Reading back in play-offs with Blues victory
Saturday 22nd March 2014
Attendance: 13,409 (983 away)
Skipper Jobi McAnuff scored his first goal in nearly two years, as his double secured victory for Reading against a dogged Birmingham side at St. Andrews.
Nigel Adkins made just one change to the side that drew with Derby in a stalemate last week, as despite his recent goal drought, Adam le Fondre was brought into the starting line up at the expense of Garath McCleary. The game wasn`t exactly bursting with tempo from the off, as both sides couldn`t get a hold of the game in what was a scrappy opening to the fixture at St. Andrews.
The first half chance of the game fell to Le Fondre, as McAnuff did well to work his way in from the left and cross for the striker, but his header sailed over the bar. Drenthe was playing in a more wide position compared to recent games, but was seeing a lot of the ball on the right-hand side and nearly worked an opening, but his strike at goal was poor and went into the side netting.
Birmingham were slowly working themselves into the game though and forced the first save of the day from McCarthy, as Macheda worked himself some space before having a snapshot at goal palmed away by the keeper. Chris Gunter has only scored one goal this season, which was an own goal, but came within inches of scoring at the right end this time, as his left-footed effort went just wide.
A breakthrough did come for the Royals though and you could argue it was against the run of play, as the home side were growing in confidence. Reading broke forward well and Royston Drenthe drove down the right wing and hung up a cross which was brought down well by Jobi McAnuff, who was composed enough to cut inside and slot the ball past Randolph into the net.
It wasn`t long before the hosts equalised though, as the referee awarded Lee Clark`s side a penalty kick. Gorkss was adjudged to have brought down Macheda in the area and despite looking quite soft on first viewing; the referee took his time in awarding it. Defender Paul Caddis stepped forward and despite McCarthy guessing the right way, tucked it away into the corner very well.
It was a frantic end to a half that was lacking in attacking quality prior to the goals - we certainly needed to up our game if we were going to get anything from it. We didn`t start well, as Alex McCarthy game to the rescue in the opening exchanges, as he did superbly to palm away Macheda`s header, which despite a lack of power, appeared to have wrong-footed the shot stopper.
Adkins opted to change it just ten minutes into the second period, bringing on Pogrebnyak and McCleary, a decision which certainly gave us more attacking flair. Another change which changed the game was Birmingham`s introduction of Jordan Ibe at half-time, who was giving Gunter a tough time. Chris Burke had an effort on goal from long-range, but was easily gathered by McCarthy.
The pressure was growing from the home side, who didn`t look as if they had only won two home games in eighteen attempts this season. The crossbar was the next thing to come to our rescue, as we failed to clear a corner into the area and Macheda`s header hit the woodwork. With Birmingham obviously looking for the win, we were looking very lively and dangerous on the counter attack.
Good work from Drenthe in the middle of the park set Gunter free and despite appearing to have a good shooting opportunity, opted to pass across the face of goal, only for it to be cleared away. From the resting corner, Gorkss had a header deflected just over the crossbar. The Blues then went up the other end and Ibe did well again to find Burke, but his effort was saved well by McCarthy.
Gunter was getting a lot of joy bursting forward from the right-hand side and his dangerous cross was met first time by Jordan Obita, but a volley on his weaker foot went narrowly wide of the post. Substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak was then guilty of one of the misses of the season, as Randolph spilled McAnuff`s original shot, but the big Russian unbelievably couldn`t convert from five yards.
Luckily enough, his blushes were soon to be saved by the skipper Jobi McAnuff once again, who put Reading back in front with eight minutes to play. Gunter again was the main architect of the move, as Akpan slipped the Welshman in, whose low cross was tapped home at the back post the winger, who after scoring his first goal in nearly two years, got a second to his name in Birmingham.
Another substitute who was making a different was the 6`8 fame of Nikola Zigic, who with the 90 minute mark approaching, forced McCarthy into a world class save to tip his header round the post. The pressure from Birmingham continued, but we took the sting out of them into injury time, keeping the ball in the corner and eventually seeing out the victory for a massive three points.
It wasn`t a pretty game and especially in the first half, we were far from our best. Credit has to go to Birmingham for the way they played though; they probably deserved at least a point from the fixture. The win takes us back into the play-off places though and with Brighton and Forest losing, it made the points that more crucial. Let`s now focus on the Barnsley game on Tuesday night.
Birmingham - 4-4-2: Randolph, Caddis, Packwood, Spector, Robinson, Burke, Huws, Reilly, Shinnie, Novak, Macheda
Subs: Doyle, Blackett, Rusnak, Lee, Ibe, Lovenkrands, Zigic
Reading - 4-2-3-1: McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Obita, Guthrie, Akpan, McAnuff, Drenthe, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
Subs: Federici, Hector, Kelly, J.Taylor, McCleary, Blackman, Pogrebnyak