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Awful Fulham easily beaten - Fulham 2-4 Reading

A sloppy Fulham performance leaves the club looking over their shoulder at a relegation battle that is hotting up

Paul Gilham

Questions must always be asked, regardless of context or specifics, when you lose 4-2 at home to a side that is already relegated. They're not going to be nice questions, like, 'where are you going on holiday this year?', or 'what's your favourite thing to do when not playing football?', no matter how apt it would be.

The queries, instead, must revolve around defensive ineptitude that would make Titus Bramble look embarrassed. They must revolve around an uncanny lack of commitment from eleven players who are paid rather handsomely to play football for ninety minutes on a Saturday afternoon, in front of fans who have to shell out for the privilege.

And another, more pertinent question should also be brought up: could we still be relegated? Mathematically, of course, the answer is yes. Wigan Athletic, who occupy the last spot in the drop zone, are only five points behind us. They have a game in hand and an uncanny knack for beating the drop.

We, meanwhile, have a home game against Liverpool and an away tie at Swansea; two games that, on current form, are eminently losable. It would still be a tall order for the clubs below us to catch us up, but the threat lingers now probably more than at any point this season.

Will that galvanise the players? You'd like to hope so but, from the evidence, not much can stir this pack of players into a well drilled, dedicated unit.

Fulham were anything but here against Reading, with the visitors opening the scoring within 12 minutes. John Arne Riise, a surprise starter in many eyes, clumsily followed through on a challenge with Hal Robson-Kanu and he himself converted the penalty.

There was debate over whether it was in the area but it seems the referee made a good call. Riise was to blame on this occasion but, really, the whole defence should hold their hands up for an abysmal performance. Brede Hangeland was sloppy, Senderos was his usual self and Sascha Riether could only walk away from this game with partial dignity.

Martin Jol was dissatisfied, much like the home crowd, and responded by pulling Giorgos Karagounis off on only 27 minutes. The Greek was made something of a scapegoat but he could have no complaints; he, like the rest if the team, was a liability. Rodallega replaced him, shifting Fulham into a progressive 4-4-2 but nothing came of it in the first half.

Whatever Jol had said over half time hadn't worked and Robson-Kanu soon doubled Reading's advantage on 62 minutes. It hadn't come long after a strong penalty shout from Dimitar Berbatov, who had been brought to the ground by former Fulham man, Stephen Kelly, though, leaving the home end in ruptures.

Seven minutes later, Fulham pulled one back for their first goal in three games. Such a statistic has to have you worrying about Jol's insistence on a 4-4-1-1 layout which seems to leave Berbatov either overly exposed or just, simply, out of place. It was Bryan Ruiz who got the goal, tucking home after some neat interplay with Rodallega.

Alexander Kacaniklic came on, replacing Duff, and his impact would soon be noted, but not before Reading had restored their two goal advantage. This time, Adam Le Fondre fooled Mark Schwarzer and finished well from a tight angle.

Kacaniklic delivered a beautiful cross to the head of Ruiz for his, and Fulham's, second, leaving many to wonder why the young Swede hadn't started, and then Rodallega hammered a difficult volley against the bar.

But Reading had the last laugh, Jem Karacan drilling home from outside the area to make it 4-2. In truth, Reading deserved their victory and the scoreline was by no means flattering.

Many people have spoken about Fulham having one foot already on the beach but you have to fear that, maybe, both feet are already enjoying the sun.

Either that or we're just rubbish.