campaign in succession in which the club have been either promoted to, or relegated from, the Premier League. The aim now is to end that sequence, stay up for the first time since 2012-13, and banish their growing reputation as a sort of Norwich City by the Thames.
On the face of it, Fulham have one big advantage over many promoted teams, in the form of a proven goalscorer. Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has 38 league goals this season, only four short of Guy Whittingham’s post-war record in a 46-game season, set in 1992-93.
Two seasons ago Mitrovic hit 26, so would seem to be improving, and at age 27 he is arguably at his peak. But last season in the Premier League I have found the net only three times. Is he, like Fulham, too good for the Championship but not quite good enough for the top flight?
Questions also surround Marco Silva, the manager. At one point in his career, Everton wanted the Portuguese so badly that they ended up paying Watford a reported £4 million in compensation for unsettling him. But Silva’s record in the Premier League is unpromising. He failed to keep Hull City up in 2017, and was sacked by Watford in January 2018, only eight months into a two-year contract, and by Everton in December 2019, after a little over 18 months in charge.
However, his tenure at Fulham since taking over on July 1 last year has been successful by any measure. His team of him have twice won 7-0 on the road, at Blackburn Rovers and Reading, and they scored 22 goals in four matches – all won – in January. So impressive has been their march to the title until recently that you almost wonder whether successive stumbles at home to Coventry City and away to Derby County with the finish line in sight betrayed some inner misgiving that the top division is not a place where they belong.