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22:44 17th February 2010

Report: Church double sinks Eagles

Crystal Palace 1 (Scannell 55)
Reading 3 (Church 23, 81 Kebe 47)

Reading stormed out of the bottom three with a stunning team display and a convincing 3-1 win at Selhurst Park this evening.

Simon Church opened the scoring midway through the first half, volleying Jobi McAnuff's floated far post cross into the ground and over the flailing glove of Julian Speroni.

And Jimmy Kebe pounced minutes after the interval to double the lead, half-volleying under Speroni from 12 yards out.

But Sean Scannell powered home a close range header from a dangerous inswinging corner only seven minutes later and Adam Federici had to be at his best to deny Darren Ambrose, Nick Carle and Shaun Derry.

Reading had their chances to add to the score too, Church hitting the post and squandering a one-on-one opportunity and Sigurdsson and Kebe denied late goals by Speroni after an appearance from the bench.

Thankfully Church made the closing stages a lot easier to bear when he swept home from six yards out from a cute Mills pull back.

A wonderful performance earned three thoroughly deserved points and leap into 18th spot in the Coca-Cola Championship.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Hill, Clyne, Davis, Derry (C), Ambrose, Butterfield, Danns (Scannell 43), Ertl, Carle (N'Diaye 65), Andrew (Lee HT)
Subs: Hills, Lawrence, Djilali, Mann
Yellow: Scannell

Reading: Federici, Bertrand, Griffin, Khizanishvili, Mills (C), McAnuff, Kebe, Gunnarsson, Karacan, Howard (Sigurdsson 77), Church
Subs: Hamer, Pearce, Cisse, Robson-Kanu, Thorvaldsson
Yellow: Griffin

Referee: Mr D Whitestone


First half

The visitors began the more positive. Ex-Eagle Jobi McAnuff jinked left and right and past Butterfield to eventually earn a corner that Matt Mills, skipper for the evening, came close to getting a head to.

But at the other end, Adam Federici was called upon to make the first save - a sharp stop low to his left to prevent a superb Ambrose effort flying into the left corner after five minutes.

And it was clear Brian McDermott's side were up against a side with plenty of confidence when Ambrose again saw a shot from distance deflect off Gunnarsson and fly wide, before Nick Carle volleyed a left-footed 25-yard effort just over the crossbar. And with barely 10 minutes gone, Federici was again in action to keep out a good Danns effort.

Calvin Andrew nodded Butterfield's tantalising cross over the bar soon after but Reading were starting to find a foothold in the game as the half wore on.

Brian Howard smashed a free kick into the Palace wall after Jem Karacan's burst forward had earned the Royals a set piece.

But it was Simon Church who broke the deadlock midway through the opening period. Great work from Kebe down the middle saw him stab it out to McAnuff on the right. His deep delivery picked out Church who brilliantly hooked a right foot around a volley to shoot into the ground and up and over Speroni's left glove and high into the net.

Suddenly with something to hold onto the Royals were biting at every Palace heel and Gunnarsson toed the next effort on target but it bobbled harmlessly through to Speroni.

And before the interval, Church had a glorious chance to double Reading's lead. His excellent hold up play allowed Howard to mop up in midfield and find Church's run into the Palace half. One on one with the keeper and onside, Church's first touch towards the area was too heavy and Speroni flew off his line to slide in and clear from Church's toes.

Second half

The second half began with a bang! Federici had to fly to his left to push Ambrose's 25-yard stunner away, and Zurab Khizanishvili did well to marshall the ball out for a corner on the right.

From the cleared corner, McAnuff broke away before checking back and passing it back to Bertrand. He found Gunnarsson who had continued the break by bursting down the right. His cross was only headed high into the air by a backtracking Palace defender and Kebe passed the ball under Speroni from 12 yards out on the half-volley.

Church came inches away from a third as the Royals tried to kill the game off. Griffin's cross from the right flank found Church's near post run and his deft right-footed touch beat Speroni but glanced the outside of the right upright.

But against the run of play five minutes later Palace got one back. McAnuff conceded a corner on the left and a dangerous inswinging delivery was nodded home by Sean Scannell from close range. Federici looked to be completely blocked off by Alan Lee but no foul was given and the fixture came alive once more.

Danny Butterfield came close to grazing the top of Federici's crossbar with a shot from distance and again the Aussie had to save well from Ambrose as Palace pressed for an equaliser.

Neil Warnock decided to chip in from the touchline with a rant at the officials when Zurab Khizanishvili went down with a head injury inside the Eagles box.

The game was very much up for grabs still. At one end McAnuff tried his luck from 22 yards out but it fizzed just over the crossbar. At the other Federici had to save low to his left and gather in a shot from Derry with less than 15 minutes remaining.

Entering the final ten minutes, tension was alleviated by a Royals third from Church. McAnuff's low free kick found its way to Matt Mills, who expertly touched it away from two or three Palace defenders before calmly centring it for Church, who swept home with his right boot from six yards out.

Gylfi Sigurdsson came off the bench and was only denied a goal on his return to the first team by a good Speroni save, and Jimmy Kebe forced the stopper into another injury time block when he tried to finish Palace off with a late breakaway.  
    Data provided by Press Association