Scott Parker believes Fulham shifted the pressure onto the top two after his side moved up to third place in the Sky Bet Championship following a 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough.
The Cottagers closed the gap on the automatic promotion places to four points, a day before second-placed Leeds’ meeting with QPR, with leaders West Brom in action on Monday.
And Fulham boss Parker said: “It’s always good to play early and before the teams above who you are trying to chase. You put that pressure on.
“The main aim for us is to focus on ourselves and keep working out what gets you results in this league, and what gets you results is an endeavour, a work ethic. And we’ve shown that the last few weeks.
“At times this year we have been in a good position and we’ve slipped up and we’ve hit little bumps.
“But we have to concentrate on ourselves and keep winning games but ultimately keep producing what we produced tonight. I think you have seen two sides of this team which pleases me most.
“The first half you saw a team that moved the ball well and in the second half you saw a grittiness to us.”
Anthony Knockaert’s sixth minute goal was enough to secure the points but Fulham failed to make the most of a succession of chances in the first half to establish a more commanding lead.
Parker, though, was pleased with the way his side overcame the absence of leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic to secure a valuable win.
He added: “You miss Aleks and what he brings to this team but I thought the way we played and what the players did, how we looked in the first half was very pleasing for me really.
“The first half I thought we were fantastic in what we did, the way we played, the way we moved the ball. Everything we worked on in the week worked well.
“Two or three nil at half-time I think would have been a fair reflection of what we did. And in the second half really we were just searching for that second goal to take a deep breath and see the game out.
“But we saw the game out and kept a clean sheet which was key and a good performance all round.”
Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate was frustrated by his side’s slow start but believes the demands of playing three games in six days – including Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at Tottenham – caught up with his players.
He said: “We didn’t start fast enough out of the traps. The games have probably caught up with us over the last fortnight, especially with the squad low on numbers and resting a few more players.
“But it’s difficult because we didn’t really lay a glove on them in the first 25 minutes and that’s when you are playing against a team of Fulham’s calibre, you need to come out of the traps quick and we didn’t do that. But second half we stayed in the game and played a lot better.
“We were playing against an ex-Premier League team with Premier League players. On Tuesday night we played against a Premier League team. So I’m not going to berate my players, they gave everything they’ve got and there are some really tired players in there.”