Fulham 0 Reading 1: Coppell content with stealthy rise

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The Independent Football

Reading are the new Wigan, suggested Ray Stubbs on Match of the Day. The programme had Leonardo, in the studio on Saturday night and, perhaps understandably, he remained quiet, for the attractions of the Berkshire club may not yet have penetrated South America. Instead, it was left to Mark Lawrenson to praise them. He called Steve Coppell "a shrewdy".

Not that Reading do things in all that novel a fashion, like Wigan a year ago, but that is not to say they are dull or boring to watch. However, at Craven Cottage, in what turned out to be a peculiarly attritional first half, they lost two of their best players - Steve Sidwell and Glen Little - through injury and, after taking the lead through Kevin Doyle's penalty, they had to patch up and make do.

Reading made do all right because they gripped on to that lead as tightly as a five-year-old does its favourite toy. Three wins in a row have pushed them up to seventh and to the fringes of the Uefa Cup places.

But Coppell is not all that interested in where his team lie now. In fact he called it "immaterial" and possibly "an accident of the fixture list." He added: "It is an accumulation process and we are just squirrelling points away. We will be judged in May, when our finishing position will be no accident."

Those points his men have accumulated will come in handy over Christmas, as they face Chelsea and Manchester United in consecutive away games,. Before then they have a couple of tricky fixtures, at home to Bolton and away at Newcastle, followed by a trip to Watford and a visit from Blackburn.

Doyle's penalty came about after Ian Pearce upended the Irishman six yards out, leading to his dismissal, and for once both managers agreed on something, namely the defender should not have received a red card. However, he left without fuss, which was how Doyle converted his seventh goal of the season.

Thereafter, and somewhat perversely given their double advantage, Reading went into their shell.

Fulham reorganised and it did them no favours, despite the efforts ofLiam Rosenior to get forward from right-back, and they gave the impression of a team running just to stand still. Marcus Hahnemann only had two saves to make in the visiting goal as the Royals inflicted just a second home defeat on Chris Coleman's men.

And maybe now, having seen Reading in action, Leonardo will be able to spread the word back home and tell all in São Paulo about this "shrewdy" Mr Coppell.

Goal: Doyle (17, pen) 0-1.

Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Queudrue (Bocanegra, 45); Radzinski (Routledge, 75), C Jensen, Brown (Bouba Diop, 75), Boa Morte; John, McBride. Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Helguson.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Little (Oster, 38), Sidwell (Gunnarsson, 34), Harper, Hunt; Seol, Doyle Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Lita, Bikey.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Booked: Reading Sonko, Harper, Ingimarsson.

Man of the match: Rosenior.

Attendance: 22,673.