Brian McBride and Erik Nevland sealed Fulham’s first away win in 33 matches at relegation rivals Reading to keep their hopes of beating the drop alive.
Roy Hodgson’s side knew that only a win at the Madjeski Stadium would do and they delivered a composed display that might have produced a more scoreline as they struck the Reading crossbar three times in the second half. Hodgson’s side held on to the slender lead supplied by McBride’s precise finish from Simon Davies’ low cross until substitute Erik Nevland strode away from the home defence to slot home a second from fifteen yards in the ninetieth minute.
The visitors made the stronger start in this crunch contest with Hodgson’s midfield quickly gaining the upper hand. Jimmy Bullard drove wide from the edge of the area on seven minutes and McBride’s snapshot from a free-kick was bravely blocked by Bikey. Nicky Shorey’s tame free-kick represented the totality of Reading’s threat so it was no surprise when Fulham took the lead with a sweeping move down the left that culminated in their American centre forward effortlessly guiding home Davies’ delicious low cross.
Reading sought an immediate response but their clearest chances fell the way of Kevin Doyle and the Irish striker had an off day in front of goal. He blazed a half chance over the bar and then headed wide from John Oster’s glorious cross just before half time. Fulham’s dominance continued in the second period and McBride was desperately unlucky to see his well-struck volley tipped onto the crossbar by Marcus Hahemann having been found by David Healy’s fine ball. The former Fulham goalkeeper also tipped Brede Hangeland’s header onto the frame of the goal – and even when he was beaten by Bullard’s brilliant free-kick from 20 yards, the bar came to Reading’s rescue again.
If all these near misses were making the travelling contingent nervous, they shouldn’t have worried. Nevland picked the perfect time to score his first Fulham goal as he worked a lovely one-two with Davies and found the bottom corner to end that long away hoodoo. Remarkably, Hodgson’s men now have a plausible pathway to Premier League safety.
READING (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Rosenior, Ingimarsson, Bikey, Shorey; Oster (Little 60), Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse 77), Hunt; Doyle, Long (Kitson 60). Subs (not used): Federici, Sonko.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Keller; Stalteri, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Bullard, Murphy (Andreasen 90), Dempsey (Bocanegra 85), Davies; McBride, Healy (Nevland 83). Subs (not used): Warner, Kamara.
GOALS: McBride (24), Nevland (90).
REFEREE: Chris Foy (Merseyside).