Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - Championship
READING 1 FULHAM 0
Reading: R Beerens (49)
Reading deservedly came out on top in a highly entertaining match which simmered through the first half before coming to the boil just after half time with the award of a penalty for the Royals. Although Reading once again failed to convert the penalty, Beerens gave them the lead reacting fastest to smash home the rebound from Swift’s spot kick. In a dramatic finale Al Habsi saved a penalty awarded to Fulham almost on full time to deny the visitors an equaliser. Reading saw out the five minutes of stoppage time to claim the three points which lifted them back into third place in the Championship.
Not for the first time this season Reading struggled to play their way out of their own half in the early stages of the game. Fulham pressed hard and looked more likely to create an opening. When Reading did break out of their own half they lacked penetration. McCleary playing up front in place of the rested Kermorgant managed to get beyond the Fulham defence in wide positions but his inability or reluctance to deliver an accurate cross with his left foot allowed Fulham to get back in position. Eventually Reading began to dominate in midfield with Kelly, Swift and Williams working hard defensively and using the ball well. Beerens switched to the left and tormented Kalas turning the Fulham full back inside out with his sharp turns and acceleration. Swift drew a save from Button and when the ball was pinged back across the six yard box McCleary, unmarked, hit it wide from close range although to fair it came at him with considerable pace. It was a finely balanced game and although goalless at the interval both sides hinted at better things to come in the second half.
Within minutes of the restart Moore had his run blocked in the box and referee Martin had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. After the obligatory gamesmanship of the protracted protests to unsettle the penalty taker Swift had his kick blocked by Button only to see Beerens hammer home the rebound with the confidence which comes from good technique. Fulham almost capitulated and began conceding possession with alarming ease. Kelly brought down a long ball with an exquisite touch and slipped the ball to Swift who looked certain to add a second goal until he was denied by a desperate but effective challenge. It was now a fast and open game as Fulham pushed forward in pursuit of an equaliser. Reading had chances to kill the game off and had McCleary timed his passes better it could have been wrapped up long before the end. It was McCleary who came closest to the crucial second goal when he cut inside and crashed a long range effort against the bar with Button well beaten.
Sensing Fulham getting the upper hand he made sensible substitutions. Blackett was unable to get to grips with Frederick’s pace and was replaced by new boy Ilori who also struggled to contain the Fulham wing back. Kermorgant and Evans came on for Beerens and Kelly. In both cases it was no reflection the quality of performance. Both had excellent games. Fulham had chances to draw level. Piazon and Aluko had shots blocked before a clumsy challenge on Piazon by Moore in the box gave them the chance to salvage a point. Fortunately for Reading, Fulham are also having problems scoring from spot kicks and Al Habsi’s excellent save was celebrated like a winning goal.
What the game lacked in quality it more than made up for it in entertainment value. This victory was significant in the manner in which it was achieved. Throughout the team there are players who look comfortable in possession and exchanged passes with greater cohesion than earlier in the season, but also their work rate has noticeably increased. Kelly was an outstanding example with his appetite for a tackle and an eagerness to get on the ball and create something. With three games in eight days Stam was right to rotate his squad. He clearly has faith in all his players to come in and perform well. Saturday will be a very different game. When Mr Warnock comes to town you can always expect the ugly side of the game to emerge both on and off the pitch. On this evening’s showing the Royals will be up for the challenge.
This Championship game took place 31 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.