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Reading 1-0 Fulham: Cottagers suffer again

last updated Saturday 14th April 2007, 10:58 PM
Papa Bouba Diop
Papa Bouba Diop

Lawrie Sanchez's first match as Fulham boss ended in a 1-0 defeat as Stephen Hunt scored the winner for Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

Sanchez has got the better of Sven-Goran Eriksson and Luis Aragones while manager of Northern Ireland but could not find a way past Steve Coppell's Royals, for whom European qualification remains a possibility.

The former Wimbledon midfielder started his career at Reading before making his name with 'the Crazy Gang', but his former club did not offer any favours despite their own safety being secured.

Sanchez's contract is only for five games and Fulham fans will point to missed opportunities, slack defending and a disallowed goal from Papa Bouba Diop as the cause of his first match ending in defeat.

Neither defence showed much confidence as chances came thick and fast in the first half, most of Reading's exploiting Fulham's left, where Franck Queudrue was given a torrid afternoon.

Kevin Doyle, the Republic of Ireland striker who replaced the suspended Leroy Lita in the starting XI, had the first sight of goal but stabbed wide on the six-yard line after Brynjar Gunnarsson's scuffed shot from a corner.

Brian McBride almost profited from a similarly ugly shot by Wayne Routledge, but his effort was saved by Marcus Hahnemann, the former Fulham goalkeeper.

Antti Niemi threw a leg out to deny Gunnarsson when the midfielder ran through, while at the other end Ian Pearce lifted the easiest of the early chances over the bar when Simon Davies' corner was flicked on and found him unmarked.

Pearce was made to rue his miss, with the hosts taking the lead in the 15th minute.

Dave Kitson won the ball as Carlos Bocanegra and Queudrue failed to clear, which led to Seol Ki-Hyeon finding Doyle at the near post.

Doyle smuggled the ball through to Hunt, who found the top corner from close range for his third of the season.

Pearce had held the Fulham defence together in the face of Reading pressure but was forced off in the 26th minute when the foot injury he suffered last month appeared to flare up.

Zat Knight came on and Fulham's new-look defence needed to guard against conceding a second.

Queudrue was caught in possession by Seol, with Niemi forced to tip over after Gunnarsson met the Reading winger's cross.

Hunt maintained Reading's threat with two volleys that went wide and there was a penalty shout against Michael Brown when he raised his hands to the ball, yet Fulham finished the half with a flourish.

Queudrue's powerful long-range volley landed on the roof of the net, while Diop had a header ruled out for offside when it appeared that it was a team-mate beyond the final defender.

Seol curled an effort over early in the second half, while the visitors had a tame penalty shout when Routledge went over in the area.

Fulham struggled to break down the hosts, with the fans calling for the introduction of Vincenzo Montella and the frustration was illustrated by Heidar Helguson's booking for dissent.

Davies appealed for another penalty when his shot was blocked by Seol and the Welshman then ran through but had his effort saved by Hahnemann.

Davies was taken off for Clint Dempsey and Montella came on for Helguson, with Fulham looking for a different approach in attack.

Brown forced Hahnemann into a save with a low drive, but it was the hosts who looked more likely to add to the scoring, with Doyle having a goal ruled out for offside. Brown then hit the bar in stoppage time.

Sanchez claims Diop 'goal' was onside

Lawrie Sanchez's first match as Fulham boss ended in defeat but he saw enough in the second half against Reading to suggest survival in the Barclays Premiership is possible.

Sanchez was appointed for the final five games of the season following Chris Coleman's departure but Stephen Hunt's winner at the Madejski Stadium ensured a losing debut.

The visitors did create chances, though, hitting the bar through Michael Brown late on and having a Papa Bouba Diop strike ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time.

'TV shows it was onside,' said Sanchez, who started his playing career at Reading. 'In mitigation, the linesman was obscured by a player who was offside.'

Despite defeat, Sanchez was pleased with his players' second-half display.

He is less than a week into his 32-day contract at the club but felt his players had responded to him in the second 45 minutes.

'I said at the end of the game that what we need for the next four games is performances like the second half,' he added. 'The second half, if you want, was my team playing. Playing the way I want.

'You're always disappointed when you lose football matches but anyone who watched it will see that we deserved something from it. Decisions at certain times go for you and sometimes go against you but we had other chances.'

The Northern Ireland boss added: 'What we need for the next four games is a performance like in the second half. I think there was one team hanging on and another who deserved something from it. If we do we'll get another five points sooner rather than later.'

Ian Pearce wasted Fulham's best chance by blazing over from close range early on. He then limped off with a foot injury after Reading opened the scoring.

Carlos Bocanegra and Franck Queudrue failed to clear the ball and Seol Ki-Hyeon eventually worked the ball to Kevin Doyle. Doyle smuggled the ball to Hunt who finished from close range for his third of the season.

'The goal was avoidable,' added Sanchez. 'Hopefully we won't concede another one like that in the time I'm in charge.'

Reading boss Steve Coppell was disappointed that his side did not build on the opener.

However, he was pleased with ending a run of eight games without victory. He said: 'To be fair I thought we played until we scored then it was almost a relaxation.

'Our recent run has developed a certain amount of anxiety regarding winning.

'We were conscious of just getting the three points against a team that weren't in a desperate situation but desperately wanted to win.'

Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell, who has been linked with a move away from the club, was not in the matchday squad as Coppell looked to try other players for next year.

Brynjar Gunnarsson impressed in Sidwell's position, with Coppell adding: 'He was very strong against a very strong midfield that they had. If Siddy does go I've got to get another one in anyway.'

Reading boss Steve Coppell:
"To be fair I thought we played until we scored then it was almost a relaxation.

"Our recent run has developed a certain amount of anxiety regarding winning.

"We were conscious of just getting the three points against a team that weren't in a desperate situation but desperately wanted to win."

Fulham caretaker-boss Lawrie Sanchez on his first game in charge:
"I think everyone in the stadium knows that we deserved at least a point.

"We conceded a poor goal and we won't let in another one like that during my time in charge.

"We had a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside and we hit the crossbar in the last minute.

"The players gave me everything they had and I cannot ask for any more."

Reading: Hahnemann, De la Cruz, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Ki-Hyeon (Oster 70), Gunnarsson, Harper, Hunt, Kitson (Long 70), Doyle. Subs Not Used: Federici, Halford, Duberry.

Booked: Hunt, Shorey.

Goals: Hunt 15.

Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Pearce (Knight 25), Bocanegra, Queudrue, Routledge, Diop, Brown, Davies (Dempsey 68), Helguson (Montella 71), McBride. Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Radzinski.

Booked: Helguson.

Att: 24,082

Ref: L Mason (Lancashire).

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