MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

22 March 2008: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Bikey (31 mins, 79 mins).
Birmingham: Zarate (64 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 24,085

Pos Team P Pts GD
14 Wigan 31 31 -17
15 READING 31 31 -21
16 Sunderland 31 30 -21
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster (Long 77), Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse 81), Hunt, Kitson, Doyle. Subs Not Used: Federici, Sonko, Kebe.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Ridgewell, Jaidi, Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Nafti, McSheffrey (O'Connor 65), Forssell (Jerome 80), Zarate. Subs Not Used: Doyle, Parnaby, Johnson.
Reading: -
Birmingham: Ridgewell.
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).
Reading's third win in the last four games has lifted them five points clear of the relegation zone. Andre Bikey emerged as the hero in a hard fought victory against fellow strugglers Birmingham with two well taken headed goals. This was a close and tense match throughout in which both teams remained positive and kept their heads well under pressure. It was a game neither team could afford to lose - or draw for that matter. In the end Reading had a slight edge in skill and probably deserved the points.

Reading started brightly with both Shorey and Rosenior getting forward down the flanks putting City on the back foot. An early cross caused panic in the visitors defence but the first clear chance fell to the visitors which, fortunately for Reading, McSheffrey pulled wide. There were a few untidy skirmishes in midfield as players from each side snapped at each others heels. Referee Riley sensibly kept his cards in his pocket and it remained competitive without getting nasty. Oster put a ball into the six yard box and both Doyle and Kitson scrapped for it but somehow it was scrambled away with both sets of players appealing for something without success. A Matejovsky cross almost found Hunt but a defender got across in the nick of time. Hunt was sent away by a shrewd pass from Matejovsky. Ignoring two good options to play the ball wide, he shot well from distance and clipped the top of the bar. Back at the other end City forced a succession of corners and Jaidi headed over when he might have expected to score. Matejovsky was set up by Oster, but although he struck it cleanly, there was insufficient power to beat Taylor.

The Royals took the lead on thirty one minutes. Oster curled over a free kick from the left and Bikey glanced the ball past Taylor and then set off in gymnastic celebration. City almost equalised when McSheffrey's mishit cross was tipped over by Hahnemann. Forsell almost poked the ball in from the resulting corner. Zarate was causing problems for Reading bursting through midfield but things were breaking down when they reached Reading's stubborn back four. Reading were quite happy to play 4 - 5 - 1 in patches with Kitson dropping into midfield to good effect. Reading were worth their half time lead.

Oster should have put Reading two up just after half time when set up by Doyle but his close range effort flew high and wide. Reading seemed to lose their momentum and City began to press forward. Although they contained Zarate far more efficiently in the second half, the City midfielder got ahead of Bikey to prod a Forsell cross into an empty net. Ingamarsson had committed himself to a challenge that simply allowed Forsell time to look up and slide the ball into the danger area. At this point the game could have gone either way and it was clear that both teams were not going to settle for a draw. Reading fans had their hearts in their mouths as the referee's assistant amazingly kept his flag down as the ball went through to Forsell in an offside position. Fortunately Hahnemann saved well before protesting.

Hunt wasted a succession of corners before Long, on for Oster (who had put in an erratic performance to say the least), outpaced the City defence and was brought down. Shorey's superbly flighted free kick was met by Bikey who made no mistake with a downward header which Taylor had little chance of keeping out. Reading fans (the ones who stay to watch the whole game that is) sat and watched the clock until the whistle brought joy and relief. Reading may not be safe yet but today they looked good enough to stay up.
John Wells

Forget grand slam sunday this was judgement day for those of us unlucky to find ourselves languishing in the quagmire that is the dreaded relegation zone. Talk of "must win" games are often over used, but surely this was the classic six pointer if ever you there was one, and I for one felt very nervous as I took my seat. True to form when Reading play against lesser mortals we more than often not we don't play well and this was a very scappy game with nerves clear to see. My hero Ingimarsson must have had a bad kipper for breakfast because he had a shocker along with Oster who continues to confound most of us with his selection in the starting line up and Doyal though working his socks off looks well short and can't buy a goal, but this is Reading and who'd have thought Bikey would emerge the hero with two priceless goals to steal the priceless three points. I don't care how we we win at this stage of the season and with three wins from the last four games maybe a miracle is in the making, because our destiny is well and truly in our hands. Three wins, just three should do it but it's going to be nerve wracking to say the least. We can play better, a lot better, well played Kitson who worked his socks off as did Matejovsky who gets better by the game but surely the save from Hahnemann just after they had equalised with two Brum strikers unmarked five yards out was the turning point. Long way to go but a massive stride today towards safety, enjoy the league table tomorrow ......URRZZZ
Nick Newbury

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Two Andre Bikey headers gave Reading three vital points and deepened Birmingham's relegation fears... Reading made a fast start to a match that both sides were desperate not to lose, with the relegation zone only a few points below them. And the hosts almost took an early advantage, but Kevin Doyle could not stretch enough to turn in a low cross. That set the tone for Reading's attacks as they used the flanks well, with Hunt particularly effective.
BBC Sport

INCH by inch, Reading are clawing their way towards survival. But what will please their manager, Steve Coppell, most about yesterday’s hard-earned victory, their third in four games, was the source of the two goals.Andre Bikey is not a renowned goalscorer. His first-half header, which gave Reading the lead, was only the third of his career at the Madejski and it was followed nearly 50 minutes later by his fourth, an exact replica. As a French speaker, the Cameroonian will understand the term déjà vu, but Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, might resort to blunter language to describe the incompetence of his defence in allowing the Reading defender to score from two routine set-plays. Bikey’s unlikely double act revived memories of last season when someone always seemed to come good for Reading and confirmed the shift in momentum from the dark days of the new year when a run of eight straight defeats threatened to undermine all Coppell’s good work and return a decent, hard-working club to their old haunts.
Andrew Longmore, The Times