It took him until the final game of the 46, but last season Brentford’s Ivan Toney set a new record for the most goals scored in a single Championship season.
For extended spells throughout the season, he scored so frequently that it looked as though he would surpass Glenn Murray’s benchmark of 30 by some length, yet unwelcome barren spells meant a single goal in a 3-1 win over Bristol City on May 8, 2023 took him to a historic tally.
Given the fact it took eight seasons for Murray’s record to fall, it did seem as though Toney’s would stand for somewhat longer.
But history shows that Aleksandar Mitrovic thrives in the second tier, and so it has proved all season. And now, he has written himself into the history books by scoring his 32nd and 33rd league goals of the season in Fulham’s 2-1 win against Peterborough at Craven Cottage.
Even more astonishing is the fact he has managed to trump Toney’s feat with 14 games to play.
Here, we take a look at how the Cottagers’ prized asset rampaged his way to a new record.
The 2019/20 season was a successful one for both player and club, as Mitrovic finished as joint-Golden Boot winner – alongside Brentford’s Ollie Watkins – with 26 goals and Fulham pipped the Bees to the Premier League when they won the Championship play-off final 2-1 after extra time at Wembley on August 4, 2020.
It was the second-best return of his career and there was no reason to suggest he was incapable of replicating similar form – albeit probably not quite so prolific – on his return to the Premier League.
But 2020/21 soon became a slog. He scored one in the Carabao Cup against Ipswich and two goals in a 4-3 defeat away at Leeds in the second league game of the campaign, but then failed to hit the net for the best part of seven months until he scored Fulham’s only goal in a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa.
In fact, throughout the season, he scored more international goals for Serbia (7) than he did for his club (4).
There is a very clear correlation between his goals and Fulham’s success and so Fulham suffered immediate relegation back to the second tier having won just five games and scored just 27 goals.
Serbia did not take part in Euro 2020 last summer, so Mitrovic had an extended period in which to prepare before lining up for the Cottagers’ opener against Middlesbrough on August 8.
His immediate impact consisted of nothing more than a first-minute booking in an eventual 1-1 draw on the banks of the River Thames.
But then came the first of many, during a trip to Huddersfield six days later.
With nine minutes on the clock, Terriers goalkeeper Ryan Schofield chested down a long ball forward quite impressively, swung a leg to try and launch the ball upfield, though could only get enough purchase on it to find a lurking Mitrovic, who slipped as he tried to slot home, yet still managed to loop the ball over the line.
Just like that, his magic touch was back. And it was a sign of things to come, as Marco Silva’s imposing, well-drilled and deadly side breezed their way to a crushing 5-1 win.
Aleksandar Mitrovic: Championship vs Premier League record
|Goals per game
He then converted a Fabio Carvalho pull-back against Millwall, before being left unmarked to head in the opener in a 2-0 win over Hull and then made it four goals from as many games when he mopped up from a yard or so out when Harry Wilson unselfishly squared for his team-mate when arriving into the six-yard box at breakneck speed.
Following the September international break, the Serbian hit six in six games – which included a glorious first half hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Swansea at Craven Cottage on September 29 – taking his haul to 12 goals in 10 games.
Yet as impressive as that was, a spell between October and November was where he really got going.
A clinical finish on the turn and a superb glancing header he made look easy helped Fulham to a 4-1 west London derby win over QPR, with one more against Cardiff, two more against Nottingham Forest and then another hat-trick, this time against promotion rivals West Brom, just for good measure.
It was no surprise that he triumphed in perhaps one of the most one-sided Sky Bet Player of the Month contests on record as a result.
“I have a lot of quality around me in this team, a lot of creative players who make a lot of chances for me, so I have to thank them for helping me to score as many goals as I did in October,” he said upon collecting the award.
As he referenced there, many of his goals come from inside the box; a flicked header from a cross or a low, composed finish after a free-flowing attack. But he has shown time and time again that he is more than content to set up a team-mate instead, with two assists in a shock 7-0 win over Blackburn on November 3.
Indeed, this selflessness – similar to that of Toney, who got 10 last season – is illustrated by the fact he currently has seven assists to his name, taking his goal involvement figure to 40 in 30 games.
Silva’s men returned to the top of the Championship after a 4-1 win over struggling Barnsley on November 17, but then started to go off the boil after they reached the summit, drawing four games and losing one in the lead-up to Christmas.
Who has assisted Mitrovic’s record haul?
|Jean Michael Seri
As mentioned earlier, when Mitrovic struggles in front of goal, Fulham do too – and he scored just once during that stretch. What was more disappointing was the fact Covid-related issues saw them play just three league games between December 11 and January 11.
The lay-off served both player and club well, as he returned with two in a 7-0 demolition of Reading and yet another first half hat-trick in a 6-2 comeback win against Bristol City.
In spite of the form of their frontman, Fulham have shown that they are much more than a one-man team and there is no over-reliance to speak of. None of the six goals in the 6-2 win over Birmingham were scored or even assisted by him, while they overcame Stoke 3-2 without him in the squad, with Rodrigo Muniz proving himself to be an able deputy.
He tapped in his 28th in a 1-1 draw against Blackpool on January 29 and reached 30 with two in a 3-0 win over Millwall 10 days later. In that game, he first lashed in a Neco Williams pull-back, then mopped up from just a few yards out when Carvalho’s shot was parried into his path by Bart Bialkowski.
Williams was the provider when Mitrovic equalled Toney’s record in a 1-0 win at Hull, too. The Liverpool loanee floated an inviting ball into the penalty area, where the frontman glanced a header past Matt Ingram from no less than 15 yards out.
In front of the Sky Sports cameras on Saturday February 19, he missed two gilt-edged chances against Huddersfield to net the all-important goal, but then four days later, he made history.
As struggling Peterborough arrived at the Cottage, days after the departure of manager Darren Ferguson, Mitrovic must have been licking his lips. And, with all eyes on him, he delivered under pressure, slamming home a penalty he won himself with 28 minutes gone.
But he was not finished there. He helped himself to a second, connecting with a Neeskens Kebano cross from the left flank and effortlessly finding the net with a nonchalant sidefooted volley.
As of February 23, with 33 goals in 30 league games, Mitrovic has scored an average of 1.1 goals per game. With 14 games to play, if he carries on scoring at the same frequency, he will score 15 more and reach 48, which will smash the original record by a whopping 17 goals.
This truly is a record that will take some beating.