Sascha Riether says Fulham could be close to returning to European competition next season – but only if they tighten up at the back.

Martin Jol’s side would have risen to fourth in the table on Saturday night had they not twice let a late lead slip against Reading. Most worryingly of all, it isn’t the first team Fulham have been fallible late in a game. They were beaten by a last-gasp Edin Dzeko strike last month and also conceded a 90th-minute equaliser at Southampton.

Riether feels that if Fulham can find a win to win matches like the one they drew at the Madjeski Stadium at the weekend then the Whites could start moving up the table.

If we win games like this, then getting into Europe is possible, but at the moment we are not, so we have to work on it. We are very close to pushing for the Europa League maybe, but if we are a good team, we win these games – that’s what makes the difference.

It’s only a bit more we need to win these kind of games. I don’t know what it is we need, but it’s something that is missing.
Like against Southampton and Man City, we gave away a goal in the last minutes and that’s very disappointing.

The on-loan Cologne full-back has identified set plays has an area where Fulham need to be stronger. Both the late levellers at Reading and Southampton came from free-kicks and Fulham have looked shaky at the back in recent weeks – a far cry from the defensive excellence that characterised their displays under Roy Hodgson.

We have to defend free-kicks and corners much better, and we have to train harder to find a way to do better. That must be our work ethic now.

Riether recognises that in-form Everton, who are currently fifth in the table after Sunday’s Merseyside derby draw with Liverpool, will represent a real test at Craven Cottage on Saturday:

We know that it will be a very hard game and that they have a very good team, but at home, we can win against anybody.

The modest 29 year-old says he’s settled ‘easily’ in London and is enjoying his football at Fulham, although he does express some surprise at how straightforward his introduction to the English football has been.

I hope to play my part again. I’m a little bit surprised at how well it’s gone for me so far, but my team-mates have helped me a lot – they speak to me a lot and we are a good group. Not only on the pitch too – we sometimes go out to eat in restaurant.

For me, it’s been easy settling into the team and I hope that I can do my best and we can go on like that. It’s nice to play here.