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Reading Covid cases ease – Fulham game likely to go ahead

The number of Covid cases within the Reading squad has eased dramatically – meaning Wednesday night’s fixture against Fulham is likely to go ahead.

The Royals had to postpone their games against Luton Town and Peterborough United over the festive period due to a coronavirus outbreak within their squad. But the position appears to have brightened over the past couple of days, according to Berkshire Live reporter Jonathan Low. He also reports that Reading should have first choice full backs Andy Yiadom and Baba Rahman available for selection against Fulham as the pair have been allowed to delay their trips to Cameroon to represent Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations until January.

A letter sent to all clubs advising them of the availability requirements for the competition suggests that players selected in competing squads can represent their clubs until January 3rd. This should mean that Marco Silva can select Ivory Coast midfielder Jean Michael Seri for upcoming matches as well.

The news from Swansea regarding Fulham’s fixture next Monday looks less positive with a postponement considered likely at present.

Fulham’s trip to Swansea goes behind closed doors

Fulham’s trip to Swansea City will be played behind closed doors after the Welsh government introduced measures designed to quell the spread of the omicron variant.

The Whites will travel to the Liberty Stadium on Monday 3 January for a 3pm kick off. The game is due to be screened line on Sky Sports.

The restrictions affecting Welsh sport will begin on Boxing Day with no definitive end date set at present.

Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething said a £3m fund will be in place to “support” clubs and venues.

In a statement the Welsh government said: “The latest figures showed a further steep rise in the number of confirmed cases of the fast-moving variant.”

Gething said: “Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the new omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.

“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.

“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.

“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”

Fulham’s Sheffield United and Swansea fixtures selected for Sky coverage

Fulham’s fixtures against Sheffield United and Swansea City have been selected for live coverage by Sky Sports and have been moved as a result, the club have confirmed this afternoon.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s return to Craven Cottage with the Blades will now take place on Monday 20 December, with a 7.45pm kick off. Fulham will face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday 3 January at 3pm.

Bryan calls for ‘consistency’

Joe Bryan has called on his Fulham team-mates to find some much needed consistency in the Championship by following a fine victory over Swansea with a win at Coventry City tomorrow.

The Whites ended a frustrating winless run with a 3-1 win over the Swans at Craven Cottage in midweek, inspired by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s first half hat trick. Bryan insists that will count for nothing unless Fulham can back it up with another win in the Midlands – although Coventry have won five out of five on their home patch in a fine start to the season.

Bryan told FFC TV:

“Obviously, they’ve started brilliantly. I think they had a tough result last night. That’s the Championship for you. We know that we can win four games in a row and then get three or four stuck past you. We’ve had a couple of tough results in this little block of games but if we can take the point on Saturday, three points on Wednesday and get a victory on Saturday, I think we’ll look back on it as a good run of games.

“I think when you play for Fulham, you have to understand that we’re a very, very talented and good team in this division. You respect the opposition, of course, because they are where there are for a reason, but we know that we’ve got an abundance of quality. Not just the starting eleven, I think you’ve seen over the last few weeks with injuries, playing coming in and doing well, we’ve got real quality in depth and we’ve got to show it with consistency. You can’t show it with spurts, we make to sure we can nail down that consistency now.”

How Fulham got back to winning ways against Swansea

Fulham faced Swansea City having won just one of their last five games after only picking up a point at Ashton Gate on Saturday. The Whites were keen to return to winning ways having lost some of the momentum generated by an excellent August but the Welsh outfit looked like formidable opposition, having reached the Championship play-offs in both of the last two seasons.

Marco Silva went with his usual 4-2-3-1 system, deploying Bobby Decordova-Reid behind Aleksandar Mitrovic, who had missed several stoppage time chances against Bristol City. When they were without the ball, Harrison Reed and Jean-Michael Seri occupied the conventional holding midfield roles filling possible passing lanes and reducing the gap between Fulham’s defence and midfield.

Swansea set up in a 3-4-3 formation, committing numbers high up the field to press Fulham in attempt to pinch possession in dangerous positions. The visitors looked to dominate the ball, patiently seeking out opportunities to exploit any weakness in the home defence. Russell Martin, impressive in his time at Milton Keynes, is the youngest manager in the English football pyramid and is implementing a fresh, possession-based style at the Liberty Stadium.

Martin’s adherence to his principles is admirable but Fulham went in front twelve minutes in the game when Tim Ream’s header found Aleksandar Mitrovic in the area and the Serbian slotted home after turning impressively. There was more than a whiff of offside about the goal, which suggested fortune had smiled on the Whites after Kasey Palmer’s equaliser at the weekend had been allowed to stand.

Fulham 2-0 Swansea City (Mitrovic 12)

Fulham’s second goal came from a slick counter attack which began with a smart interception from Joe Bryan inside his own half. The left back immediately burst forward, looking to exploit a five-on-four situation. Bryan heads inside, fixing Ben Cabnago on him, and opening up space for Neeskens Kebano outside him. Ideally, Ethan Laird would have been able to track the Congolese winger’s run but, after being caught upfield and with the speed and intensity of Fulham’s attack, the right wing back can’t get back into position.

Kebano has time to pick out a cross and there are three white shirts in the area against two Swansea defenders. Mitrovic makes a clever run from behind Naughton to get to the ball first. He finds the far corner that Ben Hamer can’t cover with a clever finish to a fine Fulham move.

Fulham 2-1 Swansea City (Paterson 38)

Swansea had seen plenty of the ball but barely created a chance before Flynn Downes found Joel Piroe just short of the halfway line. The pass into Piroe pulls Tosin Adarabioyo in with the Dutch forward, creating a dog leg in the Fulham back four with space for Swansea to exploit in behind. Seri and Reed are also drawn to the ball – making those gaps even greater.

A sharp turn from Piroe gets him away from all three and offering an angle to pass through to Paterson, who is goal side of Odoi. Tosin being so far out of the Fulham defensive line means that there is a massive space left open to be exploited.

Fulham 3-1 Swansea City (Mitrovic 45)

When Fulham had the ball in defensive areas, Swansea sought to press them really high up the pitch and steal possession in the Cottagers’ half. They had four men pushing high up the pitch but as soon as Ream works the ball to Seri and Fulham are behind the press, the visitors are on the back foot and Fulham can take advantage.

Once the ball gets to Decordova-Reid’s feet and he can turn and run at the Swansea defence, Bidwell is forced into the centre of the pitch. This is because Matt Grimes had been pressing close to the Fulham area, meaning the ex-QPR and Brentford full back gets drawn into trying to fill a gap in central midfield. That frees up space down the right flank for Odoi to gallop into and stretches the Swansea back three.

With Bidwell caught in the midfield and Odoi in plenty of space. Manning is forced to come across and press the Belgian. This, though, opens up space between Manning and Naughton for Odoi to put a cross into and Mitrovic to attack and the Serbian’s sublime first time finish wrapped up his hat trick.