The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Wil­liam As­ton

FUL­HAM re­turned to the scene of where their pro­mo­tion hopes were dashed last sea­son, but this time left the Made­jski with heads held high af­ter a back­sto-the-wall per­for­mance earned them the un­like­li­est of points.

A 1-0 de­feat for Ful­ham back in May saw Reading go to the play-off fi­nal in their place, and this trip looked like be­ing an­other un­happy one as cen­tre-back To­mas Kalas was sent off in­side a minute.

The vis­i­tors held strong but were breached by Liam Kelly’s third goal of the week just af­ter the hour mark.

How­ever, Ful­ham didn’t give up and Lu­cas Piazon earned the Whites a point, and man­ager Slav­isa Jokanovic ad­mit­ted he could have no com­plaints leav­ing Reading this time around.

“For us it is a great re­sult in a very com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “It is not so easy for us to stay with­out one player less af­ter half a minute. The team showed great tac­ti­cal aware­ness, we de­fended well and we very well stick all to­gether.

“They (Reading) dom­i­nated the ball but this is nor­mal. They didn’t grant us so many op­por­tu­ni­ties but we were or­gan­ised and at the end when we play 89 min­utes with ten men this is a price­less point for us.

“I had to change many things. we knew there was a long time in front of us with ten men and we try to or­gan­ise our­selves a bit dif­fer­ent and not to give them so much space be­hind us.

“We stick al­to­gether and this team adapted very well and showed great at­ti­tude and great char­ac­ter.”

Ful­ham lost sub­sti­tute Tom Cair­ney in the warm-up when the mid­fielder ag­gra­vated a nig­gling knee in­jury, and things went from bad to worse when 31 sec­onds in Kalas pulled back Modou Bar­row on the edge of the box and was sent off.

Reading con­trolled possession from here on out but couldn’t find a way past David But­ton, the Ful­ham goal­keeper do­ing well to keep a Joseph Men­des header out of his bot­tom-left cor­ner and then mak­ing amends when he de­nied Kelly oneon-one fol­low­ing a scuffed goal kick.

A dip­ping Oliver Nor­wood shot on 38 min­utes nearly caught Reading out but Vito Man­none tipped it away.

But nor­mal ser­vice re­sumed shortly af­ter the restart as But­ton did bril­liantly to turn John Swift’s curl­ing shot over the bar mo­ments af­ter the restart.

Reading fi­nally took the lead just af­ter the hour when Men­des held the ball up in the box and laid it off to Kelly who shot low and hard.

But Ful­ham wouldn’t lie down and their ef­forts were re­warded with seven min­utes left when a poor Joey van den Berg touch was pounced on by Piazon, who beat Paul McShane and calmly slot­ted home, much to Jaap Stam’s dis­ap­point­ment.

The Reading boss said: “We wanted to build up and take risks, be very ag­gres­sive go­ing for­ward and we suc­ceeded in the very first minute as Mo (Bar­row) got the ball and would have been in on goal.

“But then of course the plan be­comes a bit dif­fer­ent than it would have been against 11 as they sat deep and made it very small at times.

“The sec­ond half we got that goal we wanted, but we gave a goal away when a first touch wasn’t good enough, and then it is hard be­cause they take their time in ev­ery­thing to get us out of our rhythm and to take a breather them­selves.

“We still went for the sec­ond but it wasn’t hap­pen­ing. We are pleased with our in­ten­sity but it is frustrating we didn’t get the three points.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

RES­CUE ACT: Lu­cas Piazon en­joys his lev­eller for ten-man Ful­ham

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