First-half goals are enough to sink Owls

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Michael McCann

STEVE Clarke be­lieves things are start­ing to click at the Made­jski Sta­dium af­ter Read­ing con­sol­i­dated their mid-ta­ble po­si­tion with a com­fort­able victory over Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

The Roy­als took con­trol through first-half goals from a Pavel Po­greb­nyak header and a su­perb strike by Nathaniel Chalobah from the edge of the box.

Hal Rob­son-Kanu missed a sec­ond-half penalty but it didn’t mat­ter as the Roy­als com­fort­ably saw the game out, leav­ing manager Clarke to claim his side are on the right track af­ter just one de­feat in their last eight games.

“I’m pleased with the per­for­mance,” said Clarke. “I’m pleased with our clean­sheet and pleased with our at­tack­ing threat.

“It was a good per­for­mance and it fin­ishes off a re­ally good week for us.

“It’s been a good four points from two dif­fi­cult games. Slowly, step by step, I can see a real im­prove­ment.

“Pavel’s strengths are there for ev­ery­one to see – he is a will­ing worker, he holds the ball up for us and if you put qual­ity balls in the box for him he is a proven goalscorer.

“Garath McCleary is an ex­plo­sive player so you have to try and pro­tect him which is why I took him off, and Hal-Rob­son Kanu, in those wide po­si­tions I ask the play­ers to run re­ally hard.

“Slowly, slowly, you have to take it step by step. The ba­sis for most teams is a solid de­fence and if you have that you will pick up points.”

Read­ing de­servedly led just be­fore the half-hour mark as Stephen Kelly’s cross was pow­er­fully headed home by the un­marked Po­greb­nyak for his third goal of the sea­son.

The Roy­als dou­bled their lead five min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val as the danger­ous McCleary surged for­ward from deep be­fore cross­ing for Chelsea loa­nee Chalobah, who swept ex­pertly into the far cor­ner.

Only a minute later Wed­nes­day skip­per Glenn Loovens had to clear off his own line, start­ing an Owls counter-attack that ended with Will Keane forc­ing a smart save by Adam Fed­erici to his left.

The sec­ond-half started fre­net­i­cally as McCleary had a fierce strike harshly ruled out for off­side and the Owls showed signs of a re­cov­ery.

How­ever, just be­fore the hour, Read­ing caught the vis­i­tors on the break, caus­ing sub­sti­tute Jeremy He­lan to haul down the im­pres­sive Po­greb­nyak.

How­ever, Rob­son-Kanu could only pro­duce a tame spot-kick that Keiren West­wood eas­ily saved to his right.

There af­ter, Wed­nes­day threat­ened but failed to pro­duce any qual­ity to cheer their out­stand­ing away sup­port of nearly 2,400 rau­cous fans, al­low­ing Read­ing to se­cure a fourth clean sheet in six games.

Wed­nes­day boss Stu­art Gray gave a frank as­sess­ment of his side’s dis­play – or lack of it.

He said: “The dis­ap­point­ing thing was the man­ner of the two goals we con­ceded.

“They’ve put two crosses in the box and they’ve got two goals – and sud­denly we have to chase the game.

“I can’t re­mem­ber us putting a tackle in across the first half and that was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing – you’ve got to have that de­sire to win the ball back.We didn’t lay a glove on them and that is dis­ap­point­ing.

“I thought sec­ond half we were bet­ter, they were set up to coun­ter­at­tack and we played well.

“We’ve had to chase the game and we were vul­ner­a­ble to the counter-attack.

“It’s the same old prob­lems – we’ve got in some good ar­eas but not got that last touch.

“We’ve re­cently done some busi­ness re­gard­ing get­ting play­ers in and we know that we need to strengthen.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

JACQ THE LAD: Read­ing’s Oliver Nor­wood tus­sles with Jac­ques Maghoma

ROYAL AP­PROVAL: Read­ing’s Pavel Po­greb­nyak, cen­tre, cel­e­brates open­ing the scor­ing

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