Under the guidance of Mehmet Ali, the Royals U23s played their first league match of the 2020-21 league campaign at Bearwood Park this afternoon, but fell to defeat against a strong Fulham side.
A very young side had been beaten by a Norwich team that included a number of first team acquisitions in the season’s opener, but a number of the players who had been included in Veljko Paunovic’s squad for the Carabao Cup clash on Tuesday night started in the sunshine at Bearwood Park this time.
The Cottagers however opened their account with only five minutes gone – Sylvester Jasper converting a deep Fabio Carvalho cross to beat Coniah Boyce-Clarke from close range.
And after a quarter of an hour it was 2-0 when Carvalho latched onto a loose ball after Boyce-Clarke had been robbed of possession inside his area – the maker of Fulham’s first squeezed a shot inside the near post and beyond the dive of the recovering Royals keeper to double the visitors’ lead.
Good defending from Nelson Abbey prevented a third with a late block and Boyce-Clark was down well to his right to save a drilled effort moments later. At the other end, Femi Azeez’s deflected effort flew wide and, from the resultant corner, Abbey shot on the pivot but couldn’t’ hit the target.
Yet having worked hard to get a foothold in the game, Fulham added a third on the stroke of half-time when Carvalho collected an intricate one-two from Jayden Harris and Boyce-Clarke could only take the sting out of his stabbed effort before watching it roll over the goalline for 3-0.
Fulham found a fourth early in the second half when Jasper scrambled the ball home following a good Boyce-Clarke save from a set piece that wasn’t cleared quickly enough. Azeez forced the Fulham keeper into a good claim when his delivered a tasty cross from the left looking for Melvin-Lambert, but Boyce-Clarke was at full stretch to deny Carvalho his hat-trick on a breakaway.
Lawless connected with a low cross from the left but couldn’t keep his effort down to trouble Ashby-Hammond in the Fulham goal. Azeez and Onen combined to nearly force their way through a crowded Fulham box but to no avail.
Pendlebury did well to get in behind the defence down the right with five minutes of the game remaining, but as he bore down on goal he could only find the side netting from a narrow angle.
East dragged a late effort wide as the organised Cottagers were proving impossible to penetrate and time for any sort of reply ran out.
Our Under-23s are next due in action at Aston Villa on Monday 28th September.
Reading Under-23: Boyce-Clarke, Watson, Bristow (Sackey HT), Samuels, Abbey, East ©, Pendlebury, Azeez, Onen, Ajose (Lawless HT), Melvin-Lambert (McGiff 77).
Subs: Holden, Ashcroft.
Yellow: Bristow, Pendlebury, Lawless
Fulham Under-23s: Ashby-Hammond, Murphy, McAvoy, Ameyaw, Larkeche, De Havilland, Harris, Davis, Carvalho, Jasper (Ablade 53), Tiehi.
Subs: Chisholm, Abraham.