Fulham boss Marco Silva praised his captain Tom Cairney after watching him score two goals in the thumping win over Leicester on Monday.
Cairney has made only 23 starts in the Premier League this season but took full advantage of his inclusion against the relegation-threatened Foxes, registering his first league goals of the campaign and putting in a fine all-round performance.
The 32-year-old swept in his side’s third goal of a 5-3 rout of Dean Smith’s team on the stroke of half-time, before adding his second after the break with a deft first touch and finish from Kenny Tete’s cross.
It kept Fulham in the hunt to register their highest-ever points tally in the Premier League, with two wins needed from their final three matches to break the club record of 53 set by Roy Hodgson’s team in 2009.
Silva said he was pleased to see Cairney working in midfield to help the team out of possession while also instilling the calm in the first half that ultimately helped them to sweep away Leicester before the break.
“Tom is always a player that can give us the calmness to start the game, even some moments under pressure he can give us what we need,” said Silva.
“Of course he knows I am pushing him to arrive in certain areas, to be between the lines.
“In some moments, first and second phase, we need players like him to start well, but when the game goes forward and we are in our defensive half, we need him to arrive in certain areas as well.
“Two great finishes, two great goals from him. Top quality player. We know his quality on the ball, everything that he can do.
“I’m pleased to see him working hard off the ball, understanding the moments, understanding the moments to press higher with Vini (Carlos Vinicius), the moments that he should drop to help the other midfielders as well. It was a very good performance from him and I’m really pleased for him.
“He deserves it and he’s having a good season, even if he’s not playing every time from the start. All of the last season for him has been good.”
The victory ended a run of three straight losses that had effectively ended Fulham’s hopes of qualifying for Europe next season.
Despite the disappointment, Silva remained optimistic that they can still record the club’s best tally for a top-flight season.
They will have Aleksandar Mitrovic back for the trip to struggling Southampton on Saturday and will relegate Saints with a victory, before hosting Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage and finishing with a visit to Old Trafford to play Manchester United.
“It’s really important we don’t hide that it’s our clear goal to achieve the target points that we want, to make the season even to be more brilliant, if I can say,” said Silva.
“We want really to finish the season with a big stamp, and the stamp will be to get that certain amount of points. We are going to fight for it definitely.
“We don’t know if it’s going to happen. But we are going to work hard and fight really hard and to enjoy to embrace the challenge to achieve it.”