A wholehearted performance from the Royals was not rewarded with any points at Craven Cottage this evening as Stefan Johansen's first half finish proved the difference between Reading and a Fulham side who went into the top two with the win.
- Ream clears a Bodvarsson toe poke off the line early on
- Johansen sidefoots home from six yards out against the run of play
- Both teams go for the win but Fulham come closest to scoring a second
- Bacuna is sent off in injury time for what was adjudged to be a rash challenge.
Royals boss Paul Clement largely stuck with the eleven who earned victory over Preston North End at the weekend, making just one change to his teamsheet to reintroduce the eligible again Dave Edwards to the midfield.
The hosts began well, keeping possession nicely and Liam Moore had to hack clear a low Sessegnon cross into the six yard box from the left. But a better chance fell to Bodvarsson who ran onto a ball over the top, chested it down and got a toe to the ball before the onrushing Marcus Bettinelli - only for Tim Ream to slide in and clear the ball off the goalline.
And an even better opportunity fell Reading's way when Bodvarsson skidded a low cross from the byline into the box where Barrow miscued his right-footed swipe and Edwards' follow up strike from 12 yards out was charged down.
But very much against the run of play, the home side took the lead - Targett whistled a low left-footed cross into the Royals' box and Stefan Johansen was unmarked in the middle to calmly turn it home from six yards out.
With the crowd behind them, Fulham grew in confidence and Reading had to weather a storm - Mannone gobbling up a header from Mitrovic and the striker glancing just wide with ten minutes of the half remaining.
Gunter did well to get back and prevent Sessegnon from getting a shot away on the left side of the box and Mitrovic's follow up volley from just inside the area was too high to trouble Mannone.
Half time | Fulham 1-0 Reading
Reading began the second half as they had the first, on the front foot and in the ascendancy. Bettinelli had to take urgent action to race out and clear from the feed of Bodvarsson as the Icelander looked to take advantage of a short back pass.
Mitrovic turned his man and drilled against the base of the post just before the hour, but the offside flag had long been raised before he pulled the trigger.
Dave Edwards had not stopped running, so was replaced with John Swift soon after and Kelly won and whipped in a free kick that sailed across the six yard box and behind for a goal kick.
A sequence of headers in midfield from the Royals saw Bodvarsson lay the ball off for Kelly who looked to play the ball into Barrow but misplaced his first time throughball. And at the other end Johansen should have killed the game off when he was allowed to ghost onto a ball into the Reading box only to scuff his shot wide of the left upright.
And Mannone produced a very good low save to deny Johansen again moments later as the hosts looked for a second goal that would go a long way towards securing their win.
Yann Kermorgant and Chris Martin were both thrown on by Paul Clement as the Royals remained in the game against a side looking to end the evening in a top two spot.
And the game opened up with 15 minutes to go, Fulham nearly taking advantage on the counter atatck after Ilori had been dispossessed high up the field.
And substitute Kebano nearly wormed his way through to make it 2-0, dragging his effort across goal and wide of the left post. Mitrovic came close soon after, drilling low and inches wide of the same upright.
Reading were leaving spaces at the back as they threw caution to the wind, and the hosts were coming closer and closer to capitalising - Gunter sliding in to clear a Mitrovic effort that had beaten Mannone.
But Reading stayed in the game and continued to give it their all in search of a point. So much so that Moore was directed up front for the latter stages.
But Bacuna was penalised for what was adjudged to be a rash challenge in injury time, sent off with a straight red card in front of the dugouts and the Cottagers held on to the three points.
Results elsewhere were kind to Paul Clement's men, but they left Craven Cottage with nothing despite a performance which in parts promised more.
Full time | Fulham 1-0 Reading
Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Sessegnon, Odoi, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 89), Cairney (c), Ream, Piazon (Kebano 79), Targett, Mitrovic.
Subs: Button, Fonte, Christie, Kalas, Kamara.
Goals: Johansen 24
Reading: Mannone, Gunter (c), Ilori, Moore, Richards (Martin 75), Bacuna, Kelly, Edwards (Swift 59), Aluko, Barrow, Böðvarsson (Kermorgant 69).
Subs: Jaakkola, Holmes, Van den Berg, Clement.
Referee: Mr L Mason
Attendance: 19,272 (1,065 away)