Fulham 0 Reading 1: Doyle spot on as Reading make extra man count

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This victory, achieved with a penalty against a side reduced to 10 men after a quarter of an hour, lifts Reading into a high enough position in the Premiership for their supporters to be bantering the word "Europe" around, but Steve Coppell is not about to crack champagne, or even a smile.

"I am not sure we will take a great deal of satisfaction from this [win]," he said, expressing sympathy for Fulham's plight in not only conceding the penalty which decided the day but in losing Ian Pearce to a straight red card in the same incident.

The incident came about after Kevin Doyle latched on to a low centre by James Harper, got past Liam Rosenior and was about to pull the trigger when he was brought down from behind by Pearce. Referee Dermot Gallagher's award of a spot-kick, disputed by no one, was followed by the dismissal which led to post-match ructions.

The Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, lamented what he considered a "lack of common sense" by Mr Gallagher in sticking to a ruling which, in Coleman's opinion, spoiled the game. "I wish he had been a bit braver in not sending Ian off." Coppell was sympathetic, too. "Poor old referee," he said. "We know the law is the law, but the law is an ass in that situation." Doyle put away the penalty to Antti Niemi's left, his fourth goal in as many matches including the one he scored for the Republic of Ireland against San Marino. A reduced and rearranged Fulham were further disrupted when Pearce's central replacement, Franck Queudrue, limped off just before half-time with a gashed leg which required hospital treatment.

Though the captain, Luis Boa Morte, performed heroically in a dual role of defender and midfielder on the left side, Fulham could not muster enough sustained pressure to fluster Reading into conceding anything.

The fact that Reading, themselves disrupted by the loss of injured Steve Sidwell and Glen Little, rarely looked like claiming the second goal which would have put this match to bed meant the afternoon was a bleak one.

Fulham's best spell came in the closing minutes of the first half, Brian McBride supplying a fine header which Marcus Hahnemann did well to hold and then Collins John almost prodding home only for substitute Brynjar Gunnarsson to clear off the line.

In a wretched second half Reading did not test Niemi until the final quarter of an hour while Fulham's commendable striving simply refused to produce an equaliser, McBride's swerving 30-yarder being the closest they managed.

Reading's Seol Ki-Hyeon, could have put it beyond dispute, but needed one touch too many in controlling a fine opening in front of goal. He did better with a cut-back which found John Ostler but the shot was turned over by Niemi.

Maintaining his team's position "could be an accident of the fixtures", Coppell insisted: "There is no reason for some kind of mini-celebration." However, pride shone through eventually. "I have a squad who are hungry, eager to be tested. Everyone wants to have a go, but sometimes our L-plates mean we have to run a bit further." Yesterday the L-plates were enough to take care of Fulham's 10 men.

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