Parker praises Mitrovic after Fulham star’s emphatic return

Scott Parker lauded the efforts of match-winner Aleksandar Mitrović in getting his fitness back ahead of schedule to rejoin the squad in its push for promotion.

The Serbian striker was a surprise inclusion in Fulham’s starting line-up against Huddersfield, as his ankle sprain sustained at Hull on January 11 was estimated to keep him sidelined for a few more weeks yet.

And, with a deft finish at the near post against Huddersfield that secured the three points at Craven Cottage, the 25-year-old joined Brentford’s Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship scoring charts on 19 goals for the season.

“He’s done very well,” said Parker. “Fair play to him – he only trained with us on Thursday and worked hard over the last couple of weeks to get fit and in a position to go and last a game.

“He’s played 90 minutes today and got his goal, showed his real quality towards the end of the game as well. Pleased to have him back in the team.”

Less than 24 hours after the transfer window shut, Parker also stressed that he is satisfied with the make-up and depth of his squad as it enters the final stretch of the season, despite the club’s lack of activity on deadline day.

He added: “We are where we are. We’ve brought in Jordan Archer and Terence Kongolo, and we’re happy with that. This is it now. This is us. We have 16 games left, and the players we have in this squad now are going to have to contribute.

“Everyone has contributed so far to the success that we’ve had in this division. That’s going to be needed now. We need to unite and stick together to keep learning and growing as a team.”

Despite seeing the game out with some defensive grit, Parker was concerned with the complacency that his players showed for a large portion of the match.

“First and foremost, the result is key and I’m pleased with that,” said Parker. “The first 38 minutes were pretty good, but if you take your foot off the pedal, take liberties, or go against what’s got you to 3-0 in this division – or in any football match – it can come back and bite you.

“I just feel that we dropped the intensity about us. It felt like the game had become too easy for us, and the first two times they enter our box, they score two goals, and at that point, they’re holding onto something. They’ve got something to chase down.

“At 3-0, they looked dejected and, really, we should have put them to the sword by carrying on doing what got us there. So I’m disappointed with that.”

The three goals ended up being Fulham’s only shots on target in the entire match, meaning that Parker still sees much room for improvement.

He conceded: “For 38 minutes, I thought we were sensational, but the bits in between were poor. I didn’t like us one bit. We saw the game out, and that’s a positive there, but there’s obviously some learning for us to do.

“This league is what it is. You’ve seen today what this league is about. It’s a tough, relentless league. Every game comes thick and fast.

“Teams come here and put men behind the ball. It was the same with Middlesbrough two weeks ago; we were very, very good, and the one criticism was probably that we weren’t clinical enough. Today, we were clinical, but then we took our foot off the pedal and got sucker-punched a couple of times.”

Parker added: “But we need to keep learning. We’re a young team. And we have learned. [Had it been] at the beginning of the season, this game probably ends as a draw.”