Steve Clarke made two changes from the draw at Rotherham by bringing in Matej Vydra and Jordan Obita into the starting line-up at the expense of Garath McCleary and Andrew Taylor. The 4-2-3-1 formation was retained, with Nick Blackman and Lucas Piazon acting as the wide men with Vydra playing just behind lone striker Orlando Sa. Jonathan Bond returned to the bench following his injury, whilst Ola John was also named as a substitute after missing out in midweek.
As has been the case in the majority of games this season, it was Reading who dominated the opening period as they kept possession well with a couple of neat passing moves. It wasn't long before this was rewarded with a goal, as Orlando Sa was sent clear down the left hand side in the 13th minute. The Portuguese striker played the ball inside to Matej Vydra, whose first time pass found the run of Lucas Piazon who took a touch before calmly slotting the ball home for his second Reading goal.
The Royals continued to impress for the next ten minutes or so, and constantly looked a danger with Blackman, Sa and Piazon all going close to doubling the lead. The first half ended though with sloppy play from both sides which left Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita with yellow cards. The only real action of note was a cheeky nutmeg from Piazon in true Brazilian style.
What to say about such a shambles of a second half?! It started well enough for Reading four minutes in, as Orlando Sa capitalised on a Fulham error before going on a superb solo run to score just inside the box against his former employers. But that's as good as it got for Steve Clarke's men, who I'm sure felt that the three points were probably in the bag. But just a minute later, Ross McCormack showed the sort of skill that commands an £11 million transfer fee with a neat turn and volley past Ali Al-Habsi to make it 2-1.
It wasn't long before the home side were level as some poor defending allowed a Fulham cross to go straight to Moussa Dembele who tapped into the open net from close range. You hoped that Reading might be able to pull themselves together and sort out the mess that they had created, but in fact it got worse as Alexander Kacaniklic was sent through on goal and slotted past a despairing Al-Habsi. Make that 3-2 Fulham with three goals in the space of six minutes. No one could quite believe what they had just witnessed, and the players looked as stunned and bewildered as the fans around me did at Craven Cottage.
There was some brief hope for us visiting fans though as Orlando Sa first had a penalty appeal rejected and then a header cleared off the line - that's when you knew it wasn't going to be our day. With fifteen minutes to go, Dembele scored again to add more misery after McCormack pounched on a Paul McShane error. Fulham could well have had five goals by full-time, but McCormack's chip was cleared off the line by Chris Gunter. The defeat means that Reading are now seventh in the Championship table.
Steve Clarke has said it himself and it's hard to disagree - this game served as a huge reality check for the squad who were on a run of five games unbeaten. The opening half an hour or so was very promising and the game could well have been over in that time had Reading taken their chances. If not then, then at 2-0 up we certainly should have put the match to bed. But a mixture of lack of concentration, sloppy defending and being caught on the break meant that we somehow ended up being comfortably beaten. Many points in the game reminded me of last season when we didn't function properly as a team.
It will be interesting to see how the squad reacts to the defeat, and games don't come much bigger at the moment than against table toppers Brighton next weekend. The leaders in the squad need to lift the team after failing to do so at Craven Cottage, and hopefully we look back on this game as just a blip in form. The team need to learn from the defeat, and that could be for the better in the long-term.