McALENY LEAVES IT LATE TO LEVEL
Looming Cup date plays on Reading
CARDIFF manager Russell Slade is targeting a strong end to what has been an average season for his side after Conor McAleny’s late goal salvaged a point at Reading.
Pavel Pogrebnyak’s early poacher’s effort looked to have won the points for the FA Cup semi-finalists but McAleny’s 90thminute intervention maintained the Bluebirds’ recent revival on their travels.
Any relegation fears that Reading may have are only lingering ones but they were slightly the livelier side in a low-key encounter against a Cardiff outfit that only woke up in the final halfhour.
The Bluebirds are mired in mid-table as the campaign approaches its finish and the Royals have one eye on their encounter with Arsenal in two weeks’ time – and a match that lacked tempo reflected this.
Slade said: “You want to try and keep the momentum going and I think we’re achieving that so far in the fact that we’ve just lost a couple in 12 games and we’ve not lost in four now.
“We’ve got a bit of momentum and we’d like to finish the season strongly.
“Our away form has improved dramatically – it couldn’t get much worse frankly.
“We hadn’t won too many away from home in the last 18 months so at some stage it had to pick up.
“It was a very tight game all in all, there wasn’t much in it throughout.
“Our marking for their goal was disappointing but I thought we grew into the game and we did to them what we did at our place by getting a late goal.”
Reading struck in just the fourth minute when Jordan Obita’s hanging cross was nodded across goal by Garath McCleary and Pogrebnyak turned the ball in from close range.
The rest of the first half, sadly, failed to live up to this bright start and passed without further incident with both sides seeing moves break down all too easily.
Bruno Ecuele Manga almost handed Reading a second when his sloppy pass across his own half was picked off by McCleary, but he could only shoot wide after advancing into space inside the area.
It took Cardiff over an hour to properly work Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici when the Australian had to be alert to push away Craig Noone’s placed effort.
Debutant Kwesi Appiah almost doubled Reading’s lead when his powerful effort was pushed behind by David Marshall.
From the resulting corner, Michael Hector came closer still when his header at the back post came back off the crossbar.
But Cardiff ensured there was a sting in the tail as Aron Gunnarsson’s cut-back was swept into the back of the net by McAleny’s fine first-time finish.
Reading boss Steve Clarke feels his side are almost at the point where they can stop looking over their shoulders at the bottom of the table but cursed their inability to see it out.
He said: “We played well enough to get the three points – it certainly was a game where we should have finished it off.
“You know that when you go into the last five minutes and it’s only 1-0 you always leave yourself vulnerable if a ball falls in the box for them.
“For them it’s a good finish and they’ll be pleased that they’ve come here and nicked a point. For us, it’s a point further away from the bottom three.
“We’ll take it and we’ll move on to the next game – I thought there were a lot of positives out there, the team was good.
“We’ve set ourselves a points tally from our remaining games and that’s a point on the way to it so if we reach the tally we’ll be very comfortable.”
APPIAH DAYS: Reading’s Kwesi Appiah in action with Aron Gunnarsson MY HERO: Jamie Mackie grabs Pavel Pogrebnyak after his early goal for the Royals