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17:01 20th March 2010

Report: Kebe magic earns a point

Middlesbrough 1 (Killen 47)
Reading 1 (Wheater 63 (og))

Brilliance from Jimmy Kebe helped Reading earn a hard-fought draw at Middlesbrough this Saturday afternoon - and we came close to taking all three points.

Brian McDermott's in-form side edged the first half, and only a cracking save from Brad Jones prevented Shane Long from heading home an opener.

'Boro scored early in the second half through Chris Killen, but we showed great character and a brilliant run from Kebe saw him beat three men and lash in an undefendable low cross that David Wheater turned into his own net.

Jones almost made a hash of Gylfi Sigurdsson's late free kick as we searched for a winner, and Kebe also conjured up a great run and cross that just evaded Long in the middle. Sigurdsson had one more try right in injury time but again Jones pulled off a save to earn his team a point.

As the game reached its 90th minute Ivar Ingimarsson had to come off injured, Zurab Khizanishvili on his place and Matt Mills taking the captain's armband. 375 hardy fans had made the journey up and saw a good fightback from our side - Mills rewarding their support by climbing to the upper tier and handing his shirt to our fans at full time.

The unbeaten run continues, and we ended the game the stronger of the two teams and now look to maintain our excellent form at Leicester on Wednesday night.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Jones; Hoyte (Naughton 66), Pogatetz, Grounds, Wheater; Arca, O'Neil (c), Robson, Franks (Emnes 87); Killen, McDonald (Lita 74)
Subs: Coyne, Riggott, Taylor, Emnes, Miller
Booked: Arca (foul 22), Robson (simulation 56), Killen (foul 90)

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Bertrand, Ingimarsson (c) (Khizanishvili 90), Mills; Howard, Tabb; McAnuff, Kebe, Sigurdsson; Long
Subs: Hamer, Gunnarsson, Matejovsky, Robson-Kanu, Church, Rasiak

Attendance: 17,082 (375 away)

Referee: R Hall

Team news
Reading named an unchanged team rom the midweek win over QPR, and the bench also remained the same. Leroy Lita was on the bench for home team, while Gordon Strachan made a change in goal, Danny Coyne dropped for Brad Jones - one of Adam Federici's rivals for a place in the Australia World Cup squad.

First half
The game started at a steady pace, and Gary O'Neil had the first half chance in the tenth minute but miscued Jonathan Franks' pullback.

Matt Mills was then only a couple of feet away from a goal, staying up from a free kick and getting a decent header on Jimmy Kebe's excellent cross. Brad Jones was rooted to the spot but it sadly went just past the post.

Another free kick then caused more problems for the home side, and Ivar Ingimarsson was denied by a questionable lineman's flag to prevent what would have been a very good chance. The game was beginning to open up, and with 19 on the clock Chris Killen headed not too far wide.

Reading were beginning to take control though, and only a full-stretch save from the returning Jones kept out Shane Long's goalbound header. Jobi McAnuff had shown great ability to get in a cross from the left, and it looked for all the world as if Long would score, but Jones managed to keep it out. The rebound almost dropped down for Kebe, but David Wheater managed to get there first.

Barry Robson came into the game in good goalscoring form, and there was an air of anticipation on 31 minutes when a shooting chance opened up for him outside the box - but Adam Federici saved well, and importantly kept hold of it as two 'Boro players closed in.

Kebe then went on a good break down the right from Andy Griffin's superb pass, but the Malian allowed the chance to fritter away as Julio Arca got back well.

The first half was a tight affair, and Reading had been the better side by a reasonable margin. But for Jones' great save, we would have been ahead.

Second half
Boro had been second best, but first blood went to the home side straight after the break. A looping cross from the right came to Killen in the middle and he planted home a good header inside the post, giving Federici no chance.

Federici then had to be alert to tip over a cross from O'Neil that looked to be drifting goalward, and the goal had given 'Boro a brief spark that was previously missing.

But Reading were not about to lie down, and Kebe then tested Jones at his near post but he just about kept it out.

Then just past the hour mark we equalised and Kebe deserves full credit for getting us back on level terms. He picked up the ball wide on the right, did brilliantly to go past Emanuel Pogatetz and then evade another challenge. It was a magnificent run, and he smashed in a low cross that hit David Wheater on the leg and ended up in the net. Wheater knew nothing about it - and like the entire 'Boro defence the England man had been flummoxed by Kebe.

Kebe was now the best player on the pitch, and more brilliance from him down the right got in a great cross that Long looked destined to head home, but somehow he missed his contact and McAnuff's follow up shot was blocked. Down the other end, O'Neil worked space and put a good effort not too far over.

Reading were dangerous whenever they went forward, and Long almost gave Gylfi Sigurdsson a chance to shoot but 'Boro just about managed to get men back.

The home crowd were getting very restless whenever their team gave possession away, and we were defending well.

We nearly had another chance on the break as Kebe tried to put Sigurdsson in, but again 'Boro just about did enough. The home side then had a rare moment inside our box, but Federici saved from Killen down low at his near post.

With just two minutes to go Jones was very, very lucky not to concede again after making a hash of Sigurdsson's free kick, unconvincingly palming it upwards and then just about getting back in position to put it over for a corner.

As the game reached its 90th minute Ingimarsson had to come off injured, Zurab Khizanishvili on his place at the back and Mills taking the captain's armband.

Sigurdsson then tested Jones again in injury time but he got down well and his defenders were able to mop up.

The full time whistle soon came, and it was Reading who had looked much more likely to win it.

375 hardy fans had made the journey up and saw a good fightback - Mills rewarding their support by handing his shirt into the crowd at full time.

We looked more likely to win late on, but a point remains a good result and yet another match unbeaten in the incredible story since Brian McDermott took charge.
    Data provided by Press Association