Reading's Under-23s strengthened their position at the top of their league after a consummate performance to beat Fulham 3-0 on Friday night.
- Holsgrove returns from injury for young Royals
- Clement strikes midway through first half
- McIntyre glances header for second goal on the night
- Harriott rounds off victory with close-range rebound from Frost's cross
There were starts for first-teamers on Friday night, with Adrian Popa, Pelle Clement and Callum Harriott all getting minutes at Woking. Another bonus for Scott Marshall's side was the return of Jordan Holsgrove to midfield, recovering from injury to make his first appearance of the season.
The match started with Reading dominating the ball, with Fulham's high line making them look threatening on the counter and trying to catch the Royals in possession.
Clement and Popa combined on the edge of the Fulham area to forge the first chance of the game. The Dutchman squared to Popa 20 yards out, whose stinging shot tested Luca Ashby-Hammond, who saved at full stretch to his left.
Reading had the lead with 20 minutes gone in the game. Clement stole a march on his marker in midfield and powered towards goal with Ben House in support.
He only had eyes for goal, though, and curled a strike into the top corner from 18 yards to give the young Royals the lead.
House is in fine form himself, almost doubling the advantage when he cushioned a touch in the air before flicking over the top of both centre-halves, his clever move was closed down quickly by Ashby-Hammond, though, who narrowed the angle and smothered.
Reading were rarely troubled in a half that yielded few clear-cut chances, looking composed on the ball and controlling the tempo against the Whites in Woking. They went in one goal to the good at the interval.
Half-time | Reading U23 1-0 Fulham U23
Reading started the second half on the front foot, with Ramarni Medford-Smith bursting forward on the left and into shooting range. The full-back lashed at his effort, however, and it skidded wide of the post.
It wasn't long before Marshall's men doubled the advantage. Harriott swung in a dangerous corner, with Tom McIntyre, fresh from international duty alongside House with Scotland's U20s, providing the header across goal and into the bottom corner.
Fulham pushed to pull one back soon afterwards, with a low cross from the left finding its way to the far post and the waiting Harvey Elliot. He drilled into the ground and Medford-Smith threw his body in the way to preserve the two-goal lead.
Popa made it through three-quarters of the match before being withdrawn, with young midfielder Holsgrove also getting an hour of football under his belt.
With 20 minutes to go, the Royals had their third. Tyler Frost, scorer of a hat-trick last time out against Birmingham, was fed by skipper Ryan East with a superb ball out to the right on the counter-attack.
Frost, freshly off the bench, put on the afterburners and sped down the flank with Harriott advancing on the area. Frost found the cross and Harriott's initial shot was saved, before the first-team winger tucked in the rebound.
In a match where goalbound strikes were at a premium, the Royals showed a clinical touch in front of goal to seal all three points and extend their unbeaten run in league and cup football.
It was another composed, assured performance from Scott Marshall's squad to a man on the night, keeping the Royals at the top of the Premier League 2, Division Two table.
Full-time | Reading U23 3-0 Fulham U23
Reading U23: Driscoll, Balogun, Medford-Smith, Odimayo, McIntyre, East, Clement (Nolan 71), Holsgrove (Coleman 62), Popa (Frost 67), Harriott, House.
Subs: Roberts, Burley.
Goals: Clement 21, McIntyre 52, Harriott 70
Fulham U23: Ashby-Hammond, Drameh, Mundle-Smith, Harris, Davies, Jenz, Elliott, O'Riley, Thompson, Francois, Santos Clase (Carvalho HT).
Subs: Stahl, Atkinson, Kelly, Davis.
(Photograph courtesy of Rob Sambles, Fulham FC)