Match Report: Reading make up in spirit for a shortage of quality against Fulham

Reading 3 Fulham 3

Madejski Stadium

Reading have spirit. Scoring an 85th minute equaliser is sufficient proof of that. Scoring another equaliser in the 90th minute, even more so. What they do not have, though, is enough control or quality. Leading Fulham 1‑0 at home they allowed them to stroll back into the game. So, even after their late rally, Brian McDermott's team still lack a Premier League win.

It was certainly impressive that Reading rescued a point yesterday. There were four goals in the last 13 minutes of a match that had begun at walking pace, and three in the final five. Such manic spells tend to resolve themselves in favour of the team with more confidence and experience. But Reading twice managed to bend the game back their way.

With five minutes left, and Reading 2-1 down, Adam Le Fondre burst down the left, and hooked a cross in. It fell to his fellow substitute Garath McCleary who stabbed the ball past Mark Schwarzer. Two minutes later, Dimitar Berbatov put Fulham back in front. Two minutes after that, Nicky Shorey's free-kick dropped, eventually, to Hal Robson-Kanu, who bundled in the game's sixth and final goal.

"Anyone who has been here knows they are going to keep going," McDermott said of his players. "We know for a fact we are never going to give in, we are going to keep going."

It is worth asking, though, how Reading allowed it to come to that. This is precisely the sort of game that they should have won, against one of the League's weakest travelling sides. They even went ahead, through Mikele Leigertwood after 25 minutes. But their midfield lacked the cool authority that is needed in the top flight.

"People will talk about 'the win'," McDermott said. "What is important is to play the game. Forget 'the win', that will come."

McDermott had decided that he would go with a fairly rudimentary line-up yesterday. He paired his two target men, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Jason Roberts, up front together for the first time.

The approach worked at first. After 25 minutes Roberts stole the ball from Chris Baird, passed to Jobi McAnuff who found Leigertwood 20 yards out. The midfielder drove the ball perfectly into the top corner. From there, though, Reading started to retreat, until their final late rally.

Fulham must feel a different sort of frustration. They began the game prettily enough, passing better than their hosts, but without much edge. "We started off brightly, had possession, but no purpose to our game," Martin Jol said. "We didn't get the ball forward enough for my liking."

Hugo Rodallega started up front, with Dimitar Berbatov behind him. The Colombian international missed two headed chances in the first half and Fulham were lacking something. Jol replaced Rodallega, then, with Bryan Ruiz after 58 minutes. Berbatov, who needed an injection to play the second half, moved up front and Ruiz took his place in the hole.

Just three minutes after coming on, Ruiz scored. He received the ball in space, exchanged passes with Damien Duff and, from the edge of the box, curled it with his left foot into the far top corner.

Ruiz set up Berbatov, who shot into the side netting, and nearly John Arne Riise. Eventually Ruiz got the assist to go with his goal, curling a corner on to Baird's forehead. "He is the one who can create chances," Jol said of his brilliant Costa Rican, "play the ball forward, killer passes, great vision."

If Jol thought Fulham had won the game at 2-1, he certainly must have done at 3-2.

Straight after McCleary's goal, Berbatov received a pass on the left side of the box, shuffled backwards and clipped it into the far corner.

But Reading's spirit, for this game at least, matched Fulham's quality. "It was like the Harlem Globetrotters when they brought Ruiz on," McDermott said. "We all know Berbatov is an absolute class act. They have Brede Hangeland at the back, Mahamadou Diarra in the middle and Damien Duff – they have a number of players of real quality. We have to be the best group in the League."

Reading (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cummings, Mariappa, Gorkss, Shorey; Kebe (Robson-Kanu, 77), Leigertwood, Tabb (McCleary, 69), McAnuff; Pogrebnyak (Le Fondre, 80), Roberts.

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Diarra, Baird (Sidwell, 80); Duff (Dejagah, 67), Berbatov, Richardson; Rodallega (Ruiz, 58).

Referee: Mike Jones.

Man of the match: Ruiz (Fulham)

Match rating: 8/10

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