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Posted on 3 May 2008  - 12:00

Robbie Keane boosted his tally to a personal best of 23 with the goal that defeated Reading on Saturday.

Robbie Keane boosted his tally to a personal best of 23 with the goal that defeated Reading on Saturday.

That this fixture remained a contest until the final whistle is one of the mysteries of this game as it should have been over and out at the end of the first half completely dominated by the team in yellow. As it turned out, Reading clung on and remained in contention, meaning an uncomfortable last ten minutes or so.

You could sense the tension inside the Madejski Stadium where you got the feeling that focus was divided between here and events by the Thames to the west of London. Not that the Reading people weren't cranking up the noise in a bid to inspire their team, the stands were a sea of blue and white stripes.

The more composed and constructive football early came from the team in all yellow in what was a surprisingly open contest with plenty of space to ping passes around in midfield. Tom Huddlestone did just that when he picked out the run of Steed Malbranque down the left flank. After a little scurry the Frenchman arrowed over a cross that clipped the head of a launching Darren Bent.

Minutes later the dangerous Bent powered his through, again from the prompting of Malbranque, and picked his spot, only for the outstretched foot of Marcus Hahnemann to deny him an opener. A Huddlestone cut back then allowed Malbranque to try the unusual and drag the ball backwards in front of goal, but the Reading rearguard were alert to the situation.

With 15 minutes on the clock Bent brilliantly stretched his legs again and surge away from home side attentions before spiriting the ball into the path of Keane, who jinked inside before prodding past Hahnemann low to the goalkeeper's left. It was a sweet move superbly executed that resulted in a personal best for skipper.

Hahnemann athletically thwarted Keane from a free-kick just outside the area after Malbranque was chopped down by Andre Bikey before a brilliant passage of play ended with Keane slipping through to Malbranque who calmly curled past Hahnemann. He was clearly onside but the flag was raised.

Reading were all at sea and the destination of the points should have been determined inside the first 30 minutes. Keane should have made it two minutes before the break when the industrious Malbranque unlocked the gate for the striker to pit his wits against Hahnemann, but a late Liam Rosenior challenge was enough to knock his effort off course.

The advantage could have been doubled in the first moments of the second half when Alan Hutton picked out Keane in the area, the striker drilling across goal to where Malbranque was sliding in at the far post. It was the side netting that was shaking and Reading were given another lifeline.

Bent looked like adding his name to the scoresheet when Keane and Jermaine Jenas combined to present him with an opening in front of Hahnemann, only for a last-ditch lunge from Nicky Shorey that spared his goalkeeper.

At the other end, in a rare sortie forward, Leroy Lita finally warmed the hands of Radek Cerny with shooting from an angle his only option with support slow in support. The head of Didier Zokora then got in the way of a decent looking shot from Bikey that could well have made its way into the top corner without his intervention.

Just past the hour mark Jamie O'Hara was introduced in place of Tom Huddlestone and he almost made an immediate impact with a raking left foot cross that just had Bent stretching his neck a little too much. Substitute Marek Matejovsky sidefooted narrowly wide as Reading roused a little going into the final 20 minutes.

Steve Coppell's side began to crank it up as the stakes were increased with news that Fulham had taken the lead against Birmingham at Craven Cottage but Bent caught them on the break and smashed in a low drive that came off the inside of the post and to safety.

Kevin Prince Boateng took the place of Keane with 14 minutes left on the clock, but the next Spurs player in significant action was Cerny who reacted smartly to his right to thwart Dave Kitson inside the final five minutes. He then saved brilliantly to his left to claw away Rosenior's goalbound strike.