BRUCE IS IN A RUSH TO GET AWAY!
Royals respond in style
STEVE Bruce couldn’t wait to get away from Villa Park and put things right at Fulham after two goals from Joseph Mendes and one from Lewis Grabban punished his side’s comedy of errors.
An angry Bruce stood in stark contrast to his opposite number Jaap Stam, who watched his own players respond from a 7-1 thrashing at Norwich, taking one step towards securing back-toback wins over Easter by displaying their own ruthless streak in front of goal.
The Dutchman underlined the importance of a similar performance at Rotherham on Monday while a seething Bruce went home praying for anything but.
“It was an awful afternoon,” Bruce said. “I can’t wait to get out of the ground.
“We made more mistakes in this game than in the last three months and we’ve been punished.
“We’ve given really bad goals away and if you hand out opportunities like that then you won’t win.
“We didn’t recover from those mistakes and we are still a long way from where we need to be.
“We gifted them goals and we have to get better, but the fact that Fulham have had a day extra to rest is a big advantage to them.
“I may have to say a prayer on the way home.”
Sloppy Villa defending led to the opening goal on six minutes when Mendes capitalised on the loose ball to sweep it past Sam Johnstone from just inside the box.
Jonathan Kodjia drew Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi into action immediately at the other end, and he also made a fantastic reflex save to deny Henri Lansbury who deflected Mile Jedinak’s 20-yard shot on goal.
But Al-Habsi couldn’t deny Villa a 14th-minute equaliser when James Chester climbed highest to meet the resulting Conor Hourihane corner and power it into the net.
Mendes wasted a golden chance to put the Royals back in front on 30 minutes, clipping the ball over the frame of the goal from Grabban’s square pass with just Johnstone to beat.
However, Grabban combined with Mendes once more to restore Reading’s lead just 19 seconds after the restart with the latter tapping in from close range as Villa’s defenders were again caught cold.
Kodjia headed inches over the bar from another Hourihane corner as Villa sought a riposte before Johnstone beat away another Grabban strike as Reading pressed for a third goal.
Huge 67th-minute Villa penalty appeals for handball were waved away by referee Scott Duncan. And Scott Hogan was guilty of blazing a gilt-edged Villa chance over the bar having entered the fray minutes earlier.
Grabban made them pay from the penalty spot ten minutes from time after Liam Kelly was dragged back by Leandro Bacuna, sending Johnstone the wrong way to seal all three points for the Royals.
Reading boss Stam said: “I’m very happy with the character of my team.
“We bounced back well from a heavy defeat, played very confidently and took our chances.
“We know we can do well and we are in a good position with just a few games left.
“Monday at Rotherham is another important game and it will be far from easy.
“We can do very little to prepare in just one day.”
DOUBLE UP: Joseph Mendes scores his and Reading’s second and, inset, James Chester scores for Villa and celebrates
CLINCHER: Lewis Grabban scores Reading’s third from the spot
STAR MAN LEWIS GRABBAN Reading