Sunday, February 26, 2006

5 LITA FUEL INJECTION Reading 2-1 Preston

During the summer Reading traded in their much-loved but fairly clapped out old Nicky Forster to bring in a new model, the Leroy Lita turbo. The old banger had lost a bit in traction control and so the new chav-mobile was snapped up and despite spending a chunk of the season locked away in the garage, it showed its true worth yesterday afternoon following a re-spray for recent paint-work damage.

Reading laboured yesterday against the Preston North End's own juggernaut who were unbeaten in 22 in the league, a record only eclipsed by our own long run without defeat which had ended the previous weekend at Luton. We could have perhaps done with an easier game in which to get back in the swing of things at the steering wheel of the Championship, but we had just about enough in the glovebox to take the chequered flag. That said, the wheels almost came off within seconds of kick off. Straight from kick-off the ball was delivered up to Nugent, Preston's England Under 21 striker, who attempted to round Hahnemann but was the giant Yank put the brake on things.

Not exactly an ideal start for those with bad nerves, but the mood was soon lifted around the windswept MadStad. After 5 minutes, Convey took a corner with precision and Preston were unable to clear before Ivar Ingimarsson skidded an angled effort towards goal. The ball appeared in the opinion of Floyd on Football to have been gathered by Carlo Nash, but SIDWELL went crashing in to poke the ball home from close range. The goal was given by referee Stroud and the decision infuriated the visiting players who set the tone for the afternoon by complaining bitterly to anyone who would listen. They didn't have long to wait before having their chance to make a dent in the RFC promotion chassis though. Sonko gave away a needless freekick on the edge of the box a matter of minutes after we took the lead and that dislikeable scot Callum DAVIDSON hit a low snorkeling effort under Hahnemann for 1-1.

Reading were struggling to keep the ball efficiently and were looking laboured and indecisive at the back. This looked like the Reading of 12 months ago and to be frank last season's team would have most likely folded under the pressure. We did go close through Ingimarsson and Oster's near post drive following intelligent work by Kitson was saved rather flukily by the greay haired Preston 'keeper Nash. And if the floppy haired ponce was fortunate with that stop, he was even luckier to escape sanction after charging from his goal ten minutes before half time to pole-axe the onrushing Kitson. Referee Stroud, receiving words in his shell-like from the stroppy North End players throughout, gave nothing. No freekick. No yellow card. And the only person punished for Nash's recklessness was Kitson, who had to be withdrawn with concussion to make way for Lita. Floyd on Football is of the opinion that had a defender challenged Kitson in the same way there would have been more serious reprecussions for Preston, but as usual in football the goalkeeper is given endangered species treatment and is protected like a Friends of the Earth sponsored Blue Whale. Nash actually has previous against Reading - a little under ten years ago he escaped a card when pulling down Mick Gooding in the penalty area when playing for Palace.

The most fitting, just punishment was delivered by Kitson's replacement. With regulation time in the first half having elasped, LITA sped onto Doyle's intelligent approach work and shot accurately across pantomime dame Nash to give Reading a half time lead with a goal not disimilar to his second against the same opposition at Deepdale back in August. The goal gave Reading the lead at a very crucial time but we never made serious inroads towards making the game safe second half in what became an increasingly scrappy and desperate match. Murty had to make a critical goal-line clearance as Davidson plunged to plant a free header firmly past Hahnemann, not the first time on the afternoon that the Royals captain had to clear his lines to bail out his team mates. Doyle appeared to be felled in the box but Stroud had long since decided that the continual Preston complaints made it easier to ensure that Reading would not get another key decision their way, but that was a rare Reading raid as Billy Davies introduced his big guns Dichio and Agyemang in order to try and force the issue. Reading allowed Tyron Mears far too much time and space on more than one ocassion in the closing stages in which to deliver some wicked crosses. From one such ball Sonko shepherded back to Hahnemann under severe pressure from Agyemang and with a matter of minutes left Dichio nodded woefully wide to waste Mears good work.

Three minutes injury time were seen out with great relief following another goalmouth scramble where the Reading defence almost seemed to sit on the ball in their desperation not to concede. Not pretty, more BMW than Rolls Royce, but a crucial three points which extends the lead at the top to 12 points once more with Sheffield United suffering a surprise home defeat. We're now revving up for promotion.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Oster (Hunt, 85), Sidwell (Gunnarsson, 62), Harper, Convey, Doyle, Kitson (Lita, 39). Subs not used: Stack, Makin.

Floyd's Favourite: Murty. Captain Marvel made a crucial goal-line clearance.


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