Fulham fell to 1-2 defeat in the first game of 2020 on a dreary afternoon at Craven Cottage.
A John Swift strike had given the visitors a lead heading into half-time, before Charlie Adam doubled the advantage. Ivan Cavaleiro pulled one back in the 61st minute but we were unable to draw level against a rigid Reading outfit.
Scott Parker made three changes from the side that had defeated Stoke City on Sunday afternoon. Tom Cairney, Alfie Mawson & Josh Onomah, who were all withdrawn in the tight 1-0 win, missed out. Their absences saw Denis Odoi, Stefan Johansen and Aboubakar Kamara return to the starting XI.
The tone was set early on. Reading, who had not conceded a goal in four straight matches, were contented to sit back and look to soak up pressure. We would have to be patient and look to slowly work an opening. After an early strike from Anthony Knockaert in the sixth minute we started to put the visitors under pressure.
In the ninth minute we came close to breaking the deadlock. A teasing ball carved the Reading defence open and Aleksandar Mitrović was through on goal. After taking a touch he looked to fire into the bottom left hand corner. Rafael Cabral was alert to the danger and produced a solid save to parry the effort. His block fell kindly to Bobby Decordova-Reid who took a quick shot. Rafael once again stood firm but the ball found its way back to Decordova-Reid, who hit the post with his follow-up.
In the 14th minute we were behind very much against the run of play. A quick counter attack from the edge of their own box culminated in Swift sweeping home with a deflection off the leg of Tim Ream. A slow paced attack down the left with the Royals attackers given too much time and space to work an opening.
In the 19th minute we were dealt a blow in our quest to work our way back into the match. Harrison Reed, who had recently returned from injury, pulled up and limped off the pitch with an apparent calf ailment. Matt O’Riley was brought on to replace the midfielder for his league debut.
The goal strengthened the resolve of a resolute Reading defensive structure and for the next 10 minutes we were unable to find a way through and generate any chances of merit. The frustration grew and we began to force the issue somewhat when entering the final third.
As the referee brought the first half to a close the visitors were in the ascendancy and looking comfortable soaking up the pressure and looking to catch us on the counter. It would take patience and a cutting edge to break down a well organised and structured Reading outfit.
The second half started in the worst possible fashion. Ovie Ejaria produced some superb footwork to beat Cyrus Christie on the edge of the box and calmly eased further into the box before playing a lovely ball across the box and into the path of Adam who lashed a strike home. It was all far too easy.
With time ticking down and Reading in apparent control, we hit back. Cavaleiro, who had been brought on to replace Joe Bryan, was given space to work his way down the left wing. After cutting inside unchallenged the winger picked out the bottom right-hand corner with a low drive. Hope swelled around the Cottage as the fans sensed an avenue back into the encounter.
We were unable to build momentum from the goal and Reading were able to regain their composure defensively. With a little bit of gamesmanship and time wasting sprinkled in they were able to weather the storm. A half-hearted appeal for a penalty from Mitro was the only real talking point of the next 10 minutes that ensued.
In the 85th minute Cavaleiro came close to grabbing his second goal of the game. A cross fell to the Portuguese attacker on the edge of the opposition box. After steadying the ball with a neat cross he unleashed a fizzing drive with very little back-lift. The ball beat Rafael and struck the base of the post cleanly and fell to Kamara. The powerful striker rushed his effort and his shot went over the bar.
We continued to prod and push as time wound down and in the first minute of additional time Mitro produced a goalbound header that was brilliantly pushed onto the bar by Cabral. It proved to be the last chance of the game. A disappointing way to kick of 2020.
We will look to get back on track as we host Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.