Fulham clocked up only their second Premiership victory of the season, and the first since August, as a determined second half saw them fight back from a Reading equaliser to clinch precious points with goals by Clint Dempsey and David Healy to add to the first-half score by the excellent Simon Davies, the only blot being the red card shown in added time to Elliot Omozusi.
With injury and suspension having robbed Fulham of regular defenders, they brought in Omozusi at right-back and introduced Nathan Ashton, a free transfer from Charlton, for his Premiership debut at left-back. Though Ashton encountered early trouble handling the pace of Kevin Doyle down Reading's right, Fulham showed altogether more purpose than in their last dismal home game, against Derby, and Reading were pinned back for long stretches of the opening half. Diomansy Kamara, in particular, was a regular worry for Steve Coppell's side, peeling away to both wings to lose his marker.
It paid a rich dividend just after the quarter-hour, when Fulham forced the first of a series of corners. It was taken by Davies and met by Kamara whose volley was blocked but spun to the captain, Aaron Hughes. His effort drew a spectacular flying save from Marcus Hahnemann at the cost of another corner. Kamara took it, playing the ball short to Hameur Bouazza whose left-foot cross was only partially cleared by the red head of Dave Kitson and fell invitingly for Davies to volley his third of the season low just inside Hahnemann's right-hand upright.
Around the half-hour mark Reading began to get their act together, with James Harper busy in midfield. When Stephen Hunt finally came into the match with a rousing sprint he was callously blocked off by Dejan Stefanovic, who was shown the game's first yellow card. Even so, Antti Niemi was rarely troubled in the Fulham goal.
Niemi's afternoon was soon to change. In the opening minute of the second half Leroy Lita headed in from point-blank range only to be given offside, but a resurgent Reading had hit their stride in impressive fashion. Another typical surge from Hunt was terminated by Omozusi's foul on the edge of the penalty zone, bringing the second booking of the match, and the game upped in pace and excitement as Fulham counter-attacked at speed, Kamara narrowly failing to get on the end of a Davies low cross.
However, it was Reading who struck next. Nicky Shorey, left-foot master of the set piece, curled in a corner from the right and Doyle lost his marker, Hughes, to head his fourth of the season, a simple one, at the far post.
In danger of losing the plot, and points, Sanchez made two substitutions just before and after the hour mark. On came Shefki Kuqi and the Northern Ireland marksman David Healy. It worked spectacularly.
With 20 minutes left Healy, to the right of Reading's goal, turned to send a high lob towards the far post. Kuqi used his strength to get to the ball and knock it down for Dempsey to force home.
With five minutes remaining the same combination should have brought a third for Fulham. Davies robbed Shorey on the halfway line and sent Healy down the right for a cross which Kuqi should have turned in but he completely mistimed his low header.
Then, in the final seconds Davies burst away again, sliding his cross into the path of Healy for a sidefooted clincher.Reuse content