MATCH REPORT: 2008/2009 Season

Reading: Long (84 mins).
Birmingham: McGoldrick (74 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 20,142

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 Wolves 25 57 +24
2 READING 26 51 +29
3 Birmingham 26 51 +11
Reading: Reading: Federici, Rosenior, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Armstrong (Noel Hunt 79), Kebe, Matejovsky (Harper 71), Gunnarsson (Cisse 71), Stephen Hunt, Long, Doyle. Subs Not Used: Kelly, Andersen.
Southampton: Davis, James, Cork, Perry, Skacel, Gobern, McGoldrick, Gillett, Smith (Wright-Phillips 46), Holmes (McLaggon 55), Paterson (Euell 64). Subs Not Used: Bialkowski, Lancashire.
Reading: Doyle, Matejovsky, Long.
Southampton: Smith, Cork, McGoldrick, Gobern.
Ref: P Crossley (Bromley).
Once again the overwhelming emotion for Royals fans at the end of the game was relief. After a poor first half display Reading were grateful to save a point with a late equaliser from Shane Long. It was the character and determination on the squad which enabled Reading to extend their unbeaten run to eight games, and with Birmingham also held to a draw, hang on to second place in the table.

Both teams set about their task with a degree of caution. Reading seemed to be understandably wary of their opponents following their recent defeat at the Madejski Stadium and looked hesitant going forward. Although the Saints moved the ball around well they also appeared respectful of Reading's reputation and current form. The subdued atmosphere did nothing to lift the game. Fans of both teams sat quietly waiting for something to happen for most of the first half but on the whole they were disappointed. McGoldrick's effort which rattled the bar midway through the half was the only serious threat to either goalkeeper.

It looked as if four changes to the starting line up for Reading was too many. Matejovsky was well below his best and uncharacteristically misplaced several passes, and Gunarsson looked weary in spite of not playing on Friday. Long's pace down the flanks presented a threat but I feel Noel Hunt offers more variety and a better touch. It was a general sloppiness and hesitancy about Reading's play which presented Southampton with the opportunity to dominate the game. Armstrong and Rosenior were worryingly caught in possession, Kebe repeatedly ran through midfield and straight into a Southampton defender. In midfield Southampton hustled Reading into conceding possession. The outcome was that Reading kept letting their opponents have the ball but they were unable to take full advantage.

The second half was certainly livelier as Reading mounted more pressure on the Southampton defence. Everyone seemed to raise their game but around twenty minutes left, Coppell wisely replaced Matejovsky and Gunnarsson with Cisse and Harper. It was clear the final phase of the game was going to be a tight and tense affair. Stephen Hunt who had frequently conceded possession throughout the game capped a poor performance with an embarrassing volleyed attempt a the far post which, from the moment it left his boot, travelled further away form the Southampton goal ending up going out for a throw on the far side of the pitch.

With sixteen minutes left, Southampton, who had released two very skilful and quick youngsters from the bench, broke swiftly from defence and McGoldrick finished well, sliding the ball past Federici as he came out. Coppell reacted by replacing Armstrong with Noel Hunt leaving his brother Stephen to play as an attacking full back, a role which Armstrong fills far more effectively. This point was clearly illustrated later as Hunt tried to dribble the ball out of defence and lost possession leaving Duberry under real pressure to cover for his error. As they have often done this season Reading raised their game immediately and the pressure paid off with Long plunging bravely into a melee to head the equaliser flattening Davis in the process. Either side might have won the game in a final flurry. Southampton had a loud appeal for a penalty as the ball struck a Reading players hand. I could not see who it was but he was turning and had his back to the play when the ball made contact and therefore clearly not intentional. Southampton looked dangerous around the box and Duberry and Ingamarsson had to work hard to keep them out. Doyle came closest to settling it with a rasping shot well saved by Davis and a header which smacked against the bar but a draw was probably the fairest result. It was a day when few players could claim to be at their best but Federici's handling and distribution once again stood out. Hahnemann will have a tough job to dislodge him from the team when he returns to full fitness.
John Wells


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Reading manager Steve Coppell: "At the end of the season this may prove an excellent point. We showed fortitude, determination and resilience to get back into it. "It is not fortuitous that we win or draw games when we've gone behind in the last 10 minutes. "We showed a huge amount of desire to get back into the game - I'm delighted with the way we approached it."
BBC Sport