Clarke praises his ‘cool’ fans
STEVE CLARKE thanked the Reading supporters for their reception for him after he ended a difficult week by picking up three points against Bolton.
It looked as though Clarke would be named Fulham manager on Thursday night after the two sides agreed compensation, only for the man in the middle to perform a U-turn and decide to stay.
That might have made him worry about the reception he would receive at the Madejski but Lucas Piazon and Danny Williams struck in the first half to hand Reading some breathing space.
Liam Feeney did net a penalty with ten minutes remaining but it did little to dampen Clarke and the Reading fans’ moods.
“It was always going to be a little bit strange for me here, but I’ve got to say I thought the crowd got it quite right,” Clarke said.
“The reception was cool, but nothing more than that and they got right behind the team. That’s all we ask for.
“I don’t think that the talks with Fulham had any effect on the players whatsoever. The fact that we hadn’t won for five matches was the over-riding factor in the game, because the players themselves knew this was a game where we needed the three points.
“It was an important game to get three points in.We want to stay in touch and stay challenging at the top end.”
Reading recorded a win for the first time since October 17 as they condemned Neil Lennon’s men to an 11th consecutive match without victory.
The Royals were perhaps fortunate not to go behind early on, and they had Ali Al-Habsi to thank for keeping the scores level inside an unconvincing opening half-hour.
The ex-Trotter stopper repeatedly denied his former side, pulling off a terrific save to deny Shola Ameobi’s downward header in just the eighth minute.
Bolton went close again six minutes later when Feeney spotted the run of Mark Davies, but the midfielder’s low drive was turned away by Al-Habsi.
Just two minutes later the Oman international shot-stopper was at it again, tipping a point-blank header from Darren Pratley over the crossbar.
Reading had looked nervous in possession, but took the lead in the 30th minute after a fine solo effort from Chelsea loanee Piazon. The Brazilian closed down the defence, before rushing on to the ball after a clearance had ricocheted against him. With Ben Amos advancing from goal, Piazon held off the onrushing defender and poked the ball into the Bolton net.
And the Royals quickly doubled their lead, with Williams letting rip low and hard from 20 yards, leaving Amos powerless.
After the break the Royals were panicked when Ameobi hit the crossbar with a header.
And the Trotters were awarded a penalty in the 80th minute, after Pratley went to ground after being tripped by Oliver Norwood. Feeney made no mistake from the spot to score his team’s first goal in just over four hours of football.
“We should’ve been three-nil up before we shot ourselves in the foot,” Bolton boss Neil Lennon said. “We could’ve had four or five and the goals we conceded, we just gave them to Reading.
“For a ten-minute spell we let our heads drop and that’s unacceptable. I thought we were the better team. Reading were there for the taking.
“I need some more of the senior players to take charge of things on the pitch.”
OPENED UP: Reading’s Lucas Piazon puts the Royals on their way to victory STAR MAN ALI AL-HABSI