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Fulham 2-1 Reading FC: Denied At The Death

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A cold winter's day on the banks of the Thames saw Reading fall to a last-gasp 2-1 defeat to Fulham. Bucks Royal has his match report from the game.

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Reading: Federici, Obita, Pearce, Hector, Gunter, Robson-Kanu, Norwood, Williams, McCleary, Cox (Blackman), Pogrebnyak (Mackie)

The whole club was in a buoyant mood going into this game. Steve Clarke had injected some grit into Reading, who were unbeaten in all competitions since a 0-1 defeat to Watford in Clarke's first match in charge. And the fans were clearly looking forward to this one, with 2,731 of them cramming into the away end before 3pm.

Reading made just the one change from last weekend's 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough; Jamie Mackie dropping to the bench to make way for the now fit Garath McCleary. Jem Karacan kept his place on the bench following 16 months out injured.

The first half was a pretty dull affair, with few chances for either side. The away side looked most dangerous through Garath McCleary, who was linking up well with Chris Gunter down the right flank, but the Jamaican/Welsh duo couldn't deliver any clear-cut opportunities. That said, Norwood, Robson-Kanu and Cox all had shots from distance that went close without troubling Bettinelli in the Fulham goal.

Down the other end, Hugo Rodallega spurned the two best chances of the first half. For the first, mid-way through the opening 45, he connected with Ross McCormack's pull-back into the area, only to see his shot roll narrowly wide of the far post. Close to half time, Adam Federici carried on his form from last weekend with a top save from a corner, with his parry smashed onto the post by the aforementioned Rodallega.

The second half started much in the same way that the first had gone on, with the tempo remaining pretty flat. But, as Reading would increasingly do throughout the rest of the match, they gave Scott Parker too much space in the middle of the park. The former Spurs midfielder picked out Kacaniklic (not easy to type in a hurry), finding space between Gunter and Hector before slotting past Adam Federici to make it 1-0 to the home side. It was at this point that the away fans finally noticed the presence of the home supporters, who had been silent up to that point. And they almost had something else to cheer, with a Ross McCormack free kick (~25 yards, just left of centre) going just wide of the near post.

Reading responded well to going behind, and Steve Clarke's team was on the front foot and in control of the game. Danny Williams and Oliver Norwood were moving the ball about well, with Jordan Obita and Chris Gunter supporting their respective wingers well. Garath McCleary in particular was causing his defender all kinds of problems, looking back to his best, but was unable to pick out a killer final ball. Up front, Simon Cox and Pavel Pogrebnyak couldn't find a spark to unlock the Fulham defence.

Throughout, the Royals were racking up the corners, but Oliver Norwood's deliveries weren't quite pinpoint enough to trouble the home side. That was until the 63rd minute when a well-taken outswinger found an unmarked Pogrebnyak who powered home a header to equalise against his former team.

The momentum stayed with the visitors, but once again there was a spark missing up front to create any truly dangerous chances. That said, McCleary and Williams both had efforts from range, with Simon Cox's strike ruled out for offside. But Reading's threat was diminishing as McCleary tired on the right, and it was clear that there was nothing left in the tank for the Jamaican. However, in Reading's last chance of the game, McCleary danced inside past his marker, sliding the ball in for Nick Blackman who was unmarked in the middle, but Blackman failed to connect with the ball.

That miss proved to be fatal for Clarke's side, with Fulham grabbing the winner from the resulting attack. Jordan Obita didn't get tight enough to Ross McCormack on the right, whose cross found Woodrow - the substitute headed back across goal for Bryan Ruiz to score, yet again against the Royals, with a header from inside the six yard box.

In all, it was a tough afternoon for Reading. Despite not creating much in the first 45 minutes, the away side looked solid, perhaps edging the balance of play. The second half was much more encouraging, with a series of chances created, most of them from the impressive Garath McCleary. Nonetheless, you can't get away from the inability to take chances - a striker is desperately needed in this transfer window, unless Pavel Pogrebnyak can up his game.