Fulham under 23s put three past Reading at Motspur Park this evening as Steve Wigley’s side maintained their unbeaten home start to the season and consolidated their hold on top spot in the table.
Luke Harris, Jonathan Page and Terry Ablade scored the goals as the young Whites recorded a comfortable victory over Reading that was largely sealed by half time. The Fulham starting line-up saw Terence Kongolo drafted in at centre back as the Dutch defender continued to build up his match sharpness having spent a long spell on the sidelines and Welsh youth international Jay Williams handed a chance to impress at right back, having made his first appearances at under-19 level for his country during the international break.
Williams definitely made an early impression sending in a superb cross from the right that narrowly eluded the Fulham attackers after Jay Stansfield had nearly played in Terry Ablade. But Fulham’s commitment to building up from the back almost caused them to fell behind when a Conor McAvoy pass was seized upon by Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan but the Reading forward’s square ball come to nothing.
McAvoy had much more success with a more direct forward ball that deliciously unlocked the Royal rearguard although Stansfield’s shot was straight at visiting goalkeeper Harvey Collins. Stansfield, a scorer for England’s under 20s in the week, clipped the outside of the post from a half volley after Reading failed to deal with a corner and then turned provider for Ablade but the Finnish forward headed disappointingly wide.
It was teenage midfielder Luke Harris who broke the deadlock after half an hour – latching onto a Sonny Hilton cross and driving home from the edge of the area. Hilton came close to doubling Fulham’s lead when he rattled the crossbar from distance, but Page couldn’t be denied when he rifled home an unstoppable effort from fully thirty yards out five minutes before the interval. It was a sublime way to give Fulham a commanding advantage that, in truth, Wigley’s men never looked like relinquishing.
Harris spurned a glorious opportunity to make it three early in the second half when he somehow missed the target from close range after Ablade’s deflected shot had fell kindly for him, but Ablade made that glaring miss academic when he slid in to convert a Ziyad Larkeche cross. Taye Ashby-Hammond preserved Fulham’s clean sheet with eight minutes to go with an instinctive stop to deny Reading substitute Princewell Ehibhatiomhan.
The Whites are now four points clear of second-placed West Brom, although they have played a game more than the Baggies.
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): T. Ashby-Hammond; Williams, Larkeche, McAvoy, Kongolo (Odutayo 45); Page, Harris; O’Neill, Hilton, Stansfield; Ablade (Tiehi 69). Subs (not used): Schwarzer, Lanquedoc, Bowie.
BOOKED: O’Neill, McAvoy.
GOALS: Harris (30), Page (40), Ablade (59).
READING UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): Collins; Abrefa (P. Ehibhatiomhan 76), Samuels (Daniel-Spray 67), Holzman, Senga; Vickers, Purcell (Borgnis 66); Nyarko, Okine-Peters, Abdul-Salam, K. Ehibhatiomhan. Subs (not used): Rowley, Giscombe.