Tale of two reds in Madejski stalemate
Sunday 15th September 2013
Two red cards in the first half was the only meaningful action, in a rather dire display between Reading and Brighton at the Madejski Stadium.
Royals boss Nigel Adkins gave Pavel Pogrebnyak his first league start of the season, after impressing the manager in training, while Stephen Kelly and Danny Williams also came in for their first starts. It was a fairly slow start to the fixture, with both sides having a relatively even amount of possession, yet no chances or notable shots on goal.
The first real opening was the game came out of sheer luck, as Royston Drenthe`s eccentric overhead clearance fell kindly into the path of Adam Le Fondre, who scampered forward, but was thwarted by the experience of Stephen Ward. Andrew Crofts came within inches of giving the away side the lead, but his firm header flashed just wide of McCarthy`s post.
Brighton`s inform forward Ulloa then had half a chance, with Danny Guthrie not retreating his area quickly enough, but the Argentine`s improvised header didn`t cause any problems. The game changer was to come on the half an hour mark, as Pavel Pogrebnyak was shown a second yellow card for diving, after picking up his first eight minutes before for a late challenge.
Replays show that the Russian was very theatrical with his fall, but there was contact from two Albion players. Referee Graham Scott wasn`t in the good books of Reading fans, but was soon to not be in those of the Brighton fan`s either, as he levelled the numbers. Ulloa`s 50-50 challenge on Alex Pearce was dangerous, with his feet high in the air, going for a bouncing ball and the referee produced the red card.
The referee had no option to send him off, with both decisions arguably correct. Despite the teams being ten versus ten, the Seagulls had the stronger finish to the half. Stepson of former Royals striker Nicky Forster, Jake Forster-Caskey, had an effort that drifted wide, while Alex McCarthy had to be on hand to palm away a Gordon Greer header.
Adkins opted to make two changes at the break, bringing on Hal Robson-Kanu and Wayne Bridge, for the booked Drenthe and ineffective Kelly. The Royals came out in the second period a much improved outfit, moving the ball much better and quicker, with Karacan forcing Kuszczak into an early save with a low drive from twenty yards.
The impressive midfielder had another striker at goal minutes later, with a fine curling effort having to be tipped over by the former Manchester United goalkeeper. Reading continued to push, with the introduction of Wayne Bridge proving to be a smart move from Adkins, as the former Brighton player was giving us a more dangerous outlook from the left wing.
However, Oscar Garcia`s side were slowly coming back into the contest and forced a decent save out of McCarthy, as Ashley Barnes` superb volley was palmed away smartly by the young keeper. The 23-year old was on hand again seconds later, as he palmed away a firm effort from Calderon from just outside the area. Brighton were starting to take a stranglehold.
Reading appeared to be relying on counter attacks in the final stages, but were lacking the required penetration in the final third, with Robson-Kanu failing to impress since his introduction. McCarthy was keeping the Royals in the game and made his best save of the afternoon, blocking Barnes` effort at the near post and gathering to the relief of the Reading faithful.
Alex Pearce had one last effort on goal for Reading, as Brighton failed to clear a corner convincingly and it fell kindly to the feet of the central defender, but his low volley was comfortable for Kuzszcak. The away side had the better chances, but Reading certainly didn`t hit top gear, despite a much improved second half showing at the Madejski Stadium.
Reading - 4-3-3: McCarthy, Gunter, Morrison (c), Pearce, Kelly, Guthrie, Karacan, Williams, Drenthe, Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak.
Subs: Federici, Gorkss, Bridge, Akpan, McAnuff. Robson-Kanu, Blackman
Brighton - 4-3-3: Kuszczak, Ward, Calderon, Greer, Upson, Lopez, Andrews, Crofts, Forster-Caskey, Lua Lua, Ulloa.
Subs: Brezovan, El Abd, Chicksen, Agustien, Buckley, Ince, Buckley, Barnes