Fulham’s penultimate home game of the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season comes against Reading this Saturday and it’s our official Charity match - in association with Shooting Star CHASE, the Club’s Official Charity Partner.
April was a tough month for us as we played six games – getting four points from a win over Queens Park Rangers and a draw with Aston Villa, but losing the other four to Newcastle United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton without scoring a goal.
However, our record against the Royals is good and we've won two and drawn one of the last three matches with Reading - scoring eight goals in the process. Earlier this season, we played out a 3-3 thriller, but the Whites let two leads slip at the Madejski Stadium so Manager Martin Jol will be keen to make sure that his players are focused on picking up all three points.
We will likely be without Dimitar Berbatov and Kieran Richardson after the pair were substituted against Everton. Jol revealed after the game that the Bulgarian had hurt his calf and could be out for two weeks, while Richardson will be assessed.
Steve Sidwell will be out again as he is serving the second of his four-match ban following his red card against the Gunners, but Sascha Riether and Damien Duff could be in contention to start after recovering from their injuries.
Reading saw a number of their First Team players miss the 0-0 draw against QPR which saw them relegated last Sunday. Adam Federici, Hope Akpan (both ankle) and Jimmy Kebe (groin) are all missing and long term absentee Jason Roberts (hip) will also be out. The scorer of the stoppage time equaliser against Fulham earlier this season, Hal Robson-Kanu (knee), played a part against QPR and will be assessed for a starting place before the game.
The draw against QPR saw the Royals relegated but it hardly came as a surprise as the club had not won in 12 games since the 2-1 victory over Newcastle on January 19th.
After sealing only their second ever promotion to the top flight of English football last season, it has been impossible for them to achieve what they did last time out. The first came in 2006/07 and resulted in an 8th place finish, then relegation the following season and, for the current crop, even a late-season change of manager – with Brian McDermott removed in favour of Nigel Adkins in mid-March – could not fuel a run to safety.
Becoming known as a team that scored late goals – in fact they have managed 15 in the last 14 minutes of their league games to date – the Royals pulled off some stellar performances in their early stages, but without getting the results they needed. Most notably, a 4-2 defeat to Chelsea had seen them take the lead before a late comeback, and the 4-3 defeat to Manchester United in December saw all seven goals scored inside 34 minutes, with Reading taking the lead twice.
But it is against the other relegation rivals where they have suffered. Losing 3-0 at home to Wigan Athletic, 2-1 to Aston Villa and 2-0 to Southampton has not helped their cause and a run of one win in 13 up to this weekend was unlikely to be strong enough to help keep them in the top flight.
Last time out
After a relatively dull opening 25 minutes, Mikele Leigertwood’s first time strike found the top corner to explode the game into life. Hugo Rodallega then saw his header hit straight at keeper Alex McCarthy and Fulham went into the break 1-0 behind.
In the second half, the introduction of Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, who had just returned from a long spell on the sidelines after injury, for Rodallega saw Fulham sparked into action. A quick exchange of passes on the edge of the area with Damien Duff and the forward unleashed a curling shot past McCarthy to level the scores on 61 minutes.
Ruiz then turned provider as the game entered its latter stages, providing a pinpoint corner for Chris Baird – who had proved the matchwinner in the previous game against Aston Villa – to glance a 77th minute header home and put the Whites ahead for the first time.
However, the final five minutes saw three more goals. On 85 minutes, the Reading substitutes combined for another equaliser as Adam Le Fondre crossed for Garath McCleary to slot past Mark Schwarzer. Then Fulham replacement Steve Sidwell threaded a ball through to Dimitar Berbatov and the Bulgarian sent the away fans into raptures with a thundering strike to restore the lead with two minutes to go.
Not to be denied, though, Reading fought back with their next attack and levelled. Nicky Shorey's floated free-kick caused problems in the Fulham penalty area and dropped for Hal Robson-Kanu to bundle the ball home from point-blank range.
Players to watch
Alex Pearce: The defender, who made his Republic of Ireland debut in 2012, has impressed in a difficult situation this season and it is easy to see why some top clubs might be interested in his services this summer. The 24-year-old is a free agent in a few months and his 18 starts in the Premier League to date have marked him out as one of the top young centre-backs in England.
Jobi McAnuff: An ever-present for the Royals this season, the Jamaica international has yet to register a goal but has picked up six assists. McAnuff is another whose future is also up in the air, but the 31-year-old captain is the kind of player that will be crucial to their hopes of returning to the Premier League again next season.
Pavel Pogrebnyak: The Russian striker is one of Reading's key assets and clubs will be lining up to take him away from the Madejski this summer as his quality is clear. He is capable of scoring a lot more than the five goals in 26 games that he has managed in the league to date, and may find himself sold to balance the financial implications of relegation. Strong, powerful and fast, Pogrebnyak is one that the Whites’ defenders will have to dominate early on.
3 Fulham have lost their last three Barclays Premier League games without scoring a single goal. They have never lost four in a row in the Premier League without netting.
5 In the last three league meetings between Fulham and Reading, there have been five goals scored and a player dismissed within the final five minutes of the matches.
8 Reading had eight shots on target against Fulham earlier in the season; the most they have had in a single game this campaign.
5 Dimitar Berbatov has scored five goals in four league clashes with Reading.
11 In Fulham’s 11 league games since the start of February, only Dimitar Berbatov (five) and Sascha Riether (one) have found the net for the Whites (excluding own goals).
4 After scoring three first-half goals in one game against Manchester United on 1st December, Reading have scored just four goals in total before the break in the ensuing 21 league games.
5 The Royals have lost 11 of their last 12 away league games, including their last five on the bounce.
50 Reading’s first goal has come, on average, in the 50th minute this season; the latest figure of all 20 PL teams.
5 Fulham have accrued a joint-high five own goals this season, and are one of only three teams yet to concede one (with Arsenal and Reading).
11 Reading players have been forced to make a league-high 11 clearances off the line this term.