Reading FC go into the second leg of the 2016/17 play off semi-final with every chance of progression, despite a red card by McShane.
Jaap Stam set his side up in a 5-3-2 formation, with Blackett recalled to the side and Grabban earning a starting spot alongside Kermorgant.
Reading had the better of the first 15 minutes, pressing Fulham haphazardly and seeing Lewis Grabban get in behind the Fulham defence a number of times, only to miscontrol the ball and be unable to get a shot away.
Fulham had the best chances of the first half, when Tom Cairney found himself with plenty of time and space outside the area to bend a shot towards the top corner, only for it to blaze just wide.
They almost went ahead when an Ayite pull back from the left hand side found Aluko, only for his shot to go narrowly wide.
The only other action of note in the first half were a couple of yellow cards—one for John Swift at one of his corners for time wasting (eh?), and another for Kermorgant’s persistent fouling.
Reading went into the break 0-0, happy.
No changes for either side at the break, and the game continued in the same vain it ended the first half—Fulham controlled, Reading held off comfortably.
Then, the deadlock was broken. A duel in midfield saw Danny Williams clearly try to pick the ball up after being fouled, only for the referee Atwell to give the advantage. Reading surged forward, and Obita picked the ball up on the edge of the box and crash a shot off the post and in. Advantage Reading.
Reading were denied a penalty shortly afterwards, when Tom Cairney twice tried to tackle Danny Williams in the area. Replays showed he did indeed get a touch, but there was no whistle.
Fulham equalised with 25 minutes still to play, with Scott Malone bursting forwards and dinking the ball in. Al-Habsi saved the initial shot, only for Cairney to score the rebound. 1-1, game on.
That equaliser fuelled Fulham, who pushed hard for a second and were swarming Reading at every opportunity. Scott Malone at left back was a particular threat, constantly overlapping.
Hearts were in mouths when McShane charged forwards and went in hard on McDonald. The referee consulted with his assistant, and received a red card. Reading had to hold on for ten minutes with ten men.
With less than five minutes to go, Reading had some of the ball, with Kermorgant causing a nuisance of himself and earning a couple of free kicks in quick succession, though nothing came of them.
Despite five minutes of added time, Reading held on to the draw and go into the second leg on Tuesday with every chance of progressing to Wembley.
Starting XI: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Obita, McShane (c), Moore, Blackett, Evans, Williams, Swift (Van den Berg 74’), Grabban (Mendes 68’, Ilori 82’), Kermorgant
Unused subs: Jaakkola, Van den Berg, Beerens, McCleary, Ilori, Popa
Stay tuned to The Tilehurst End for a full match report, player ratings, and further analysis of the entire play-off campaign.