Stand-in skipper Kevin McDonald says Fulham’s first win at Middlesbrough since 1984 was a ‘massive’ result that could help kickstart the club’s Championship promotion push.
The Scottish schemer, who led the side in the absence of regular captain Tom Cairney, saluted the Whites’ solid defensive display that proved the basis for what he described as a ‘massive three points’ that came courtesy of Oliver Norwood’s 95th minute penalty at the Riverside. McDonald told BBC Radio London that Fulham hadn’t taken Tony Pulis’ new team lightly, preparing for a tough assignment on Teesside:
It was a great result for us in the end. We knew it was always going to be a tough game for us coming here. They set up well, defended well – obviously we did as well, but it was a massive three points for us. I’m not sure if it was a penalty or not, I’ll have to have a look at that, but it was a massive three points and I felt it was a good game.
The 29 year-old hopes that the manner of the victory, which took Fulham to within a single point of the play-off positions, can provide real momentum at a crucial stage of the season. McDonald is certainly confident that Fulham will be battling for a place in the top six at the end of the campaign:
I think we’re going to be up there – there’s no doubt about that. We took a bit of time to get going but we’re slowly creeping up the table and I think we’re going to be there or thereabouts. Today’s obviously a big result and we’ve got to keep plugging away. We’ve got Burton Albion at home next weekend. It’s a great chance to take three points and we need to go in with the same attitude that we did today.
McDonald revealed that the preparation for the trip to the north east had focused on Middlesbrough’s attacking threats, particularly how to combat the pace of winger Adama Traore and the aerial threat posed by Rudy Gestede.
We knew it was going to be that way. We knew Traore was going to cause us problems – he’s so fast, he’s incredible, to be honest with you. They obviously played the long ball up to Gestede. We knew it was going to be a tough start with the fans behind them – as soon as they get a bit of momentum, it’s hard to deal with. I thought we defended well, we battled away well enough to keep a clean sheet.
The former Wolves midfielder was not surprised to see the visitors come more into the contest in the second period as Fulham began to exploit some of the gaps Middlesbrough left as they went in search of that elusive opening goal.
It was always going to open up and up. I felt we got more of the ball and better with the ball we looked more direct and we looked to play in the gaps and stuff. I thought towards the end – apart from [Britt] Assombalonga’s chance – if anyone was going to win it, it was going to be us.
The midfielder also shared how much he was enjoying his deployment at the base of the Fulham midfield in a role created for him by Slavisa Jokanovic.
I’m used to it now – the gaffer wants me in that position. I enjoy doing the dirty side, but at the same time I like to get on the ball and start the attacks. I’ve played here eighteen months. It’s a difficult kind of role from what I’ve played before and I really enjoy it. I thought personally I’d done well today and as a team I thought we were a good team.
He was pleased to come out on the end of some real drama in added time as Fulham punished Assombalonga for striking the bar by scoring with the last kick of the game when Northern Ireland international Norwood won and converted a late spot-kick.
It was fantastic for us to score. We’ve had penalty problems in the past, so I’m sure half our fans were thinking, ‘Here we go again’. Luckily enough, Ollie [Norwood] stepped up confidently with a good penalty and he got the three points for us.