CARLOS CURS­ING TOUGH­EST WEEK

Roy­als add to the Owls’ woes...

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ryan Lit­tle

AMOROSE Carlos Car­val­hal was left hop­ing he could for­get ev­ery­thing about one of the tough­est weeks of his ca­reer as Sh­effield Wed­nes­day lost fur­ther ground in the play-off race with a home de­feat to Read­ing.

The Owls have picked up just four points from the last 18 avail­able as the Roy­als in­creased the gap be­tween the two to five points, the per­fect way to wel­come in the week­end.

The vis­i­tors landed the first blow as Yann Ker­mor­gant clin­i­cally fired home af­ter just 13 min­utes, but it wasn’t all one way traf­fic as a string of fine Ali Al-Habsi stops kept them in front.

In­deed, it seemed his bril­liance had no lim­its, and the stop­per was to get the reward his per­for­mance de­served when Adrian Popa added a sec­ond dur­ing stop­page-time.

But for Car­val­hal, this fur­ther added to a wretched week fol­low­ing de­feat to As­ton Villa, al­though a sense of re­lief is at least com­ing in the form of the im­pend­ing in­ter­na­tional break.

“The week was very hard to me,” said the Por­tugese boss.

“Prob­a­bly one of the hard­est weeks as a coach in my ca­reer be­cause we are miss­ing so many play­ers.

“We had prob­lems be­fore the game with Gary Hooper and Kieran Lee, and a few other play­ers out.

“We are talking about a lot of play­ers who have played often since we ar­rived at the club and are im­por­tant in our dy­namic.

“But I must re­spect the play­ers who played against Read­ing.

“The boys who played did ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. They did very well.

“But my play­ers un­der­stand that when we re­cover play­ers, we are more strong.

“We did ev­ery­thing to win the game. We gave the max­i­mum and we de­served to win.

“My play­ers played with a fan­tas­tic at­ti­tude and cre­ated a lot of chances, even in the first half. We played 99 per cent of the sec­ond half.

“We played against a goal­keeper with a big in­spi­ra­tion. It was one of the prob­lems of the game.”

It took just 13 min­utes for the Roy­als to get go­ing through Ker­mor­gant’s tenth goal of the sea­son, cut­ting in and strik­ing ex­pertly past Keiren West­wood.

But from there the game be­longed to Al-Habsi, the Omani first pulling off a smart stop from Jor­dan Rhodes as Jaap Stam’s men were grate­ful to lead at half-time.

Rhodes was to also be thwarted af­ter an ex­cel­lent header, all be­fore some stun­ning Al-Habsi point-blank saves from Cal­lum McManaman and Steven Fletcher.

But as West­wood pushed up for a cor­ner in search of a stop­page-time equaliser, Read­ing broke to al­low Popa to slot into an empty net, shoring up a valu­able three points on the road.

“Ali’s been great for us. His re­ac­tions are great and with close-range shots he can move his body quickly to block the ball or catch it,” said Roy­als boss Stam.

“He’s a great char­ac­ter and has a great per­son­al­ity.

“He has done his bit already this sea­son in his per­for­mance.

“But it wasn’t just Ali, ev­ery­body worked very hard to get the result.

“It was a tough game and we knew it wasn’t go­ing to be easy,

“It’s a result that gives the play­ers ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion and even more self con­fi­dence in what they can achieve by do­ing cer­tain things on the pitch.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

TUS­SLE: Wed­nes­day’s Will Buck­ley in ac­tion with Read­ing’s Jor­dan Obita and, in­set, Yann Ker­mor­gant scores the Roy­als’ first

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