Remember back to those summer days when Fulham fans were sweating on whether Harrison Reed would make his loan switch from Southampton permanent? The heartbeat of a promotion-winning side, at ease with the ball at his feet or snapping into a tackle, there were those who questioned whether a 26 year-old with just seventeen top flight appearances to his name could make the step up to the Premier League. Not only has he flourished in a struggling Fulham side, Reed is arguably the first name on Scott Parker’s teamsheet.

There’s a simplicity about Reed’s performances that is very endearing. Like any good midfield dynamo, he doesn’t stop running but boundless energy is not the hallmark of his game. His reading of the game from a deep central midfield role is second to none, tracking dangerous runners and dropping into positions to support Fulham’s ball playing centre backs and always making himself available for possession – as he did early in the move for Fulham’s opening goal, a classical counter-attack that opened up Everton down their right flank.

Reed has forged a promising partnership with Mario Lemina at the base of Parker’s midfield meaning that the pair have elbowed Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa out of the side after the Cameroonian international’s post-covid drop in form. In many ways, the mirrors the way Reed’s consistency dramatically reduced the first-team opportunities available to Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen last term. Lemina and Reed have offered a reassurance in central midfield that was lacking from Fulham’s early top flight performances. Such was the duo’s diligence that Everton’s more creative players – the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, James Rodriguez and Richarlison – rarely received the ball in areas where they might have hurt Fulham during the first half. Lemina was the more defensively minded of the two – disciplined in screening the back four – whilst Reed shuttled across the field, defusing potentially dangerous situations largely before they developed – with three successful interceptions – and distributing the ball efficiently with a modicum of fuss.

Reed made the most of the space he was afforded by becoming a regular starter of an endless stream of Fulham attacks. He rarely wasted a ball, making 77 passes with the highest success rate of anyone in white bar Josh Maja, and frequently switched the play from one side of the field to the other to exploit the advantage that the visitors enjoyed out wide. There was a directness to his passing too – with six longer passes (four of them were successful) designed to utilise the strengths of Maja on his first Fulham start – and a desire to keep the ball moving in order to make Everton work harder out of possession.

He was effective higher up the pitch as well, regularly joining attacks as they reached the final third. Reed’s dominant display deserved to be rewarded with a goal and he went close on two occasions. He cut across a strike from the edge of the box that flew fractionally wide in the first half and came closer still when his low drive from distance was tipped onto the post by Robin Olsen. Being the archetypal team player, Reed wouldn’t have minded too much as the rebound fell kindly for Maja to grab that crucial second goal to settle Fulham nerves.

Parker, so reticent to single out individuals after what was an outstanding performance from his whole side, emphasised how Reed sets the standards on a Monday morning at Motspur Park. He will have done that again on the training pitches this morning as Fulham go in search of back-to-back wins that would transform their survival prospects. You can see why he’s become so pivotal to Parker’s side. It isn’t a stretch to suggest he might be entering Gareth Southgate’s thoughts as the unflashy defensive midfielder that every successful side needs.