Fulham manager Scott Parker branded Aleksandar Mitrovic an “animal” and saluted his side’s character after they returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory at Birmingham.
Mitrovic’s 12th goal of the season silenced the Birmingham boo-boys and moved the Cottagers up to sixth.
The Serbian striker, who had an effort disallowed and was booked for his part in a flare-up with Jude Bellingham, hooked home in the 52nd minute after Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp dropped substitute Cyrus Christie’s cross.
Parker was delighted with the contribution of Mitrovic.
“He looks like an absolute animal, chasing things down, and if that is the base, the goals will come,” he said.
“That’s what we want from him; he is the talisman, the guy everyone looks to and the pressure is on him. He needs to understand what he gives to the team.
“For all his goals, for everything that goes round him, all I ask of him is forget the goals, just go and turn up and be the Mitrovic he can be.”
Parker was also delighted with the character of his team after they bounced back from a 3-0 home defeat to Hull last week.
“We came here and showed real character in tough conditions and were worthy winners,” he added.
“First and foremost you must show character, desire and passion and if you have that, you will be all right, because there’s no doubt we have technical, gifted players.”
Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak made superb saves from striker Lukas Jutkiewicz’s point-blank header, Kristian Pedersen’s early angled drive and Fran Villalba’s flick as Blues were sentenced to a second successive defeat.
Blues caretaker head coach Pep Clotet felt his team was hard done by.
He said: “We had 16 shots, they had 10, we had four shots on target, they had three and from these three, two were valid, because I think the goal is a blatant foul on Marc Roberts.
“Mitrovic never wanted to head that cross – he thought the keeper was going to catch it and he just bashes against Marc Roberts who had the position won.
“Roberts was sent three yards outside then the ball dropped to Mitrovic, who was in that position thanks to a foul, so it’s a clear foul.
“But those are margins. We had very clear chances as well that we should have scored.
“I thought we had everything there to have secured points, if not three then one.”
But the visitors could have made it 2-0 at the death when substitute Aboubakar Kamara’s shot hit the inside of the post on the break.
Fulham were denied by the offside flag in the 14th minute when Mitrovic pounced after Camp dropped Bobby Reid’s shot.
There was a flashpoint off the ball at the end of the first half after Anthony Knockaert landed on Bellingham, apparently splitting the Birmingham midfielder’s lip.
Mitrovic and Bellingham then shared a heated exchange and both players were booked.
Parker said: “I just see it as heat of the moment, and they just squared up – it’s handbags really.”
Clotet said: “It was normal emotions in the game – I don’t think much happened. I don’t know what Jude was booked for.”