Middlesbrough moved to within a point of the Championship summit with a comfortable victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
A third-minute header from Albert Adomah – a previous Fulham transfer target in the Roy Hodgson days – set Boro on their way to a valuable three points before Grant Leadbitter doubled the lead with a penalty after Chris Baird had brought down David Nugent. A miserable afternoon for Slavisa Jokanovic was compounded by Richard Stearman’s dismissal – for taking out Jordan Rhodes – three minutes from time.
Fulham, well off the pace set by the promotion contenders, were booed off at half-time and full-time having been comprehensively outplayed. This dismal defeat sees the Cottagers slump to twentieth in the table and right back in the thick of the relegation dogfight, despite the positives shown in a battling draw at Elland Road in midweek where the Whites clung onto a point despite being reduced to ten minute.
Here, Aitor Karanka’s side were dominant from the first whistle. Adomah had already threatened twice from the right flank before he ghosted in behind a lazy Luke Garbutt to emphatically guide home Stewart Downing’s cross. Boro made it two when spot-kick specialist Leadbitter lashed in a penalty after Baird had impeded Nugent in the area. Fulham’s hopes of a fightback where hindered by the loss of Ryan Fredericks midway through the first half but the right wing back’s replaced Moussa Dembele brought the best of Dimi Konstantopolous with an overhead kick and Ritchie de Laet just about scrambled a Michael Madl away from underneath his own crossbar.
The away side were in control in the second half as well as Fulham looked every inch a side who have won just three times in their last 21 games. Adomah, Emilio Nsue and Downing all had chances to make it 3-0 but Karanka and the loud travelling fans were very happy to consolidate their position just behind the automatic promotion places. Such lofty heights seem a long way away for the Whites.
FULHAM (3-5-1-1): Lonergan; Stearman, Ream, Burn; Fredericks (Dembele 22), Garbutt, Parker, Tunnicliffe (O’Hara 68), Baird (Labyad 57); McCormack. Subs (not used): Lewis, Richards, Hyndman, Kacaniklic.
BOOKED: Burn, O’Hara.
SENT OFF: Stearman (88).
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Konstantopolous; Nsue, De Laet, Fry, Gibson; Leadbitter, Forshaw; Adomah, Downing (Stuani 73), Gaston Ramirez (Friend 87); Nugent (Rhodes 79). Subs (not used): Meijas, Kalas, de Pena, de Sart.
GOALS: Adomah (3), Leadbitter (pen 20).
REFEREE: Charles Breakspear (Surrey).