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16:50 26th December 2010

Report: Long inspires Royals to victory

Reading 4 (McAnuff 31, Hunt 43, Long 66, 89)
Bristol City 1 (Stead 15)

Inspired by Shane Long, Reading put in a top drawer performance to see off Bristol City 3-1 at Madejski Stadium this Boxing Day.

Long was absolutely brilliant, despite bring ill in the days leading up to the game, and he was backed by a number of other excellent performances from his teammates.

City took an early lead through Jon Stead, but we showed great spirit to fight back and Jobi McAnuff's desire to get into the box allowed him to make it 1-1 on the half hour.

Long then did briliantly to win the ball back from a City defender inside his own area, allowing Noel Hunt to tap home from close range for a very important goal just before half time.

Long then made it 3-1 in the second half with a cracking finish past David James, getting onto a sensational throughball from Alex Pearce in the process.

The Irishman then scored his seventh goal in ten games with another good finish, and it was a brilliant way to round off an excellent afternoon's entertainment.

The Royals moved up to within a point of the play-off spots, and will look to continue this positive momentum when they travel up to Hull on 28th December.

Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Armstrong, Mills (c), Pearce; Leigertwood, Karacan, Kebe (Robson-Kanu 80), McAnuff; Long, Hunt
Subs: McCarthy, Harte, Khizanishvili, Howard, Antonio, Church
Booked: Armstrong (foul 19)

Bristol City (4-4-2): James; Ribeiro, McAllister (Nyatanga 49), Caulker, Stewart; Elliott, Skuse (c), Adomah, Rose (Campbell-Ryce 82); Pitman (Haynes 76), Stead
Subs: Gerken, Nyatanga, Johnson, Clarkson, Cisse
Booked: Elliott (foul 22), Skuse (foul 35), Stewart (foul 43), Caulker (foul 56), Rose (foul 81)

Attendance: 19,293 (2,209 away)

Ref: K Friend

Starting XI team news
Reading made one change, Ian Harte on the bench and Chris Armstrong coming in at left back. Former Reading man Kalifa Cisse was named as a sub for the visitors.

First half
City started the game on the front foot and got in three good crosses from low on the right hand side in the first ten minutes or so, but they did not get enough men forward to capitalise on those dangerous moments.

The away side's pressure paid dividends just before the 15 minute mark, although Reading were very unhappy not to get a free kick in the build up. Jobi McAnuff looked to be fouled inside the City half, but referee Kevin Friend allowed play to continue and on-loan Tottenham man Steven Caulker was played in by a nice throughball. He tried to chip Adam Federici, and his excellent effort came back off the bar for Jon Stead to head home inside the six yard box.

We looked for an immediate response, and if our pass into Jimmy Kebe had been a fraction quicker he would have been able to get a shot away inside the box - as it was a defender got back to clear.

Reading were beginning to get a foothold, and former England man David James had to be alert at his near post as he pounced on a loose ball after Shane Long did well down the left.

Chris Armstrong and City's Marvin Elliott were then rather harshly booked for challenges, before Elliott tried his luck with a good long range effort but it went narrowly wide.

Reading then got themselves back on level terms with a nice goal. The ball was worked out to Kebe, who whipped in an excellent ball from the right. McAnuff was the unlikely man to head it goalwards, and although James made a wonderful save to tip it onto the post, McAnuff was there to sidefoot home. He changed his boots this week in a bid to up his goal tally - and it proved a masterstroke!

The goal allowed Reading to get on top of the game, and James had to make another excellent save, tipping over Jem Karacan's curling effort after the midfielder was well found by Long on the edge of the box. Cole Skuse and Damion Stewart were then booked for cynical challenges on Karacan and the unstoppable Kebe.

The foul on Kebe allowed us to get the ball into the box, and after City initially won it back, Long did brilliantly to win the ball back from the dawdling Albert Adomah, and put in an perfect low cross for Noel Hunt to tap home from close range. Long deserves great credit for creating the goal, and the ever-hungry Hunt was in exactly the right place to capitalise and turn home an important goal.

Second half
Within moments of the restart Long had a real chance to extend the advantage. Kebe caused problems down the right again, and once more McAnuff was on hand to win the header. It fell to Long, and he was on the stretch but will feel he should have done better than to put it over from close range. The Irishman had put in another magnificent shift so it was hard to be too harsh on him.

Reading were looking for a third to make life more comfortable, and midfield man Mikele Leigertwood unleashed a good effort on his right foot but it just faded away from goal.

Long was full of running and more superb play from the Irishman saw him get goalside of Caulker down the left. The Spurs loanee cynically scythed him down right on the corner of the box, and was lucky not to concede a penalty.

James then had to make another very good save, keeping out Long's diving header at the back post from point blank range but it was only a temporary reprieve.

The Irishman had been absolutely brilliant, and fully deserved his goal to make it 3-1. Alex Pearce played an absolutely wonderful throughball with the outside of his right foot, and it sent Long clear through on goal. The in-form striker still had plenty to do to beat a keeper of James' stature, but finished with great aplomb in off the near post.

Long then got his seventh goal in ten games with another emphatic finish, bouncing off a defender to lash home from 12 yards out to round off the game in style.

And so our final home game of 2010 ended in superb fashion, in a very positive, upbeat manner with verve, desire and great entertainment.

Long was interviewed on the pitch by the BBC's Football League Show right upon the final whistle, and rightly received a loud ovation as he gave his shirt into the East Stand and presented one lucky fan with a great Christmas present from one of the best young strikers around.

    Data provided by Press Association