Guthrie double gives Royals third straight win
Saturday 28th September 2013
Reading's fine run of form continued, as they comfortably beat Birmingham 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium, thanks to a double from Danny Guthrie.
Nigel Adkins still had injury problems coming into this game, with Royston Drenthe, Danny Williams, Jobi McAnuff, Jem, Karacan, Mikele Leigertwood and Jason Roberts all unavailable for selection. This meant a place on the bench for new signing Billy Sharp and young Jordan Obita, as well as a first home start for Chris Baird, who started in central midfielder alongside Danny Guthrie.
The home side started brightly, with Le Fondre and Pogrebnyak getting the supply they have been craving all season. Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard had the Blues` first effort on goal, but his strike did not trouble Alex McCarthy. After a brace against Derby last week, Pogrebnyak has seen a sudden resurgence in form and had the best chance of the game so far.
Royals winger Garath McCleary drove inside from the right-hand side and threaded a sublime pass to the Russian forward, who was one-on-one with Darren Randolph, but the keeper thwarted his effort. McCarthy had his first input in the game minutes later, as he had to be equal to a firm Chris Burke effort, with a block from Alex Pearce also denying the former Cardiff winger.
Chris Baird was close to a home debut goal, as he attacked Danny Guthrie`s corner at the near post, but it was a Guthrie set piece that opened the scoring just past the half hour mark. Reading had a free kick wide on the left, which the midfielder whipped in and luckily took no touch off any player, going all the way through to give Reading a deserved lead in Berkshire.
The away side were still very much in the game until half time and Adeyemi had a rasping effort from distance, which McCarthy held well. Birmingham also had a decent chance a few minutes into the second period, as poor defending from the Royals gave Chris Burke space on the right of the penalty area, but he was wasteful with his chance, firing well over the bar.
McCleary was swapped over to the left side by Adkins in the second half and was proving a nuisance for the Blues backline, coming very close too, firing an effort just past the post. The former Forest player got a similar strike on target minutes later, but keeper Randolph produced a superb, Gordon Banks-esque save to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Birmingham did have a different threat in reserve, that of 6`8 striker Nikola Zigic, who was introduced just past the hour mark. The Serbian almost got the away side back on level terms, as a cross was hung up to the back post, which he met, but his header drifted over the bar. Lee Clark`s side were gradually growing in confidence and starting to put some notable pressure on the Royals.
However, Reading`s lead was doubled, thanks to another set piece and no guessing who scored it! Hal Robson-Kanu`s mazy run was put to an end by a Blues defender and from the resulting free kick twenty yards out, Danny Guthrie stepped up to place the set piece expertly beyond the impressive Randolph, hitting the post on the way to the back of the net.
It appeared that Reading now had the three points secured, but Birmingham were not going quietly. Substitute Wade Elliot had a long-range effort palmed wide by McCarthy, as the away side rallied in the closing stages. Despite this, Reading held out for their fourth win and cleansheet in five games, which takes them into the top six.
Overall, it was a deserved win, with Birmingham not providing a constant threat throughout the game. Adkins once again chopped and changed the team and formation, which I think is good management and very different from McDermott`s. We are not playing fantastic, yet still picking up three points, which can only be seen as a positive.
Reading - 4-4-2: McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Bridge, McCleary, Baird, Guthrie, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Federici, Gorkss, Kelly, Cummings, Akpan, Obita, Sharp
Birmingham - 4-3-3: Randolph, Reilly, Burn, Robinson, Murphy, Adeyemi, Spector, Caddis, Burke, Lingard, Green
Subs: Doyle, Bartley, Ferguson, Shinnie, Elliot, Lee, Zigic