Reading 1 (Harte 13)
Ian Harte's first half free kick was enough to take Reading level on points with Southampton at the top of the npower Championship table, increasing their lead over third-placed West Ham to six points.
The Royals' left-back fizzed a deflected 20-yard free kick off the Brighton wall and inside the right post after only 13 minutes of a high-tempo end-to-end encounter at the AmEx Stadium.Adam Federici
preserved his side's lead with a superb penalty save, low to his right, to keep out Ashley Barnes' second half spotkick and Brighton pressed hard for a route back into the game. Our Australian made a string of super stops on the night.
Both teams struck the crossbar, Brighton through Vicente's right foot and Reading through a thunderous Pearce header late on, but Harte's opener was enough to earn Brian McDermott's men all three points and a place alongside Southampton at the top of the league table.
It was a very gutsy and heroic display from the Royals in a real firecracker of an atmosphere, and with a fair few injuries to contend with - and once again it felt like a huge three points come full time.
Brighton (4-4-2): Brezovan, Jara, Calderon, El-Abd, Greer (c); Buckley (LuaLua 66), Navarro, Dicker, Vicente; Barnes (Assulin 81), Mackail-Smith (Vokes 81)
Subs: Ankergren, Painter
Booked: Greer (foul 32), El-Abd (foul 41)
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Cummings, Harte, Gorkss, Pearce; McAnuff (c), Mullins, Kebe, Cywka (Gunnarsson 59); Hunt (Church 78), Roberts
Subs: McCarthy, Afobe, Le Fondre
Booked: Harte (foul 37), Kebe (dissent 42), Pearce (handball)
Ref: M Russell
Att: 20,610 (2,733 away)Starting XI team news:
Reading were forced into two changes, bringing in Hayden Mullins and Tomasz Cywka. Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood were injured, as was Hal Robson-Kanu. They joined Jay Tabb, Matthew Connolly and Mikkel Andersen on the treatment table.
But Benik Afobe was back from a knock so made the bench, as did Brynjar Gunnarrson. The Royals actually started the game with Cywka just behind Roberts and Noel Hunt wide left, but soon changed to a more traditional 4-4-2.First half:
Brighton started on the front foot and Ashley Barnes had a couple of sights of goal, shooting not too far wide of Adam Federici
's post with his second attempt.
But after a quarter of an hour, the Royals took the lead. Noel Hunt was bundled over just outside the box and referee Mick Russell awarded a free kick. Ian Harte
stepped up and via a big deflection off the Brighton wall watched it spin inside the right upright with Brezovan rooted to the spot.
Brighton looked to respond quickly, and Fedeici had to tip over a fierce effort from outside the box. In the build-up Albion wanted handball but there was nothing in it at all.
They then had a stronger looking penalty claim when Kaspars Gorkss challenged Craig Mackail-Smith but again nothing was doing. It looked a decent shout on first look.
Ten minutes after our opener, the Royals threatened a second. Jobi McAnuff's deep corner was won by Pearce in the air and the ball bobbled off a defender's leg and back to the centre-back who lashed a right-footed effort into the side netting from a tight angle.
It was a very lively game, with Albion boss Gus Poyet a real livewire in his technical area, helping to ramp up a tense atmosphere.
His winger Vicente then really should have scored but hit the bar when in on goal. It was a relatively tight angle but the Spanard wiill feel he ought to have done better.
It continued to be very open, and a Brighton surge forward was followed by a good Reading break but neither fashioned a chance.
And right on half time Peter Brezovan made a superb save from Noel Hunt's header - it looked destined for the corner after a great Cywka cross.Second half:
It should have been no surprise when the second half started at 100mph; there was plenty of drama inside the first couple of moments.
Brighton wanted a penalty for a challenge amid a crowd of bodies, and initially nothing was given, but a second tackle did indeed result in a spot kick, seemingly when Pearce when in on Barnes.
But Adam Federici
flung himself to his right and kept Barnes' spotkick out, turning it succesfully round the post to preserve the Royals' lead.
As the Seagulls upped the pressure, Federici came good twice more, first fingertipping a far post header over the bar from the resultant corner, then brilliantly clawing away a low left-footed hook that seemed destined to roll into the bottom right corner for a Brighton equaliser.
The pace of the game wouldn't relent and at the other end, Harte's deep free kick found Pearce at the far post but the defender was adjudged to have climbed on a Brighton player in winning the header so nothing came of the move.
And the Royals threatened on the break through Roberts and then Hunt with less than 20 minutes on the clock, but Hunt was eventually crowded out by a host of backtracking Brighton defenders before he could get a shot away.
Jimmy Kebe then did well to cut a low cross into the feet of Hunt, who was tackled just as he was about to pull the trigger from a tight angle.
And the Harte and Pearce combination came millimeters away from sealing the win. Substitute Simon Church won a free kick which Harte swept in and Pearce thundered a header against the crossbar and Brighton hurriedly cleared.
Gus Poyet's men were running out of ideas, trying a worked free kick that saw Vicente pass the ball to Kazenga Lua Lua only for the substitute to sky it high over Federici's crossbar.
And Lua Lua's dangerous cross in the dying stages fizzed right across the face of Federici's goal without a Brighton leg getting the decisive touch that might have dragged the hosts level.
There was no way through, and even when Gus Poyet's men threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors, Reading defended masterfully to keep a clean sheet and take all three points.