FULHAM 4 – 2 READING
Fulham – McCormack 50, Dembele 54 & 74, Kacaniklic 56
Reading – Piazon 13, Orlando Sa 49
This was Fulham’s 13th match of a Championship season that had started poorly but had shown signs of promise as Kit Symons tried to place his mark on the side. He had done a great job rescuing us from Felix Magath’s disaster the previous year and there were hopes we may improve enough to mount a bid for the playoffs. We’d looked excellent vanquishing QPR 4-0 on a famous ‘shoes off’ Friday night TV game but signs of our inconsistency were already clear when Wolves stuffed us 3-0 at the Cottage a few nights later. It was becoming clear though that we’d need to start winning regularly if we were to have any chance of climbing the table.
In contrast, Reading came to us already on the cusp of the playoff positions with our old boy Orlando Sa up front and future Fulham loanees Oliver Norwood and Lucas Piazon in their line up
Joe Lewis, Ryan Fredericks, Tim Ream, Richard Stearman, James Husband, Jazz Richards, Lasse Vigen Christensen, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Tom Cairney, Mousa Dembele, Ross McCormack.
Subs – Alex Kacaniklic (J Richards 37).
Unused Subs – Andy Lonergan, Dan Burn, Luke Garbutt, Scott Parker, Matt Smith, Cauley Woodrow.
Three of this starting line up went on to play starring roles in last year’s promotion campaign and on paper we had the basis of a pretty decent Championship side. There was a smattering of good professionals and the very promising Lasse Vigge Christensen in midfield. It was a shame that his Fulham career just seemed to peter out although I doubt too many of us though will hold as fond memories of Jazz Richards?
Al Habsi, Gunter, Hector, McShane, Obita, Williams, Norwood, Blackman, Vydra, Piazon, Orlando Sá.
Subs – Fernandez Iglesias (Williams 86), Tshibola (Norwood 70), Piazon (John 70)
Unused subs – Bond, McCleary, Hurtado, Cooper.
The Match Report
Fulham came from two goals down to beat Reading at Craven Cottage.
Lucas Piazon gave the visitors an early lead from close range and Orlando Sa doubled the lead soon after half-time. But Fulham replied with three goals in six minutes as first Ross McCormack showed great skill to volley home.
Moussa Dembele levelled five minutes later, Alexander Kacaniklic completed the turnaround as he finished Dembele’s pass before the Frenchman got the fourth midway through the second half.
The victory was Fulham’s first win in five games as they moved into the top half of the Championship.
Reading dominated the first half and took an early lead when Piazon ended a fine move from the Royals. Sa found Matej Vydra, and the on-loan Watford striker threaded a perfect ball into the Brazilian, who finished from five yards for just his second goal in English football.
Nick Blackman, Piazon and Sa all had good chances as Fulham failed to have a shot on target in the first half.
But the game was set alight in seven second-half minutes, with Kit Symons’ side turning their fortunes around to get their first home win in a month. First Sa dispossessed Tom Cairney and brilliantly rolled the ball in off the far post from a tight angle on the right to double the Royals’ lead and send them marching towards a fifth win in six league games.
But the home side were sparked into life by record signing McCormack, who flicked the ball up and volleyed past Ali Al-Habsi two minutes later. Fulham had to wait five minutes for their equaliser, when Dembele finished from close range after Lasse Vigen Christensen’s cross from six yards out, and the French forward helped make it 3-2 just 51 seconds later by providing a lovely through ball for Kacaniklic to slot home.
The victory was completed when Paul McShane’s mistake was pounced on by McCormack and his back-heeled pass was tucked away by Dembele to end Reading’s five-game unbeaten run in the Championship.
Fulham manager Kit Symons: “We needed to get a win and we did. I’m a Championship manager and if you win you’re all right and if you lose you get booed and your job is under threat. That’s how the industry is. It’s a really difficult job and that’s the nature of it. I’m under no illusions.”
“The club are in talks with [Moussa Dembele]. We’d like him to sign a new deal. The reality of it is he is at a football club where he will develop.”
“He’s far from the finished article – he needs to keep working hard and he knows that.”
Reading manager Steve Clarke: “I was disappointed with the way we conceded the first goal. When you go 2-0 in front you should go on to win the game. We conceded three goals in six minutes and the whole complexion of the game changed in those six minutes.”
“I didn’t say anything to the players because after a game like that sometimes it’s better to say nothing and reflect calmly on the game when you have a better frame of mind.”
“You hope it’s a one-off. I’d like to think it is if you look at our defensive record. It was rock solid before this so hopefully this is an isolation and we come back into good habits.”
When we followed this win with a 4-1 victory at Bristol City there were hopes that we were finding the consistency necessary to climb the table. However, a loss at high flying Burnley meant a win in the next home game with Birmingham was vital to keep touch with the playoff positions. Unfortunately, car crash defending that day led to a 5-2 defeat and Kit Symons sacking the next day. It was a shame that such an honourable bloke went out this way and for a time things went from bad to worse as we tried to find a successor. It did seem that Reading’s boss that day Steve Clarke might be coming only for him to seemingly change his mind. It did him no favours at Reading as they sacked him a short while later as they saw their season rapidly go downhill.
They finished in 17th place three ahead of Fulham. We finally found Symons successor at the turn of the year and it certainly proved worth the wait. With a transfer embargo in place, Slavisa Jokanovic could do little more that season than ensure we didn’t go down. However, the Slavalution took full effect in the next two seasons with the playoffs achieved both times. Jaap Stam’s Reading broke our hearts first time around when their ugly but functional football knocked us out. Karma was around the corner though as we ended last season with that grand day out while they languished at the wrong end of the table. In hindsight, it seems we were very lucky that Clarke turned us down.