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Adam Le Fondre came off the bench to score twice as Reading staged another famous fightback to win 2-1 over Newcastle United at St James’ Park. The substitute struck twice inside six second-half minutes as Newcastle lost despite having dominated the opening 45 minutes.
Alan Pardew’s men would have been out of sight by half-time had it not been for the heroics of goalkeeper Adam Federici but led only 1-0 courtesy of Yohan Cabaye’s 35th-minute free-kick. Reading, who came from 2-0 down to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 last week, left Tyneside having boosted their own survival hopes while significantly denting those of their hosts.
This was a key game for Newcastle after a run of just two wins in 13 Barclays Premier League games during which they had slid towards the scramble for top-flight survival.
The presence of Mathieu Debuchy, making his home debut, and compatriot Cabaye, making his first start since November 11 after a groin injury, were causes for optimism. Cabaye’s return re-invigorated Newcastle and it was from his fourth-minute free-kick that they might have taken the lead when the ball fell to the feet of Mike Williamson 12 yards out but the central defender slipped as he tried to steer the ball home.
Sylvain Marveaux saw a 12th-minute shot blocked and Federici had to get down well to keep out Davide Santon’s long-range effort two minutes later as the home side piled on the pressure. The Australian goalkeeper excelled himself seconds later to keep out Cabaye’s effort from a tight angle and reacted superbly to palm away Papiss Cisse’s header.
However, Reading could have been ahead with 27 minutes gone when they launched a rare foray into Newcastle territory and Garath McCleary crossed low for Pavel Pogrebnyak, only for the Russian to slide his shot wide of the far post.
But it was largely one-way traffic and the luckless Cisse might have scored twice within as many minutes but for Federici. The goalkeeper was in the right place at the right time to claim the Senegal forward’s 28th-minute volley. Federici came to the rescue again on the half-hour when Cisse ran on to Debuchy’s cross and powered it towards goal, only for the goalkeeper to save again.
The deadlock was broken 10 minutes before half-time after Marveaux had been tripped 20 yards out by Jobi McAnuff. Cabaye stepped up to curl the free-kick over the wall and into the top corner with Federici rooted to the spot.
After the break, Jonas Gutierrez almost handed Reading an equaliser but was relieved to see the ball fly just wide of the far post after he had attempted to cut out Ian Harte’s 47th-minute free-kick.
The home side struggled to rediscover the fluency of their first-half performance and that encouraged Reading, who were taking a much more positive approach. Pogrebnyak might have levelled after 62 minutes after Jimmy Kebe had headed down Danny Guthrie’s cross but he blasted over.
Pardew moved to close the game down when he replaced Marveaux with the more defensively-minded James Perch three minutes later but Reading forced their way back into the game with 19 minutes remaining. Kebe was allowed time down the right and when Mike Williamson failed to cut out his cross, Le Fondre bundled the ball over the line.
Worse to come for the home side six minutes later when they failed to deal with a ball into the box and Le Fondre pounced to thump it past Tim Krul.
Cisse fired over and substitute Gabriel Obertan forced Federici to make a late save in a desperate flurry but there was no way back for Newcastle.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "It was a painful day. First half we could not have played better, you could see the extra quality. At that point you'd like to think we'd get away from them, but second half we could not get a grip of the game and, as well as we defended, we gave away two sloppy goals.
"When you're down the bottom things go against you and we lost our way a bit. It was a tough day for us today, we felt we were in a really good place to win today and we couldn't and that is a worry.
"We had to take Yohan Cabaye off because of an injury, that brought negative reaction from the crowd and that spread around. We need some impetus in terms of singings. It needs a little boost, to get everyone to get their heads up.
"We have lost Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote. We have got Cabaye back, but he is just on the first stage of his comeback. We needed him towards the end of the game. He said he was struggling with his groin. I did not want to take him off, but when a top player tells you he's injured you listen to him."
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "It was a tough game, they got the goal - but I just felt we were in the game, came out second-half, made a couple of changes and the boy who came on did really well.
"It was an important win, we got a couple of wins, to win last week and today that gives us momentum and I have absolute belief in these players as I always have. Adam Le Fondre wants to play, everyone does - it is all about the group and he understands that, and he knows he is doing what he needs to and I am so proud of the lads.
"I hate going over to applaud the fans when we lose because we know we haven't given them what they want. But no matter the result today, they deserved all our respect. We wanted to acknowledge the effort every one of them made to be here today."
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