Fulham were held to a draw by Championship outfit Reading in their latest pre-season friendly on another beautiful summer’s afternoon at Aldershot Town.
Slavisa Jokanovic handed French defender Maxime Le Marchand a first start after he joined from Nice last week and star midfielder Jean-Michael Seri watched his new team-mates from the stands, having not been included in the Fulham matchday squad. Le Marchand looked much more comfortable at centre back, having been moved into the middle of the back four after Tim Ream was substituted after twelve minutes following a nasty clash of heads with David Meyler.
The friendly was always likely to be played a pedestrian pace given the early stage of both teams’ pre-season preparations and the heat, but Fulham’s deliberate approach play led to a slower tempo. The Whites dominated possession but struggled to unlock the Reading defence and it was the Royals who had the first real chance, with Liam Kelly’s audacious long-range attempt to chip Marek Rodak drifting wide.
Cyrus Christie, vying for the right back spot after the departure of Ryan Fredericks, added a bit of urgency into Fulham’s play and his strong run took him away from two Royals defenders into a dangerous position but the Irish international’s shot flashed wide. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone was called into action for the first time when a cleverly worked free-kick offered Steven Sessegnon an opportunity, but the defender’s drive was easily fielded by Mannone.
Two minutes later, Ryan Sessegnon turned brilliantly away from Andy Yiadom to create a bit of space in the box. His right-footed effort looked destined for the bottom corner but Liam Moore produced a brilliant clearance. A nice move involving Le Marchand and American youngster Luca de la Torre culminated in a deep cross from Steven Sessegnon finding Aboubakar Kamara but the Frenchman couldn’t hit the target at the back post.
Reading had two very good chances to take the lead before the break. First, Modou Barrow surged onto a through ball and raced clear of the Fulham defence. The former Swansea forward elected to shoot from the edge of the box but dragged a disappointing effort wide. On the stroke of half time, Ivorian winger Yakou Meite found himself one-on-one with Rodak and the young Fulham goalkeeper improvised superbly to save with his feet to preserve parity.
Fulham started the second half on the front foot and spurned a couple of presentable chances to go in front. Neeskens Kebano sent Ryan Sessegnon scampering into the penalty area but his shot was bravely blocked behind by Yiadom. The Whites almost took the lead five minutes later following a blistering counter-attack when Kebano was foiled by a good save from Mannone and de la Torre sidefooted the rebound agonisingly over the crossbar.
Reading could have grabbed the opener themselves a minute later at the other end but Meite’s volley flew fractionally wide after some excellent support play from Barrow down the right flank. The rhythm of the encounter was then severely disrupted by a whole host of changes – and Fulham had the clearer chances in the final twenty minutes. Moritz Jenz headed just wide from a Matt O’Riley corner and Mannone fielded an optimistic long-range drive from Ibrahima Cisse.
The Royals almost stole victory with seven minutes to play after some tricky footwork from Pelle Clement took the Dutch midfielder into the penalty area, but his eventual shot didn’t trouble Fulham’s substitute goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond. One of Fulham’s substitutes, Rui Fonte, went even closer in the closing stages – cutting in from the right flank and grazing the far-post with a curling strike – but neither side were able to find a late winner.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak (T. Ashby-Hammond 72); Christie (Fossey 62), Le Marchand (Jenz 45), Odoi (Djalo 62), Ream (S. Sessegnon 12); Johansen (Cisse 45), Cairney (O’Riley 62), de la Torre (Kait 62); Kebano (Thorsteinsson 62), R. Sessegnon (Fonte 62), Kamara (Thorsteinsson 62).
READING (4-4-2): Mannone; Yiadom (Gunter 62), Blackett (Richards 62), Moore (McShane 62), Ilori (O’Shea 62); Meyler (Bacuna 62), Kelly (Clement 75), Aluko (Evans 75), Swift (McNulty 62); Meite (Smith 75), Barrow (Rinomhota 62).