- Glenn Murray bags brace on debut
- Matt Smith sees red for Fulham
- Nick Blackman scores his second of the season
- Three straight wins for Royals
Reading made it three straight wins with a throroughly convincing 3-0 victory over Fulham at Madejski Stadium.
It was a tale of two debutant strikers; Glenn Murray convincingly heading home a superb Jordan Obita cross to set the tone fifteen minutes in, before the visitors saw their task made even harder as Matt Smith saw red for a lunge on Hope Akpan, just 18 minutes into his first start for the Cottagers.
The Royals were in control throughout, as their two star men linked up again shortly after the break - with Murray sealing a brace by nodding in Obita's corner.
Substitute Nick Blackman put the icing on the cake, showing pace and composure to race in on goal, round Gabor Kiraly and chip home.
Reading: Federici, Gunter (C), Obita, Pearce, Hector, Akpan (Edwards 79), Norwood, Taylor, Mackie (Blackman 79), Cox, Murray (Pogrebnyak 67)
Subs not used: Andersen, Long, Cooper, Kuhl
Booked: Blackman (Ungentlemanly conduct 85)
Fulham: Kiraly; Voser (Zverotic 55), Bodurov, Burn, Kavanagh; Hoogland; Parker, Hyndman (Christensen HT); David (Roberts 77), Smith, McCormack
Subs not used: Stafylidis, Hutchinson, Rodallega, Bettinelli
Booked: Voser (foul 42), Kavanagh (foul 74)
Red Card: Smith (Serious foul play 18)
Referee: Mr Jones
Attendance: 18,790 (2,745)
There was a debut for deadline day signing Glenn Murray, who began the day up front with Simon Cox in a 4-4-2 formation for the home side, with Jamie Mackie on the right of midfield.
The first half chance of the afternoon would fall to the visitors. Eleven million pound man Ross McCormack controlled a bouncing ball just outside the six yard box, but on the spin from a tight angle could only fire well over the bar.
Then the Royals responded. It was superb work from left back Jordan Obita, who skipped past his man before swinging in a superb cross – which was met by the prolific Murray, whose bullet header left Gabor Kiraly with no chance. The on loan Palace man scored 30 league goals for the Eagles in his last season at Championship level – and it was a perfect start for the Englishman.
The momentum swung Reading’s way again moments later. Barely had Fulham recovered from the shock of going behind, when debutant Matt Smith lunged in high on Hope Akpan – leading to referee Mr Jones pulling out a red card with no hesitation.
Reading pushed for a second – and Murray almost turned provider 13 minutes before the break, beating the offside trap before squaring to Jake Taylor – who saw his sliding effort creep wide of the post.
In fairness to Felix Magath’s Fulham they still posed a threat going forward – Chris David forcing a good stop out of Adam Federici from 25 yards.
That intent did lead to some openings for the Royals however – Murray yet again involved in the 40th minute, spinning onto a Simon Cox pass before firing over the bar.
Chris Gunter was almost a rare addition to the score sheet a minute later, but his sizzling strike from just outside box was inches wide of the target.
The second half started brightly. A deceptive chip over the top of the defence by Gunter found Cox, who controlled neatly but saw his volley saved well by Kiraly.
The Fulham stopper, also on his debut, was a Palace cult hero in his days at Selhurst Park - and showed why in the 53rd minute, saving superbly from an excellent rasping Taylor strike.
But the pressure would still tell from Nigel Adkins' men, who were in fine fettle. It was the same combination for the second - Obita whipping a corner in on this occasion, and Murray heading home to seal a brace.
Reading were oozing confidence against Fulham's depleted ranks - Norwood crashed a 30 yard drive wide on the hour mark, before Murray made way for Pavel Pogrebnyak - receiving a standing ovation as he trotted off.
Pogrebnyak almost had a goal of his own in the 76th minute. An incisive ball from Akpan had released Obita, who crossed into the box, but the Russian saw his header just gathered by Kiraly at the second attempt.
Another substitute, Nick Blackman, also saw an effort saved four minutes later, before Taylor again smashed a shot from distance, which flew narrowly wide.
Blackman didn't have long to wait for another chance - and he grasped it with both hands. Scampering onto a long ball over the top from Cox, the forward showed both pace and composure to round the goalkeeper and clip home past a man on the line. He was booked for a rather over exuberant celebration, which took a toll on the corner flag - but didn't look too concerned as he soaked up his second goal of an impressive campaign.
3-0 it finished - a thoroughly satisfying return from the international break and three straight wins for the Royals.