Last-minute goal costs Royals crucial win
Friday 26th December 2014
Attendance: 26,173 (959 away)
Inigo Calderon's last-minute goal gave Brighton a point, as Reading bottled a two-goal advantage at the Amex Stadium.
Steve Clarke made two changes for his second game in charge, with two of those coming on either wing, with Garath McCleary picking up a knock in training during the week and Nick Blackman dropping to the bench. In came the returning Hal Robson-Kanu, who has been out with injury in recent games, and Jake Taylor, for his first start in eight games. The current injury list is seven players and counting.
Brighton had a new manager themselves in the dugout in Nathan Jones, albeit in caretaker charge, but his reign as Seagulls boss got off to an awful start, as we scored our first goal of the Clarke reign. Cox`s clever flick set Robson-Kanu away down the left and his low cross couldn`t be converted by Jake Taylor, but former Brighton striker Glenn Murray was on hand to bundle the ball in at the back post.
What a start for the Royals, with not even a minute played! The home side looked rattled and could have conceded a penalty, as Dunk appeared to foul Cox in the area, but the referee was very lenient not to give a spot-kick. Reading were playing some good football and could have scored a second if it wasn`t for David Stockdale`s fingertip, keeping out Taylor`s looping header. Reading were smelling blood.
The home side were keeping possession, but looked clueless with it, failing to register a shot on goal in the opening 25 minutes. Steve Clarke`s side were not as toothless though, as they scored a deserved second goal at the Amex. Oliver Norwood`s free kick on the right was delivered with great pace and Murray managed to get on the end of it, but it appeared to take a hefty deflection into the net.
A lifeline came Brighton`s way five minutes before half-time though, as Greg Halford`s long throw was flicked on by Lewis Dunk and tapped in at the back post by Jake Forster-Caskey - not ideal just before the half-time break! The same player nearly equalised in injury time from the same long-throw situation, as we struggled to deal with it, but smashed his volley against the post - a big let off there.
It was a fast start to the second half, as Gary Gardner tried to replicate his brother`s long-range ability, but failed to hit the target. Murray was in search of his hat-trick and came within inches of getting it on 50 minutes, as he stabbed Obita`s low cross just wide. Adam Federici was having a quiet game overall, but had to be on hand to deny Danny Holla`s long-range strike - early warning signs for the Royals.
Brighton looked a completely different outfit in the second half, as Joe Bennett forced the Aussie keeper into another save, this time tipping his effort over the bar. Shaun Cummings then made a rare appearance from the bench, as he was brought on in a right wing role by Clarke - a smart move considering we were coming under some pressure. It certainly worked against Cardiff in the play-offs a few years ago!
Federici was fast becoming a saviour for Reading, who made another superb stop to substitute Solly March an equaliser, stopping his goal bound header. Reading were not offering much going forward, as they looked happy to sit on their one-goal advantage. The long throws from our former player Greg Halford were continuing to cause trouble in Reading`s area, but we were (just about) holding firm.
The final change from Clarke saw Stephen Kelly come on for Hal Robson-Kanu - six of the ten outfield players were defenders on paper! Nick Blackman was playing as the lone striker and nearly managed to put the game beyond any doubt, but his effort was deflected wide. Craig Mackail-Smith, recently recalled from a loan spell at Peterborough, forced Federici into another save, but the offside flag was up anyway.
Brighton pressed for an equaliser and found it as the ninetieth minute approached, as a low cross was put into the area and Calderon somehow had the space to sweep home a leveller from ten yards - same old problems! A massive kick in the teeth for Clarke and the team, we should have seen that game out, but failed to do so with more poor defending. More problems than solutions for Clarke currently!
Brighton - 4-4-2: Stockdale; Calderon, Dunk, Halford, J Bennett; E Bennett, Forster-Caskey, Gardner, Holla; Bent, Colunga.
Subs: Walton, Hughes, Chicksen, Ince, McCourt, March, Mackail-Smith.
Reading - 4-2-3-1: Federici; Gunter, Hector, Pearce (c), Obita; Norwood, Williams; Robson-Kanu, Cox, Taylor; Murray.
Subs: Andersen, Cooper, Cummings, Kelly, Kuhl, Blackman, Tanner.