Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s persistence helped Middlesbrough come from behind to grab a vital victory over Fulham this afternoon.
The Dutch marksman was enduring a difficult day in front of goal but he blasted a finish into Yakubu to help Boro level a game that appeared beyond them and then netted the winner eight minutes later on a dramatic afternoon at the Riverside. The home side appeared to be sliding to a second straight league defeat when Collins John and Papa Bouba Diop put Fulham in front. James Morrison’s first league goal kept Boro in the contest before Hasselbaink’s decisive late intervention won the day.
Steve McClaren’s side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but seemed to struggle to work out what to do with it. Full back Franck Quedrue came closest to scoring for the home side with a deft header from Fabio Rochemback’s corner but an outstanding striker from John put Fulham ahead. There seemed to be no danger when Sylvain Legwinski launched Niclas Jensen’s throw into the box but the young striker showed great agility to chest the ball down, turn and fire a fantastic volley over Brad Jones and in off the far post.
Frustrated by Boro’s failure to break down their opponents, McClaren switched formation by sending Szilard Nemeth on for Emmanuel Pogatetz and the substitute almost made an immediate impact when he headed agonisingly wide from a fine Queudrue cross. George Boateng signalled Boro’s intent with a blast from distance but Brian McBride reminded the hosts to be on their toes at the back when he stung Jones’ palms with a snapshot.
Quedrue was proving an effective outlet down the left with his crosses causing particular problems for Fulham. Hasselbaink saw his shot strike team-mate Chris Riggott and bounce away from goal before Yakubu headed wide and McBride should have made the hosts pay for their wastefulness but nodded against the post when Moritz Volz whipped in an inviting ball.
Young Morrison punished the American for that miss by taking advantage of some slack marking to drive home a Yakubu cross four minutes later having been left completely unattended. But Boro were only level for six minutes before Diop outjumped Quedrue to head John’s corner high into the net.
That set the stage for an absorbing finale, with Hasselbaink again shooting into the side netting before finally getting some fortune when another effort spun off the grounded Yakubu and ended up in the net. Fulham appealed for an offside flag that never came and it got worse for the visitors six minutes from time as the former Chelsea forward converted a cross from Nemeth to poach all three points.
MIDDLESBROUGH (3-5-2): Jones, Southgate, Riggott, Queudrue; Parnaby, Morrison, Boateng, Rochemback, Pogatetz (Nemeth 45); Yakubu, Hasselbaink (Doriva 86). Subs (not used): Knight, Bates, Maccarone.
GOALS: Morrison (64), Yakubu (76), Hasselbaink (84).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner; Volz, N. Jensen, Knight, Goma; Diop, Legwinski, Malbranque, Radzinski; McBride, John (Helguson 78).
Subs (not used): Batista, Rosenior, Rehman, Pearce.
BOOKED: N. Jensen.
GOALS: John (9), Diop (70).
REFEREE: Uriah Rennie (South Yorkshire).