Sean Davis scored a stunning winner in front of England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson as Fulham moved further clear of the relegation battle with a vital win at Loftus Road this afternoon.
The all-action midfielder, who is the only Fulham player to have represented the club in all four divisions of English football, harbours ambitions of an England senior call-up and he did his cause no harm with a dominant display against Middlesbrough, who are still searching for an elusive away goal. Davis capped a man-of-the-match performance with the only goal, racing onto a clever pass from Sylvain Legwinski to glide away from Gareth Southgate and prod a precise finish past Mark Schwarzer into the far corner.
Fulham deserved the lead as they had been utterly dominant despite Steve McClaren making five changes, including adding Massimo Maccarone and Noel Whelan to a new-look Middlesbrough attack. All those alterations left Boro disjointed and they were hanging on for dear life after a blistering start from Jean Tigana’s side. Facundo Sava almost headed Fulham in front from Bjarne Goldbaek’s cross in the sixth minute but the ball flew just wide of the far post.
Middlesbrough improved after the interval with Joseph-Desire Job adding some quality to their play and heavy rain hindering football’s preferred possession football. Job took just seven minutes to test Maik Taylor with a rising drive from the edge of the box that the Northern Ireland international stretched to turn over the crossbar. But Fulham looked arguably even more dangerous as they went in search of the crucial second goal and Sava crashed a header against the bar at the other end after bright play from Steed Malbranque.
Mark Schwarzer produced a superb save to keep out an effort from Goldbaek then dipped just as it reached the Australian goalkeeper and, although the visitors pushed forward in attempt to find a late equaliser, Taylor dealt comfortably enough with strikes from Szilard Nemeth and Maccarone to register a rare clean sheet.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Djetou, Goma; Davis, Legwinski, Goldbaek, Malbranque; Sava (Boa Morte 90), Marlet. Subs (not used): Herrera, Melville, Collins, Hammond.
GOAL: Davis (38).
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Queudrue, Southgate, Vidmar; Geremi, Wilson, Wilkshire (Job 45), Greening; Maccarone, Whelan (Nemeth 64). Subs (not used): Crossley, Cooper, Boksic.
REFEREE: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).