Writer: Steve Guscott
Date:Saturday February 6 2010
6th February 2010
10 man Reading held on for the win at Doncaster despite a late rally by the home side that saw Matt Mills sent off, and Billy Sharp score from the spot. Shane Long had given us a first half lead and Brian Howard extended that in the second period, but we were made to hang on in a nerve racking finale.
With key man Gylfi Sigurdsson ruled out through injury, Brian McDermott opted to mirror Doncaster`s 4-2-3-1 formation bringing in Jimmy Kebe for the injured Icelander and also giving Brian Howard his first start since November in place of Simon Church.
The game began slowly but both sides went close with long range free kicks in the opening stages, with the restored Howard the first to record an effort on goal. Jobi McAnuff`s run was halted on the edge of the area and the free kick, which took a deflection, was heading for the top corner until veteran goalkeeper Neil Sullivan stuck out a hand and tipped it over. Royal`s fans will remember it was the former Leeds and Chelsea keeper who had denied us a win in the goalless draw back in September with a string of fine saves.
At the other end former Royals winger John Oster`s low free kick tested Adam Federici but the Aussie stopper was equal to it despite it being on target. Howard again went close from Kebe`s cross but his header brushed past the side netting on its way wide.
It was the former Sheffield United man who created the opening goal though when his terrific cross was headed home by Shane Long for his second goal in two games. The Irish striker has not lived up to expectations this season but seems to be thriving under the leadership of Brian McDermott.
Doncaster started well in the second period and created chances for Oster and Dean Shiels but neither could get their effort on target. Howard was popping up everywhere and he made a superb last ditch tackle to deny Brian Stock, after the one time Royals transfer target was played in by James Coppinger.
The game looked to be safe when excellent and unselfish work from Long created a chance for the all action Howard and he calmly side footed the ball into the corner of the net in front of the delighted travelling Royals fans. Back to back wins looked secure for the first time this season but the home side had other ideas.
A run down the right hand side saw the ball eventually fall to Gareth Roberts on the edge of the area but his effort was blocked on the line by Mills, however the referee ruled it was handball and the former Doncaster man was shown a red card on his return to the Keepmoat.
Billy Sharp converted from the spot to set up an intriguing finale, and as we approached the 90th minute sub James Hayter smashed a left footed effort against the cross bar with Federici beaten. The Royals stopper had to be alert in the fourth minute of injury time with a fine save from a long range effort and the game continued into the seventh minute of injury time but despite the arrival in the box of Sullivan for a corner, referee Keith Stroud finally decided to blow the final whistle and Brian McDermott`s 100% permanent record as Royals manager continued.
We will need to ensure that continues on Tuesday night for the relegation six pointer against rivals Plymouth.
Date:Saturday February 6 2010
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