Scott Parker optimistic Aleksandar Mitrovic will make Wembley showpiece
Scott Parker remains hopeful that talisman striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit for Tuesday’s Championship play-off final clash with London rivals Brentford.
Mitrovic was forced to sit out both legs of Fulham’s 3-2 aggregate semi-final victory over Cardiff, watching from the stands on Thursday night as the Whites secured safe passage to the Wembley showpiece.
Neeskens Kebano’s fifth goal in four games proved enough to edge Fulham into the final despite a 2-1 home loss in the second leg, with the 2-0 lead from Monday’s win in Cardiff providing just enough cushion for the Whites.
Serbia hitman Mitrovic is not only Fulham’s sole recognised striker but also boasts 26 league goals this term, and Parker admitted the 25-year-old still faces some hard graft to be fit in time for Tuesday.
Asked if Mitrovic will be ready to take on Brentford, Parker said: “I’m hopeful, I’m hopeful, he was close tonight but not quite close enough.
“It would have been a massive risk.
“We pushed and pushed, and the medical team did everything they could but he just wasn’t ready.
“So it would have been too great a risk to involve him.
“He’ll be working now, working over the next few days. And we’ll just do everything we can to try to have him ready.”
Curtis Nelson and Lee Tomlin found the net for Cardiff to push Fulham right to the brink in a nervy night at Craven Cottage.
The Bluebirds had several late chances that could have altered the outcome, but Fulham held out – in no small part thanks to a string of smart saves from goalkeeper Marek Rodak.
“He was fantastic, he put in a big performance tonight when he was called upon,” said Parker, of Rodak.
“He needed to keep us in the game and he did that.
“He’s done that throughout the season. You need players to step up, and he did that.”
Cardiff boss Neil Harris vowed the Bluebirds will come back stronger for next season, insisting the south Wales men cannot afford to dwell on the defeat.
“Fulham scored in the key moments, that’s ultimately what’s cost us the tie,” said Harris.
“Credit to Fulham for getting through, it’s just disappointment and a tinge of sadness that we weren’t quite good enough over the two games.
“There’s so much more to come from us, I honestly believe that.
“We’re disappointed now, but every player comes home proud of what they’ve achieved.
“And we drag that forward next season. No disappointment, no ifs and buts, just straight back into it for next year.”