We’ve already taken a deep dive into the kind of team Reading is. With all of that knowledge, what have we learned about how to beat them?
Don’t worry about possession
Reading, like Fulham, are a possession oriented team. Fulham finished just ahead of Reading in all the possession statistics. You might think that starving Reading of possession might throw them off their game and Fulham is probably the one team in the league that could easily do that. Fulham attempted about 80 more passes a game than Reading, but the number of failed passes were almost identical. Fulham managed to out posses Reading in both matches that they played this season. However, falling behind in possession is not how teams beat Reading. In some of their worst defeats, they actually had much more of the ball than in their average game. Reading isn’t particularly adept at creating scoring chances when they have the ball, so it shouldn’t be a worry if Fulham let them have it for periods.
Fulham are a great club when they score first. Reading are an awful club when they concede the first goal, especially on the road. Putting Reading down and making them try to use possession as a weapon and not as a defense takes them out of their comfort zone.
Fulham are 14-3 with a +27 GD in games decided by more than one goal. Reading were 8-8 with a -9 GD. Fulham is good at piling on when they take a lead, Reading struggles to stop the bleeding. This becomes even more important in a multi-leg tie, as going into the second game with a big cushion against a team that’s not very good at winning games by multiple goals would be a huge advantage.
Play like a good team
If the regular season had only been contested among the playoff teams, here’s what the table would have looked like.
Playoff Team Table
In head to head matches, Fulham were the best side. However, they did blow out Reading once and Huddersfield twice, so that might skew the results. Lets look at how teams did against the entire top six.
Top 6 Table
Again, Fulham come out on top. More than a quarter of their wins came against the top 6 clubs in the Championship. Considering this was less than a quarter of their matches, this is quite impressive. Finally, lets look at how the teams played against the bottom 6 clubs.
Bottom 6 Table
These 12 games represent about 26% of the games played. Reading racked up over 36% of their points and 38% of their wins against the bottom feeders. Reading is a bit of a flat track bully, only dropping five points in those matches. Fulham on the other hand, struggled dropping 18 points against the bottom 6 teams. If you want the reason Fulham are in the playoffs and not celebrating promotion already, you’re looking at. What this shows though, is that if Fulham plays like a top 6 side, Reading might just struggle to contain them.
If you go down, don’t give up
Fulham were very good at winning after conceding first this year. Over 40% of the time they managed to win. While Reading may have been good at slamming the door in the past, know that Fulham are perfectly capable of coming back to win.
This all sounds rather easy. Score first, score often, don’t give up if you fall behind, and believe you are the better team. Probably not the best advise to give the team, but these are the points to keep in mind as you watch these semi-finals play out.