Match Report: 2011/2012 Season

26 December 2011: CHAMPIONSHIP
Reading: McAnuff (17 mins, 45 mins), Adam El-Abd (og 90 mins).
Brighton: -.
Half Time: 2-0.

Attendance: 22,141

Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Hull 23 39 +3
6 READING 23 36 +8
7 Blackpool 23 35 +8
Reading: A Federici, A Griffin, K Gorkss (I Harte, 89), A Pearce, S Cummings, J McAnuff, M Leigertwood, J Kebe, J Karacan, A Le Fondre (N Hunt, 75), S Church (M Antonio, 88).
Subs not used: M Andersen, J Tabb.
Brighton: C Ankergren, M Taricco, A El-Abd, L Dunk, G Greer, R Harley, K Lua Lua (B Paynter, 62), L Bridcutt, W Buckley (C Noone, 62), M Sparrow, C Mackail-Smith.
Subs not used: A Navarro, P Brezovan, G Hall.
Reading: Griffin, Karacan.
West Ham United: El-Abd, Bridcutt, Sparrow.
Ref: Simon Hooper.
The opening twenty minutes of this game illustrated how far the Royals have progressed this season. Brighton, not a bad side, were overwhelmed by the passing and movement of a Reading team completely on top of their game. McAnuff and Kebe were taking players on in wide positions and whipping in accurate crosses. For the first time this season there was an inevitability about the opening goal which deservedly came after sixteen minutes. A string of passes on the right put Kebe in possession near the corner flag. Having left a couple of confused defenders in his wake he cut the ball back for McAnuff who had intelligently dropped off the defence and he side-footed Reading into the lead. Psychologically Reading had asserted themselves over their opponents.

Brighton however to their credit managed to recover and prevent Reading from inflicting further damage until the last minute of the half when McAnuff cut inside and swept the ball inside the far post to give Reading a two goal lead. It was no more than they deserved and were enthusiastically applauded off the field at half time. It had not been all one-way traffic and some sloppy defensive work provided El-Abd with a chance but Federici saved. Sparrow made room for a shot which curled narrowly past the post with Federici beaten. Reading had some promising situations on the break but were unable to take advantage and Le Fondre headed a Kebe cross at the 'keeper. Brighton passed the ball well but created few openings. Their cause was not helped by a tendency to whinge about decisions and fair tackles. Making a meal of minor knocks probably irritated the referee as much as it did the home fans.

Brighton needed an early goal in the second half to stand any chance of getting something out the game but they were unable to penetrate a very solid looking Reading defence which has now kept three clean sheets in a row against teams in the top half of the table. They did have good spell of possession and McAnuff, having his best game of the season, defended well to block an early strike on goal. Reading were certainly not going to sit back and the game became very open and entertaining. Paynter met a cross to the near post but put it miles high and wide and Michail-Smith headed just wide. Le Fondre came close with a powerful strike from outside the box. There were loud appeals for a penalty when Michail-Smith went sprawling under a challenge from Griffin as he shaped to head a cross. I'm not sure what happened but Griffin is certainly committed to denying scoring opportunities as he later demonstrated more obviously with a scything tackle to halt a Brighton break and was deservedly booked. As time ran out, belief drained from the Albion players and the trickle of away fans became a flood as El-Abd diverted a cross into his own net for Reading's third.

Reading moved into the play-offs as result of this convincing win. Now that the goals are coming the Royals are looking strong candidates for play off place. Leigertwood's continued good form is a key factor. The back four is working well as unit but I am sure they would agree that the energy and committment of Karacan makes their job much easier. It is amazing how much ground he covers, but he is now also beginning to pass the ball more effectively. Only a fool would take a win against Ipswich for granted but I am certain any team expecting to take points off Reading at the moment are going to at the top of their game.
John Wells

Very good game. Reading brilliant first half but Brighton came back well second half and should have scored as they had some great chances. Reading defended pretty well throughout really. All our players did well. I have been very critical of Kebe earlier in the season but he did well today. McAnuff superb - a real Captain's performance. Legs definitely back to his best and Karacan must have run 10 miles - outstanding fitness and desire. Church and ALF fed on scraps all day but created space for the likes of McAnuff to score. Everyone 8 out 10 today really with McAnuff MOTM with a 9. I don't think many (me included) thought we had a chance of promotion - let alone automatic promotion - but even that looks like a real possibility now to me.

The game was well and truly won in the first half - after that we just sat back and soaked up the pressure as Brighton attacked, and we weren't really inspired when breaking forward. But in the first half we were way better and playing with the sort of arrogant swagger of a team full of confidence - tying things that we'd never have tried just a few weeks ago. Confidence does that - perhsp the players know that now we're doing well there won't be a collective intake of breath from the stands if anyone makes a mistake. Some of the tricks McAnuff & Kebe played in the first half to rate openings were great - none of that after teh break, but it wasn't really needed by then. But Brighton seemed massively short of confidence, especially at the back. At the back we looked a really solid unit again - Pearce and Gorkks outstanding again - although Griffin was caught out for pace a couple of times. And I'd not have been able to complain if there had been a penalty given when he jumped into CM-S as the latter was about to head the ball. In central midfield Leigertwood & Karacan played with the sort of energy and commitment of Sidwell & Harper.
Svlad Cjelli

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Reading moved into the Championship play-off places as a Jobi McAnuff brace helped them to victory over Brighton. The home side began well and took the lead when McAnuff swept home Jimmy Kebe's cross from close range. McAnuff doubled their advantage with a low shot after he had cut inside Adam El-Abd, whose late own goal sealed Reading's win. It was a third straight victory for Brian McDermott's team, while Brighton have now lost three on the bounce. After starting the season superbly, Gus Poyet's men have slipped to 11th place, although only four points off the play-offs. Reading are sixth in the table with 36 points, three points behind Cardiff and Hull in fourth and fifth respectively. Reading threatened from the first whistle at the Madejski Stadium, with Brighton keeper Casper Ankergren keeping out Jem Karacan's deflected shot and Lewis Dunk clearing a close-range effort from Kebe. With the exception of an attempted lob from Mauricio Taricco, which landed on the top of the goal, Brighton threatened little and had a mountain to climb at the break following McAnuff's first-half double. The visitors were better in the second half and thought they had a way back into the game when Craig Mackail-Smith was bundled over by Andy Griffin in the box, but referee Simon Hooper waved away their penalty appeals. Mackail-Smith had two wonderful chances to reduce the deficit, but he took an air-shot in front of goal and then prodded Craig Noone's inviting cross the wrong side of the post. Reading finally ended the game as a contest when El-Abd steered Kebe's cross past his own goalkeeper.

Reading manager Brian McDermott:
"April next year is a long way away. It's too far way to even think about. "What this win does is set us up for the next game against Ipswich, but no more than that. "It took us a long time to get going last season and this year we had to rebuild after losing Shane Long and Matt Mills in the summer."

BBC Sport