- Pearce's own goal hands hosts lead
- Pearce concedes penalty and sent off
- Hector drills home to halve the deficit
- McCleary makes his return from injuryas sub
Ten man Reading were edged out in Cardiff tonight, two first half goals and a red card on the stroke of half-time proving too big a blow to recover from.
Alex Pearce turned a floated Peter Whittingham corner past his own goalkeeper to hand the home side the advantage somewhat against the run of play.
And then former Royal Adam Le Fondre scampered away from Pearce in first half injury time, before being dragged back by Pearce who was sent off. Peter Whittingham sent Federici the wrong way and the Royals had a mountain to climb.
Garath McCleary made a welcome return from injury and Reading stayed in the game well, earning their lifeline when Michael Hector drilled home through a crowd of bodies with ten minutes left on the clock. But City held on for all three points.
Cardiff City: Marshall (c), Brayford, Turner, S Morrison, Connolly (Fabio 75), Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone (Daehli 69), Pilkington, Le Fondre, Macheda (Jones 89).
Subs: Ecuele Manga, Adeyemi, R Morrison, Moore.
Reading: Federici, Kelly, Gunter (c), Pearce, Hector, Williams (Taylor 72), Norwood, Obita, Robson-Kanu (Blackman 83), Cox (McCleary HT), Murray.
Subs: Andersen, Cummings, Cooper, Tshibola.
Yellow: Williams, Blackman
Referee: Mr J Linington
The opening five minutes saw both sides sound each other out, the first attempt on goal coming from the head of Adam Le Fondre, who helped a cross from the left harmlessly over the crossbar with a glancing effort from 15 yards out.
At the other end a neat sequence of passes saw Murray slide Robson-Kanu in behind the back line but his cut back was intercepted. Then Murray himself tried his luck from the edge of the area but David Marshall was equal to his right-footed stab.
Anthony Pilkington ghosted in between two Reading men and cut inside from the left flank to rifle a low effort at goal, but Michael Hector did well to get a sliding block in before Federici was forced into action.
But the Royals were setting the agenda, passing the ball well and threatening in the final third without creating enough clear cut opportunities that were needed to break the deadlock.
Yet, against the run of play, with less than 20 minutes played, an inswinging Peter Whittingham corner was glanced on and the ball ricocheted in off defender Alex Pearce at the far post. Captain Chris Gunter furiously appealed for a foul on goalkeeper Adam Federici but the referee allowed the own goal
to stand and City had the lead.
Robson-Kanu forced Marshall into a tidy low save minutes after the resumption as Nigel Adkins sought an immediate response. And then Jordan Obita found himself with some room to pull the trigger, Marshall parrying well with his body as the left winger drilled a low effort on target.
Federico Macheda stole possession in midfield and scurried forward to shoot and Adam Federici clung onto his skidding effort at the second attempt as the half drew near a close. And frustrations boiled over a little when Williams and Pilkington went chest to chest as the Royals midfielder looked to get the ball back to take a quick free kick.
In the final moments of the first half, the game tilted almost irreversibly in City's favour. A long ball forward was brought down by Adam Le Fondre and escaping both centre-backs Pearce dragged the former Royal back inside the box to concede a penalty and receive a red card. Peter Whittingham converted from the spot and the ten men of Reading went into the dressing room two goals behind.
The change Nigel Adkins made at the break saw Garath McCleary return from a long layoff, replacing Simon Cox to take up his position on the right side of midfield. And a surging run from Williams allowed the substitute to cross, albeit too deep for Murray in the middle.
Pilkington forced Federici into an acrobatic save high to his left in the opening stages of the second period and then Craig Noone skied an effort over the crossbar. Le Fondre floated a right-footed chip just wide but the hosts were not making their numerical advantage count.
However, Reading were struggling to trouble Marshall in the Cardiff goal. Murray won a free kick 25 yards out but Norwood curled it around the wall but high and wide of the top right corner on the hour, but it was City who almost added to the scoreline moments later when Brayford's forward run saw him slide an effort across the face of Federici's goal and wide.
Jake Taylor came on with 20 minutes to go and set McCleary away down the right, a move that resulted in Murray's low cross being gathered by Marshall before McCleary could get a touch in the six yard box.
With ten minutes left, a lifeline. Obita's corner was only half cleared by the Cardiff defence and the ball dropped to MichaelHector
who brilliantly drilled a low right-footed effort through a crowd of bodies and past Marshall to halve the deficit.
Nick Blackman was thrown on and a nervy Cardiff were now holding on a little, Blackman appealing for a free kick on the edge of the box only to be booked for a dive.
Four minutes of injury time were signalled and Reading pressed hard for an equaliser. But, against a side who had won their last five at home, recovering from the red card was always going to be a very big ask...and so it proved as the final whistle sounded.