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Reading’s hopes of beating relegation were reduced further as Nigel Adkins' first home match at the helm ended in defeat to his former club Southampton.
An inspired performance from Jay Rodriguez proved the difference at the Madejski Stadium as Southampton ran out 2-0 winners, condemning the bottom-placed Reading to a seventh successive defeat. The result leaves the Berkshire side seven points adrift of safety with just six matches remaining.
After weathering Reading’s early pressure, it was the new Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino who enjoyed the spoils as Saints won a third successive Barclays Premier League match for the first time since 2003.
Rodriguez proved the difference for Saints, bundling home the opener before rattling the crossbar as half-time approached. The 23-year-old turned provider in the second half as he sent a through-ball to substitute Adam Lallana, who slotted home.
The Reading manager, who received applause from fans in both blue and red, made five changes from the side who lost 4-1 at Arsenal. It was a touching reception for the former Saints boss, who, after shaking hands with his successor, saw his side enjoy the brighter start.
One-time Southampton loanee Danny Guthrie produced the first chance of the afternoon, with his deep free-kick headed over by Sean Morrison. It was one of few chances of note in a tentative opening 20 minutes.
The visitors were fortunate not to fall behind. As Reading upped the ante Adam Le Fondre wasted a decent close-range effort, blazing over after Saints' attempts to clear a free-kick led to the ball landing kindly for him.
Adkins' side returned to the attack immediately and claimed a penalty, but referee Mike Jones waved away the appeals that followed Jos Hooiveld's challenge on Hal Robson-Kanu. The hosts were further frustrated soon after, with Artur Boruc reacting superbly to deny a goalbound Adrian Mariappa header down low to his right.
That chance appeared to act as a wake-up call for Southampton, who attacked with renewed vigour, with Gaston Ramirez running at the Reading goal before scuffing wide from distance. The Uruguayan came closer moments later with a header as Saints pushed for an opener that came in the 34th minute.
The goal came from an impressive team move ending with Rodriguez playing a one-two with Rickie Lambert before bundling home through Adam Federici's legs. The Australia goalkeeper, returning after a knee injury, was beaten by Southampton's striker again, only for his fierce strike to rattle the crossbar.
Rodriguez’s confidence was epitomised two minutes from half-time, showing pace to burst past the Reading backline. Federici did well to save the striker's right-footed shot when clear on goal, with Ramirez putting the follow-up just wide.
Reading manager Nigel Adkins: "We'll pick up the positives we can take from it and we'll work very hard on all the aspects of our game to be ready for the next match. We have to be positive. I'll pick the players up, the players will pick themselves up and we'll work very hard.
"This is the reality of it and you have to embrace that challenge. It is a situation we don't want to be in but we are in, so we can either start hiding away from things or face up to the reality of where we are and look forward to what we have got to go and do.
"Alfie [Le Fondre] is the leading scorer, he is a great finisher and we have got him on the field of play to score goals when the opportunity comes. Unfortunately it didn't happen today but I am sure it will happen in the future."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "I felt today we played a very good game, but there are still a lot of points to be won. Our goal is just the next game against West Ham.
"I am proud of what the players are doing. I think the club has brought me in to do a job and I am doing it well, so I am just pleased overall."
|13 Apr 2013||v Liverpool (H)|
|20 Apr 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|28 Apr 2013||v QPR (H)|
|04 May 2013||v Fulham (A)|
|14 May 2013||v Man City (H)|
|19 May 2013||v West Ham (A)|