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MATCH REPORT

Posted on 12 November 2006  - 12:00

Our unbeaten sequence came to an end at the Madejski Stadium after Reading came from behind to record a 3-1 win.

Our unbeaten sequence came to an end at the Madejski Stadium after Reading came from behind to record a 3-1 win.

A Robbie Keane penalty suggested we could have been on the way to a first away win in the Premiership this term, but the home side hit back twice before the break and went on to pretty much dominate the second half.

There was one change to the starting line-up from our last Premiership encounter a week ago against Chelsea, with Lee Young-Pyo coming in for the injured Pascal Chimbonda. Only Lee and Michael Dawson were from the X1 which started the game were on Carling Cup duty on Wednesday.

There was a very similar system employed to that of last week at the Lane, with Keane operating from the left hand side and supporting Dimitar Berbatov from a wide position along with Aaron Lennon on the right.

There was not a great flurry of early activity until Steve Sidwell got the better of Hossam Ghaly and surged forward. The England under-21 international advanced to the penalty area before planting sideways in the direction of marksman Kevin Doyle, who dragged his shot slightly and the ball travelled across the face of goal.

Hossam Ghaly had the ball in the net on 17 minutes after a Keane hit on goal deflected into his path, but the flag of the assistant referee quickly headed northwards.

A few minutes later Ghaly was in the thick of it again when Keane picked out his run into the area. The angle got tight for Egyptian so he cut back in an attempt to supply Berbatov, but the danger zone was getting congested and the opportunity passed.

Opportunity knocked again on 23 minutes when Keane and Ghaly exchanged clinical passes and the midfielder was chopped down in the area by Ibrahima Sonko. Mr Stiles gestured in the direction of the penalty spot and Keane obliged with his first Premiership strike of the season and the first scored by one of our players away from home in the league.

It was like the game was given an energy injection, but unfortunately the next productive action was at the end defended by us after 37 minutes. Full-back Nicky Shorey picked up possession roughly 30 yards out and pushed forward unchallenged before dispatching a a precise low bouncing effort beyond the reach of Paul Robinson and the home support were awakened.

Berbatov worked himself into position to restore the advantage on two occasions - the first superbly orchestrated by Lennon - before the break, but the home side struck again just ahead of the interval.

Poor marking from a corner allowed Sidwell to steal in ahead of Didier Zokora and force the ball beyond Robinson to give Reading the lead.

Steve Coppell's team certainly held the initiative in the opening minutes of the second period - both team and fans galvanised by the timing of their second goal. We were on the ropes a bits and well in need of a swift counter punch.

Berbatov should perhaps have done better with his header from a Ghaly cross before Jermain Defoe and Tom Huddlestone made their entrance with 22 minutes remaining. The striker replacing the struggling Lee and the midfielder swapping places with Zokora. Ghaly took over right back duties.

The deficit could have been greater if Doyle hadn't fired straight at Robinson in front of goal, but there should have been a shooting chance at the other end when Sidwell crudely hacked Jenas on the edge of the area. The referee chose to play on.

Lennon sparked into life and provided the supply line to Defoe inside the area, but the England man found only the side netting.

Doyle had no such problems at the other end moments later when he latched onto a flick on from Leroy Lita, got the better of Ledley King and fired across Robinson and into the net to make it 3-1.

It could have been worse in front of a record 24,110 crowd at the Madejski as Reading continued to pour forward, while Defoe did strike an upright at the other end.

It was not an afternoon that will linger long in the memory for the right reasons.