Read­ing main­tain play-off push

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

DON­CASTER’S fu­ture is hang­ing by a thread af­ter two late strikes from Pavel Po­greb­nyak saw Read­ing storm back from a goal down.

Ahead through James Coppinger’s first-half strike, Donny saw a com­posed per­for­mance un­ravel when Adam Le Fon­dre won and then scored a penalty.

Then, just three min­utes from time, Po­greb­nyak headed home to break Donny hearts, the Rus­sian adding in­sult to in­jury with a break­away third.

The re­sult is a dis­as­ter for Donny, who just a month ago looked home and hosed when a 2-1 win away at Leeds opened an eight-point gap to the bot­tom three.

But five de­feats and a draw in the last six has whit­tled that cush­ion down to a point and with Birm­ing­ham – who have a game in hand – the only side sep­a­rat­ing Rovers from the drop zone, Donny’s fate is now out of their own hands.

Worse still, they face an away trip to cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter on the fi­nal day of the sea­son.

“I’ve said all along that I be­lieve in this group,” said Donny boss Paul Dickov.“And I still do. Call me daft, naïve, stupid or all three, but that’s the way it is. We’ll go to Le­ices­ter and we’ll fight for our lives.

“The lads are down in the dress­ing room, of course they are. But we’ll an­a­lyse it on Mon­day, put it be­hind us and get ready to go again.

“We know what we have to do.We can’t worry about other re­sults. Some­times you play bet­ter when you know you have to get a re­sult and hope­fully that will be the case at Le­ices­ter.”

As the play­ers left the pitch at half-time, only the hardi­est punter would have laid money on a Read­ing vic­tory.

With their pa­tient prob­ing and de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep the ball down, it ap­peared the home side were play­ing in a tes­ti­mo­nial, not scrap­ping for their lives.

Paul Kee­gan was a blur of mo­tion as he dom­i­nated Hope Ak­pan and Mikele Leigert­wood, his thun­der­ing fe­roc­ity both stymieing op­po­si­tion at­tacks and start­ing his own.

At the back, too, Ab­doulaye Meite and Paul Quinn ap­peared to­tally un­trou­bled by the lit­tle and large part­ner­ship of Po­greb­nyak and Le Fon­dre.

The goal, when it came, was due re­ward. It is of­ten said – usu­ally by strik­ers – that for­wards make the best crossers and Billy Sharp did his bit for the union with a clever low ball across the box. Read­ing’s back four had plenty of chances to clear their lines but, as they dal­lied, Coppinger pounced, steam­ing in at the back post to clip home.

Mo­ments later, Sharp al­most

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