ROY­ALS’ WIN NOT YANN FOR PURISTS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Gra­ham Ot­way

GIVEN the shock­ing lack of qual­ity of the at­tack­ing play from both sides for the first 41 min­utes at the Made­jski Sta­dium, it would have taken a brave man to fore­cast a fi­nal score­line that con­tained three goals.

Yet as Read­ing, hav­ing bounced back from three de­feats with a win against Ful­ham in mid­week, grabbed all three points to climb up to third. All three of the goals were talk­ing points.

Up to the point they took the lead the Roy­als, de­spite their cus­tom­ary dom­i­nance on the pos­ses­sion front, had barely cre­ated a chance and could have fallen be­hind in the 22nd minute when a snap­shot from Cardiff ’s Joe Ralls struck a post.

Read­ing al­ways rely heav­ily on an ef­fi­cient work ethic rather than vi­brant ex­cit­ing foot­ball but their opener was the re­sult of one brief mo­ment of in­ven­tive skill.

Af­ter Al­lan McGre­gor in the vis­i­tors’ goal had dived to parry a shot from Danny Wil­liams, Read­ing’s Garath McCleary used a clever back­heel to put the re­bound into the path of John Swift, who calmly side­footed home from eight yards out.

Yet be­fore ref­eree Tony Harrington had blown the half-time whis­tle Cardiff were back on level terms af­ter he awarded a penalty for an of­fence that was any­thing but clearcut. As a loose ball floated into the Read­ing area de­fender Liam Moore, with his back ini­tially to the goal, turned with a raised a boot to clear it.

At the time he would have been un­aware that be­hind his back, Cardiff ’s Sean Mor­ri­son was stoop­ing to try to put a header on tar­get. Moore’s boot caught him flush in the face and ugly though the in­ci­dent looked, Moore had not in­tended to cause harm and that Harrington only booked him sug­gested he had not seen any evil in­tent.

And the fact that home keeper Ali Al-Habsi did well to get his fin­ger­tips to Ralls’ low spot-kick but could not pre­vent it sneak­ing home close to his left post would have only added to Read­ing’s dis­ap­point­ment over the in­ci­dent.

Their 59th-minute win­ner also came from a set-piece af­ter Yann Ker­mor­gant was fouled two yards out­side the Cardiff box. Faced with a di­rect free-kick Cardiff built a care­fully po­si­tioned wall but it also con­tained three Read­ing play­ers, and they cre­ated a gap through which the French­man was able to di­rect the match win­ner.

Read­ing man­ager Jaap Stam felt his side could have es­caped con­ced­ing a goal to a spot-kick.

“I was not happy with the penalty,” he said. “I haven’t seen the re­play or talked to Liam Moore but these days if play­ers go down in the area penal­ties are eas­ily given.”

But the Dutch­man was de­lighted that Read­ing had over­come Cardiff ’s spir­ited de­fence, say­ing: “They made it dif­fi­cult for us and de­fended well. I am happy with ev­ery win we get with the po­si­tion we are in. We have got lots of teams close around us but we get mo­men­tum by win­ning games.”

Cardiff only had 36 per cent of the pos­ses­sion but did have 17 shots on goal com­pared to Read­ing’s eight and that left man­ager Neil Warnock dis­ap­pointed with the re­sult.

“It was the same against Brighton in mid­week,” he said.

“There we also played well and lost.

“It’s frus­trat­ing but hope­fully in the next cou­ple weeks we might play rub­bish and win a cou­ple of games. I don’t think we are far away from be­ing a good side.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

OFF THE MARK: John Swift cel­e­brates scor­ing Read­ing’s first goal with Yann Ker­mor­gant

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