Reading Under-23 side recovered from a three-goal deficit but just missed out on victory in a 5-4 loss to Fulham U23s, under the floodlights of Craven Cottage.
Goals from Adam Liddle, Michael Olise, Ethan Coleman and captain Gabe Osho weren't enough to secure any PL2 points, despite recovering from 4-1 down to draw level in the second half; a late strike from Luca de la Torre sealed the win for Fulham.
The game began with a bang as Fulham broke the deadlock early doors. A low drilled cross from the right gifted Luca de la Torre with a tap in – sliding under Jokull Andresson and into the bottom left corner. Reading achieved more control after the goal, with a good spell of pass and move football allowing them to settle into the game.
However, this was halted with a second goal from Fulham. Martell Taylor-Crossdale collected, turned and slotted into the corner, leaving Andresson and the Reading defence stranded.
The game simmered for 5 more minutes before Fulham recorded a third of the night, Taylor-Crossdale steering in from close range.
Reading full-back Teddy Howe provided a constant outlet throughout the first half, running at the Fulham defence and using his pace to threaten the Fulham back-line.
And Howe’s energy helped the visitors pull one back; his darting run across the box was stopped illegally by a Fulham defender inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
Gabe Osho stood over the ball, having scored a penalty in the last match against Swansea City, and he calmly placed the ball home, sending the keeper the wrong way.
The ball was collected from the back of the net immediately and Reading looked primed to search for their second. But in first-half injury time, out of the blue, a rapid counter-attack from Fulham allowed Taylor-Crossdale the chance to get his third of the night; the ball was cleverly brought down and clinically put away.
Half-time | Fulham U23 4-1 Reading U23
The second half started with a slightly different line-up for the Royals, with Adam Liddle making his way onto the field for Ben House.
And Liddle’s first touch of the game resulted in the ball finding its way into the back of the net. Inch perfect passing from Josh Barrett all game was rewarded when Thierry Nevers received his ball and set the ball nicely for Liddle to strike from close range.
It was now all Reading. And constant pressure was rewarded with another goal for Reading. The comeback was on. Ethan Coleman latched onto a top-class corner from Barrett in the 60th minute and made it 4-3.
Fulham, seemingly struggling with the endless pressure and persistence shown by the Royals, made their first change of the evening and with that a change in shape - Sonny Hilton coming off for Ryan de Havilland.
But it didn't prevent the equaliser! Michael Olise struck with a beautiful finish to level; switching the ball to his stronger foot he found the top corner to make it 4-4.
The game was simmering with both sides tiring, but Reading had the momentum and could have taken the lead through Barrett soon after.
However, a rare second-half attack from Fulham allowed de la Torre the winning goal, his second of the evening.
The referee's whistle sounded and the game ended in defeat. But it proved quite the spectacle for the Craven Cottage crowd and an excellent advert for Under-23 football.
Full-time | Fulham U23 5-4 Reading U23
Fulham U23: Wickens, Drameh, Edun, O'Riley, Asare, Jenz, Harris (Clase 80), Davis, Taylor-Crossdale, Hilton, de la Torre.
Unused subs: Ashby-Hammond, Tricker, Abraham.
Goals: Taylor-Crossdale (13',17',45'), de la Torre (5', 85').
Reading U23: Andresson, Howe, Medford-Smith, Coleman, Gunter, Osho (c), Nevers, Trialist, House (Liddle HT), Olise, Barrett.
Unused subs: Beeden, Boyce-Clarke, Elva-Fountaine.
Goals: Osho (31' pen), Liddle (47'), Coleman 60, Olise (76').