Mitrovic sends goal records tumbling… but can he step up this time?


7-0 win, a century of goals and a brace for the man who has now scored 43 of them to clinch a Championship title that rarely looked like ending up anywhere else. If there was ever a night to sum up Fulham’s season, this was it.

Marco Silva’s side had already sealed a third promotion to the Premier League in five seasons with victory over Preston last month, but that came in the midst of a slack run of just one win in five games that hardly did justice to the way they have carried all before them this term, first topping the table in August and making all but a brief stint of the running since mid-November.

This was more like it, the Cottagers using their final home game of a multi-record-breaking season as the setting for what Sheffield United, who host the champions on the last day and are not yet sure of a play-off place, hope will prove one final blowout.

This was the third time Fulham have won by seven goals this season, more than the other 91 teams in English League football have managed between them. The rout was started, fittingly, by long-serving skipper Tom Cairney and finished, even more so, by Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Cairney’s goal was Fulham’s 100th of the campaign and by the time Kenny Tete, Fabio Carvalho, Bobby Decordova-Reid, Jean-Michael Seri and Mitrovic (twice) had added their names to the scoresheet the tally was up to 106, with the record of 108 set by Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City in 2001/02 now in sight ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bramall Lane.

The seventh goal in a 7-0 does not often warrant a shirt-off celebration, but Mitrovic’s second, which came in stoppage time, was the most significant of the bunch, taking his tally for the season beyond Guy Whittingham’s second-tier record for a 46-game campaign.

“I always try to say I don’t think about the record, but everybody spoke about it and today it happened,” the Serbian said. “It’s very special. We really wanted a big win in front of the crowd and to break the record is perfect.”

Mitrovic has been simply devastating, perhaps best emphasised by comparison to his nearest rival, Dominic Solanke, the Bournemouth striker who, with two games to play, has scored 29 goals this season, within two of the previous Championship record set by Brentford’s Ivan Toney only a year ago, yet has not been in the same league.

Unsurprisingly named the division’s player of the season last week, attention is already turning to whether Mitrovic can replicate this form in the top-flight next, having struggled and then been ostracised by Scott Parker in the Premier League last time around.

“He will be more confident next season and we need to be that as a club as well,” Silva said. “All of us have to improve every single year.”

The daunting task ahead in trying to dodge a third straight yo-yo seemed, rightly, far from the minds of the fans who flooded the Craven Cottage pitch at full-time, deserving of this kind of stress-free, carnival promotion, having endured a tense play-off final at Wembley in 2018 and another behind their sofas at home two years after that.

Their team have been a joy to watch for the neutral, too, and the way in which they secured this crown might have served up one final gift in the damage done to sixth-placed Luton’s goal difference, which adds renewed jeopardy to the race for the play-offs on the final day of the season and offers renewed hope to Middlesborough and Millwall below. Whoever follows Fulham up will not have done it in anything like the same style.

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