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23:28 13th April 2010

Report: Royals go down fighting

Reading 1 (Simpson 72 (og))
Newcastle 2 (Nolan 20, 42)

Reading went down valiantly to League leaders Newcastle this Tuesday evening, and Brian McDermott's side could well have taken something from the game after another performance full of heart, confidence and real spirit.

We were the better side for the vast majority of the game, but Newcastle's Premier League quality and two very clinical finishes ensured they became Champions in all but name.

We had far more possession in the first half, but a long ball found its through way to Kevin Nolan in the 20th minute and the former Bolton man, playing as an out-and-out striker, finished well. We continued to press, but a fortunate ricochet set United on the counter and again Nolan scored.

After the break United had their best spell on the ball and Nolan hit the post in search of a third, but we showed tremendous character to dust ourselves down and fight back with real courage when most sides would have wilted.

We got our rewards when a clearance hit Danny Simpson and went into his own net, and it set up a grandstand finish, including seven minutes of injury time after centre half Brynjar Gunnarsson was unfortunately stretchered off.

Having used all three subs we were down to ten men late on but we still threw everyone forward, including Adam Federici, but sadly United just had that touch of guile and experience to see themselves over the finish line.

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Bertrand, Gunnarsson, Pearce; Howard (c), Tabb (Church 59); Kebe, McAnuff (Robson-Kanu 65), Sigurdsson; Long (Rasiak 79)
Subs: Hamer, Cisse, Karacan, Henry
Booked: Pearce (foul 28), Tabb (dissent 69)

Newcastle: (4-4-2): Harper; Taylor, Simpson, Collocini (Enrique HT), Williamson; Guthrie (Carroll 75), Smith (c); Routledge (Barton 75), Gutierrez; Ameobi, Nolan
Subs: Krul, Pancrate, Best, Lovenkrands
Booked: Nolan (dissent 8), Taylor (dissent 63), Ameobi (foul 78)

Attendance: 23,163 (3,998 away)

Team news
Reading made one enforced change at centre half, Brynjar Gunnarsson taking over from knee injury victim Zurab Khizanishvili. Kalifa Cisse returned to the bench for the first time in a couple of months following a thigh injury. Visitors Newcastle made three changes, and left Andy Carroll & Peter Lovenkrands on the bench. Shola Ameobi came in and partnered Kevin Nolan up front.

First half
Reading had the territorial advantage in the early stages, and Shane Long had a sight of goal on 10 minutes - but it was a difficult chance from an extremely narrow angle after Steve Harper misjudged a bouncing ball.

We had started well, getting into a number of good positions and delivering crosses into the box - but a combination of good Newcastle defending and our forwards not quite getting the rub of the green kept us at bay.

Then, completely against the run of play, the visitors scored the opener. Kevin Nolan, who was playing the game as an out-and-out striker, got inside the box down the left from a long kick and hit a good strike across Adam Federici. Our 'keeper got down to get an outstretched hand on it but there was just too much on the shot and it rolled inside the post. It was a cruel blow for our boys, and Wayne Routledge shot not too far wide in search of a quick second goal.

We were quickly down the other end though, and Long then produced a spectacular overhead kick that was on target but Harper was able to get down and save to his left.

Brian McDermott's side continued to press, and after an inexplicable fumble Harper was lucky to see the ball drop back into his palms and he breathed a large sigh of relief.

We continued to dominate possession, but just could not create that clear chance. Many times we got the ball into the final third but United were able to stand firm and defend.

Going into the break we were pushing forward for a leveller, but once again Newcastle scored against the flow of the play, with a stroke of good fortune allowing them to win possession. Reading were in control and moving forward, but a fortunate ricochet ran right into Danny Guthrie's path. United had men over, and the ball was slipped to Wayne Routledge, who in turn gave Nolan a simple finish.

Going into the break 2-0 down was tough on our boys, who had done well and caused United problems - but could not create that key chance and cruelly conceded twice. The fates may have conspired against us, but this team has more character than to even consider going back into their shells.

Second half
We had half a penalty shout early in the second period as Brynjar Gunnarsson's shot seemed to possibly strike a United arm, but nothing was given and Gylfi Sigurdsson lashed the loose ball over from 14 yards out.

United then settled into a good period, and Nolan hit the post in search of his hat-trick, Federici perhaps just getting a touch to divert the header onto the woodwork.

For the next fifteen minutes or so Newcastle showed why they have gained promotion in such style, putting together some nice moves - but again we showed real character to dust ourselves down and come back into the match.

We threw on Simon Church and Hal Robson-Kanu in search of a goal, and we were back in the hunt when making it 2-1 on 71 minutes. Long and then Robson-Kanu both had efforts from a corner, and as sub Jose Enrique smashed a clearance away from goal, it flew off the back of teammate Danny Simpson and into his own net.

That gave us a real lift, and Sigurdsson tried to hook one goalwards at the near post but just got too much on it and it went wide - in truth it was a difficult opportunity.

Reading continued to press, and we were throwing bodies forward. We were displaying great bravery, never more so than when Gunnarsson tried to get on the end of a corner but was poleaxed by an unfortunate clash of heads.

The Icelander stayed down for nearly five minutes, and the stretcher and buggy were both needed to take him away amid loud applause from all sides of the ground.

Unfortunately we had literally just made our third change, so we had to finish the game with ten men - but it did not stop us throwing everyone forward and continuing to display heart, courage and endeavour.

Federici went up for a couple of injury time set pieces and again we couldn't quite get the break we wanted. Jonas Gutierrez did in fact nearly notch a third as Federici scampered back but shot wide of the upright.

At full time United were certainly happy to have taken three points - and they certainly knew they had been in a game. They are a top side, and as results have proven all season they have fully deserved their promotion. They have key players who can make the difference, but they were pushed every step of the way by a side who can again take great heart from their display of spirit, heart and bravery.

    Data provided by Press Association