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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:00 12th February 2011

Report: Late heartbreak for Royals

Norwich 2 (Lansbury 15, Holt 90+4)
Reading 1 (Long 25)

Ten-man Reading suffered injury time heartache as Norwich took three points with a 94th minute goal from Grant Holt.

City started well and took the lead through Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury, but a brilliant run by Jimmy Kebe allowed Shane Long to make it 1-1 soon afterwards.

We were then denied a clear penalty when Jay Tabb was pulled back inside the box, and our disappointment was compounded when Jem Karacan was sent off for a challenge on David Fox.

Our ten men gave everything, and we had Adam Federici to thank for a number of superb saves, including two one-on-ones. Sub Michail Antonio's goalbound effort was blocked, while City sub Andrew Surman clipped the bar at the other end.

Holt then popped up in the fourth minute of injury time to steal the points and it was so, so cruel. It's hard not to feel that big decisions didn't go our way. Credit City, they have a good home record but we pushed them all the way and it could well have been a different result.

Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; R Martin, Drury, Barnett (Whitbread 79), Ward; Hoolahan, Lansbury (Surman 63), Crofts, Fox; Holt (c), C Martin (Wilbraham 81)
Subs: Steer, Smith, Lappin, Jackson
Booked: Lansbury (foul 34)

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Harte, Ingimarsson, Mills (c); Karacan, Howard; Tabb, Kebe, Robson-Kanu (Antonio 72); Long
Subs: McCarthy, Khizanishvili, Gunnarsson, Church, Hunt, Manset
Sent off: Karacan (foul 64)

Attendance: 25,560

Starting XI team news
The Royals made two changes, bringing in Brian Howard and Hal Robson-Kanu as we lined up 4-2-3-1. Jobi McAnuff had a minor ankle injury so missed out, while Simon Church was on the bench. Jay Tabb started in the support role behind Shane Long, Howard and Jem Karacan the two central midfielders.

First half
Reading won a corner inside the first five seconds, but it was Norwich who settled the better and Chris Martin was prominent with two early efforts, the second an opportunity he should have done better with. He was also guilty of going down very easily indeed under a challenge from Ivar Ingimarsson inside the area.

With 15 gone City turned their good play into the opening goal. They won a debatable free kick on the halfway line, and it was fired into Wes Hoolahan, who did well to turn inside Jay Tabb. He picked out the onrushing Henri Lansbury, and the on-loan Arsenal man sidefooted home just outside the reach of Adam Federici.

We nearly made an immediate response as a City defender hit a poor backpass, but it was inches away from Shane Long's toe and 'keeper John Ruddy was able to smack it to safety off Long's shins.

Grant Holt then had a great chance to double City's advantage when he got in on goal down the right, but he blazed over and it was a real opportunity spurned.

We then began to find our feet in the game and got back on level terms with a very good goal. Ingimarsson cleared a City cross, and Jem Karacan found Jimmy Kebe with a neat pass. Kebe was inside his own half, and ran fully 50 yards in possession. He beat a City challenge, passed well to Long and he scored with aplomb from eight yards.

The goal gave us a real lift, and Brian Howard connected well with a shot but it deflected off target.

Kebe was very prominent, and goalscorer Lansbury clearly had no answer for him when he cynically hacked him down in the middle of the pitch, a booking the very least he deserved.

City were next to go for goal, and Federici made a superb save after Holt neatly side-footed goalwards.

Kebe then broke again, and the linesman made an excellent decision to keep his flag down as he broke at pace. With options narrowing in the middle, he went for goal and Ruddy flapped it over the bar.

We continued to press, and Ian Harte whipped in an excellent free kick that went just wide, while Ingimarsson may well have been pushed as he tried to follow in.

Lansbury had a decent chance just before the interval but couldn't capitalise, and it drew an entertaining 45 minutes to their conclusion.

Second half
Within moments of the restart Reading were denied a certain penalty. Tabb did very well to get beyond a defender, he was pulled back but referee Mr Mathieson incredibly gave nothing. We were desperately disappointed, and despite our remonstrations he would not waver. It was a huge let-off for the home side.

There were few chances in the second period, but there was another important call from the referee on 64 minutes as Karacan was sent off for a challenge on David Fox. The challenge was high, but only because the ball was bouncing. Jem did not fly in directly towards the player, he was square onto him and Fox kicked into Jem's foot. There was a huge reaction from the City players, and at least one should have been booked, but it was only Karacan disciplined and we were down to ten men. In fairness, boss Brian McDermott did not complain about the card when speaking to press after the game.

City sub Andrew Surman then clipped the bar with an effort from distance before Federici made two top class saves, first denying Andrew Crofts as he went clear on goal, then keeping out Wes Hoolahan's volley within seconds.

Our own sub Michail Antonio was given a sight of goal after brilliance by Long, but some superb defending from the home side denied our young winger. From the resulting corner Matt Mills nearly prodded home but 'keeper John Ruddy was able to claim.

Hoolahan had a great chance with eight minutes to go, but smashed miles over the bar from eight yards. In the build-up, sub Aaron Wilbraham should also have done better but missed his kick.

Federici then made another one-on-one save, denying Holt after he burst into the area down the left in injury time.

But Holt would not be denied in injury time, scoring at the back post from Crofts' cross in the fourth minute of added time. It was a cruel, cruel blow and our ten men deserved better.

    Data provided by Press Association