Team: Colgan, Booty, Legg, Davies, Primus, McPherson, Bowen, Houghton, Williams, Asaba (Morley), Caskey.
A tenth-minute blunder by Reading's debutant goalkeeper Nicky Colgan, on loan from Chelsea, cost his team the match at Gresty Road and edged Crewe a little closer towards guaranteeing another season of Division One football. Colgan hesitated in clearing a backpass from centreback Keith McPherson and his kick was charged down by Mark Rivers, who forced in his eighth goal of the campaign.
Reading took the match to Crewe for long spells in both halves, but found home goalkeeper Jason Kearton in far more positive and defiant mood. Kearton, who claimed the sponsors' verdict as Man of the Match, kept his team in front with two stunning second half saves from Reading dangerman Darren Caskey who also curled a free-kick inches over the Crewe bar. And Gareth Davis was out of luck early in the match when his header glanced off the Crewe framework.
'We didn't play well, but we defended with great spirit,' said Crewe manager Dario Gradi. Crewe's win was their eighth in their last 12 games and it took them on to 46 points. 'Another two wins should be enough to make sure we stay up, but we can't afford to be complacent,' warned Gradi. 'We have to continue to play flat out. We could have a bad run and there are no poor teams in this division,' he added.
Reading, who are seven points adrift of Crewe, have rather more to do to banish relegation doubts.
Report by Clive Baskerville of The Evening PostCHELSEA loan keeper Nick Colgan apologised to Reading's fans on Saturday after gifting Crewe victory through an elementary error. The 24-year-old, who was making his debut because of injuries to Nicky Hammond (hand), Steve Mautone (ankle) and Sal Bibbo (back), admitted he was at fault for Crewe's winner, which pushes Royals closer to the relegation zone in Nationwide League Division 1. The goal came after only 10 minutes when striker Mark Rivers charged down Colgan's attempted clearance and the ball rebounded straight into an unguarded net. Colgan said: "It was a very embarrassing moment. I just didn't see him coming so I took my time clearing the ball, having two touches instead of one. I'll be more aware next time. Sometimes it can hit the foot and go wide, but this time it flew straight into the net. Although he had his foot up, it was not a free kick. It was totally my mistake and it cost us three points. But, having made the error, there was nothing I could do to rectify it. We dominated the rest of the game but just couldn't score." Although Colgan was harsh with himself for the goal, both fans and manager Terry Bullivant were more tolerant of his lapse. Supporters gave the whole team a big reception for their effort and singled out the unfortunate Colgan, the last man off the field, for a special cheer. The Republic of Ireland B and under-21 international said: "The fans were excellent to me and gave me a lovely ovation at the end. All I can do now is make up for my mistake with a good display at Stockport tomorrow. Bullivant said: "Nick held his hands up and admitted what he did was wrong. But it was always going to take a while for him to adjust to the pace of the game at this level after so many reserve games. He was just caught cold". A biting wind and occasional flurries of sleet and snow ensured most of the spectators were cold as well on a raw February afternoon. Colgan's inclusion wasn't the only change forced on injury-hit Royals. Gareth Davies played in the unfamiliar role of midfield anchorman in the absence of ballwinner Phil Parkinson, while Darren Caskey replaced Lee Hodges. Centre-back Keith McPher-son was recalled to the starting line-up for the first time since December 13. Michael Meaker and Steve Swales were added as substitutes alongside Trevor Morley. Stuart Lovell, who had a steady game in the 3-0 win over Manchester City on Tuesday, was omitted after suffering a knee injury in training. Reading played downwind in the first half and took the game to Crewe. But they found it difficult to penetrate a well-drilled defence, who stayed calm under pressure and preferred to pass their way out of trouble. Martin Williams, who picked up another knock to his troublesome rib injury but carried on for the full 90 minutes, put a right-foot volley wide after seven minutes. But the game was swiftly changed by Crewe's first attack of note. McPherson turned the ball back to Colgan for what should have been a routine clearance. But the Chelsea keeper dwelt too long on the ball and allowed RIVERS to dart in and charge down for the softest of goals. The Crewe striker ran away to celebrate with a barely contained smile on his face, but none of the Reading players could see the funny side as they contemplated a fifth defeat in six outings. Their response was to push forward with even greater determination, spreading play wide with Ray Houghton and Caskey at the heart of most of the passing moves. Reading's best effort to equalise came on 16 minutes when Davies crashed a far-post header against the bar from Caskey's inswinging corner. Rivers gave Reading a reminder that Crewe were still a danger on the counter-attack when he swivelled on a loose ball and shot wide. Caskey and Williams then both missed the target with long-range attempts as Royals continued to press. Jason Bowen, who wasted a lot of good possession with poor crossing, allowed his frustration to get the better of him by getting booked for a late tackle on Rivers. Chris Lightfoot repeated the dose on Bowen soon afterwards and was yellow carded by referee Kevin Lynch for his pains. The lively Rivers, who suffered a recurrence of a groin injury, was replaced at the interval by boss Dario Gradi with Kevin Street But it didn't alter the flow of the game as Royals continued to dominate against a Crewe side content to sit back and absorb the pressure. Keeper Jason Kearton was forced to make his first save of the match on 50 minutes when Caskey bent a free kick around the wall and sent the ex-Everton ace diving to his left after safely catching the ball. But Royals found it hard to sustain their pressure because of a weak final ball, and it was Crewe who went closest when Lightfoot's low drive was turned away for a corner. The infuriatingly inconsistent Carl Asaba was substituted by Trevor Morley with a little less than 20 minutes remaining. Caskey had another 25 yarder stopped by Kearton, who was definitely the busier of the two keepers. The only other save Colgan had to make came on 73 minutes when Colin Little turned and unleashed a low drive after a fine solo run. It came seconds after Colgan made another inexplicable mistake. He was penalised for picking up the ball in his own area from a throw-in from Andy Legg. Colgan said: "I know I shouldn't have done it, but I just had a total mental block". England youth international Seth Johnson then dragged a shot wide, before McPherson placed a header just past the post at the other end after good work by Bowen. Reading's patient fans thought the break-through was coming on 81 minutes when Royals at last engineered an opening through Crewe's massed ranks. Caskey wriggled through into the box before sidefooting goalwards only for Kearton to pull off a fine stop. The ball briefly slipped out of his grasp, but he was able to grab it before being engulfed by hungry forwards. Crewe made two late substitutions in an effort to slow things down but Reading continued to push forward. Williams directed a weak header at Kearton, then Cas-key put another free kick just wide. Reading trudged off knowing most of their rivals near the bottom had picked up points and that they were right back in trouble. But, if they can reproduce the determination they showed in this game, and add more quality to their final ball and finishing, they should be okay. CREWE Kearton, Bignot, Smith, Unsworth, Walton, Lightfoot, Rivers (Street 46 mins), Whalley, Anthrobus (Moralee 89 mins), Johnson, Little (Lunt 82 mins). READING: Colgan, Booty, Legg, Davies, Primus, McPherson, Bowen, Houghton, Williams, Asaba (Morley 71 mins), Caskey. Subs (not used): Swales, Meaker. Referee: Kevin Lynch (Knaresborough). Attendance: 5,202.