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Royals fall short in crucial relegation encounter

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Aston Villa

Madejski Stadium

9th March 2013

Attendance: 24,102


Reading lost their fourth consecutive game in the Premier League as they were beaten by relegation rivals Aston Villa at the Madejski Stadium.

Brian decided to make one forced change to the side that was thoroughly beaten by Everton last Saturday, with the injured Jimmy Kebe being replaced by Hal Robson-Kanu. We started well, applying some good early pressure to the Villa backline and forced a decent early save out of Brad Guzan, as Kanu's cross was met at the back post by Le Fondre, but the American pushed away his effort from goal.

Reading have struggled to cope with crosses this season and it was almost our downfall again, as a cross from the right was headed onto the bar by the dangerman Christian Benteke, with Stuart Taylor helpless. Robson-Kanu was looking lively on the right wing and almost broke the deadlock in an enticing game, but his sweet strike from 20 yards went inches wide of Guzan's post.

It was a superb end-to-end game at the Madejski, but Villa should have really gone ahead just before the 30 minute mark, as a flick-on set Benteke through, but his square pass for the onrushing Weimann was scuffed by the former Watford striker from ten yards. With QPR losing at this point and Wigan not playing in the Premier League, it appeared that a win would be that more important for both of these relegation candidates.

Both sides pressed but we took the lead in comical fashion, as McAnuff worked some space in the box to cross low, but despite no Royals players in the box, young defender Nathan Baker was there to slice the ball into his own, to the jubilation of the Reading fans. Along with Southampton, the Royals have dropped the most points from winning position, you can guess what happens next?

Andres Weimann was gifted acres of space down the right side and his simple cut back from the byline was met by Christian Benteke, also with the aid of a deflection, squirmed its way into the net to level the game. It was the same old situation for us and it got worse just minutes later, as we found ourselves behind going into the half time break.

A long ball into the box was not dealt with properly by the backline and Weimann managed to get his head onto it, firing against the crossbar, took an unfortunate deflection off the static Stuart Taylor, before Gabby Agbonlahor made no mistake in rifling his left-footed effort into the roof of the net. The Madejski Stadium was stunned as what they had just witnessed in the last 15 minutes.

Brian sent the lads out early in the second half, which is quite rare for him, so hopefully he gave them a mouth full! We struggled to deal with Villa's direct game and their flick on's in the first half and we clearly didn't learn at the start of the second, as Weimann was through on goal, but Alex Pearce recovered superbly to faulter the forward.

Reading started to up their game and were gradually penning Villa back, but couldn't heap the benefits from their largely inexperienced backline. They did however manage to get the ball into the net, as McAnuff's driven cross was bundled in at the back post by Noel Hunt, only for the linesman to raise his flag. At the time I didn't think it was, but replays showed he may have been slightly offside.

Robson-Kanu was looking increasingly lively and any equaliser looked as if it would come through the Welshman's influence. He picked up a loose ball in the Villa area as it bounced kindly for Robson-Kanu, but fired his effort wide of the goal. Substitute Nick Blackman was also getting himself about, despite a rather comical fall in the box, he had a header on target but was relatively comfortable for Guzan.

With the introduction of McCleary and Guthrie for Leigertwood and Akpan, Reading basically didn't have a midfield and left themselves open to a Villa side capable of breaking well. Agbonlahor had space on the left side of the area, but his curling effort towards goal sailed just wide, to the relief of a bystanding Taylor. Goalscorer Beneteke also tried his luck, but was never going to trouble Taylor with his wild effort.

With time running out, Reading would go ever so close one more time, as a dazzling run from McAnuff gave space for Robson-Kanu to have an effort towards goal, but his effort was inches wide of the post to the despair of the Royals fans. The final whistle was blown and signified what could be imminent relegation back to the Championship for McDermott's men, who lost their fourth consecutive game.

Reading: Taylor, Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte, Leigertwood, Akpan, Robson-Kanu, McAnuff (C), Le Fondre, Hunt
Subs: Henly, Shorey, Morrison, Karacan, Guthrie, McCleary, Blackman

Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar (C), Clark, Baker, Westwood, Bannan, Sylla, Agbonlahor, Weimann, Benteke
Subs: Given, Bennett, Holman, Dawkins, N'Zogbia, Carruthers, Bowery

Star Player

Ashley Westwood - Very composed young player, who looked very comfortable on the ball for Villa. Kept them ticking in the midfield, alongside the equally impressive Sylla.

Player Ratings

Taylor 5

Couldn't do an awful lot about either goal, but kicking needs to be improved.

Kelly 6

Didn't really put a foot wrong, he coped well with a pacey Villa front line. Only criticism was his crosses into the box.

Pearce 6

Similarly to Kelly, didn't do a lot wrong. Made a great tackle at the start of the second period when Weimann was through.

Mariappa 5

He struggled with Villa's direct style, but his pace was crucial for when Benteke was through on goal in the first half.

Harte 5

Bit shaky at the back and his set piece delivery was very poor. Isn't helped by McAnuff's reluctance to track back.

Robson-Kanu 6

Was our only bright spark in the game, but should have probably put one of his chances away in the second half.

Akpan 5

Still looks slightly out of his depth in this league, but is always improving. Hope isn't afraid to put his foot in though.

Leigertwood 4

Was quite poor, but don't think the reaction when he was substituted was justified. Way too casual on the ball and was chasing shadows for most of the game.

McAnuff 5

Quite frustrating to watch today. You can't knock his effort but hasn't got the quality to make the difference in a game. Didn't do Harte any favours for the first goal, leaving free space behind him.

Le Fondre 5

Didn't see a huge amount of the ball, but made some good runs down the channels.

Hunt 5

Simiarly to Alfie, ran his socks off but to no avail. May have been unlucky not to get a penalty in the first half.

McCleary 6

Looked quite bright when he came on, but would have probably been better exploited on his preferred right side.

Blackman 5

It was pleasing to see he was keen to get onto the ball, but came cross as too desperate at times. Didn't really get close enough to Alfie when he came on.

Guthrie 6

I am still baffled to why the most creative midfielder on the team was brought on with only ten minutes left. Didn't lack any effort and made a good challenge in the midfield to create a chance.

Date:Sunday March 10 2013
Time: 4:27PM

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