IT’S ALL TO PLAY FOR
Honours even after Royals frustrate Fulham
FULHAM were favourites to beat Reading in the play-offs – but nobody told Royals boss Jaap Stam.
The former Manchester United defender’s game plan frustrated Fulham in yesterday’s Championship semi-final first leg.
Jordan Obita gave Reading the lead before Tom Cairney levelled for Fulham. The Royals survived the last ten minutes with ten men after skipper Paul McShane was sent off.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic said: “Everything is open. The chance is still 50-50.”
READING boss Jaap Stam insists his men can win through to Wembley without Paul McShane after the Royals’ skipper saw red.
Pegged back by Tom Cairney’s header after Jordan Obita had given the visitors a controversial lead, Reading’s rearguard action was undermined when McShane was dismissed for a knee-high hack on Kevin McDonald.
Obita also left the pitch on a stretcher with a twisted ankle but Stam is confident that neither man will be missed for Tuesday’s second-leg at the Madejski.
“Macca is very important for us,” admitted the Dutchman. “Not only as a player, but also the mentality he brings to the game.
“But during the season he had some injuries and other players stepped up. We can still win a game without him.
“Was it a red card? I’d have preferred a yellow. But yes, he hits the player. He doesn’t do it on purpose. He’s committed to the challenge, goes for the ball and their player nicked it in front of him. Unfortunately he hit him on the knee.
“But we trust our squad. It’s the same with Jordan. We’d like him to be fit but if he isn’t someone else can come and do a job.”
Reading certainly did a job on Fulham. The Cottagers are the division’s joint-highest scorers and Stam – rarely gung-ho at the best of times – wasn’t about to start playing with fire.
A five-man backline. Niggly fouls. Time-wasting tactics. Reading set out to spoil and frustrate – and largely succeeded.
Though typically slick and dangerous going forward, the home side struggled to create chances at their usual rate.
Cairney curled wide from range. Scott Malone and Floyd Ayite thumped over. The one time Reading were carved open, Sone Aluko shanked wastefully wide.
During a cagey first half, it seemed a gritty 0-0 was the limit of the Royals’ ambitions. In reality, it probably was. Then came the game’s first flashpoint. McShane certainly took Johansen out; the
LEVELLER: Tom Cairney nods home Fulham’s equaliser
ALL-SQUARE: Tom Cairney scores Fulham’s equaliser and celebrates with team-mates, inset