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Robert Huth’s first goal of the season and a superb Cameron Jerome effort ensured Stoke City returned to winning ways as Reading’s recent good run came to an end in a 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke, who had not registered a Barclays Premier League victory since Boxing Day, were in control for most of the match and finally broke down their opponents’ stubborn resistance in the 67th minute when Huth nodded home a Glenn Whelan corner.
Substitute Jerome then cracked the ball in with nine minutes of normal time remaining, having taken the ball down neatly and turned his marker. Adrian Mariappa pulled one back with a header two minutes later but Reading, who have scored a host of important late goals in recent weeks in an unbeaten sequence of four league games, could not complete a last-gasp fightback on this occasion.
Brian McDermott’s team remain 17th in the table, two points clear of the relegation zone, while Stoke stay 10th.
With Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson watching from the stands, in preparation for his team’ s FA Cup match with Reading, it was the home team who made the better start.
Matthew Etherington sent an early corner bouncing across the six-yard box, with Peter Crouch rushing in to meet it and just unable to apply a finish. Crouch then connected with an Etherington cross from the left but could only head wide under pressure from Mariappa.
Reading had a sniff at the other end, with Mikele Leigertwood dragging an effort wide, but Stoke were soon back on the attack and Michael Kightly saw his shot blocked by Mariappa just before the half-hour mark after he had drifted past Ian Harte into the area.
Adam Federici tipped over when Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross tried to guide the ball in left-footed from a failed clearance and Crouch looked to produce something similar to his spectacular goal last season against Manchester City, only to slice his attempted volley off-target.
Moments later the striker fashioned a much better acrobatic effort, chesting down Kightly’ s cross, letting the ball bounce and firing it goalwards with a scissors kick, bringing a good save out of Federici.
Stoke kept up the pressure as half-time drew near, with several Reading men throwing themselves in the way of a Huth strike to deflect it behind.
It took 11 minutes of the same one-way traffic in the second half for Reading manager Brian McDermott to take off Nick Blackman, the January signing who had been handed a full debut, and bring on in-form striker Adam Le Fondre. The tide was stemmed temporarily and Hope Akpan sent in a long-range effort for the visitors which Begovic gathered comfortably.
But Stoke manager Tony Pulis made changes of his own, introducing Kenwyne Jones and Jerome for Crouch and Kightly, and within two minutes the hosts had the lead. Jon Walters won a corner with a deflected shot on the turn and it was delivered by Whelan to Huth, who crashed a header past Federici.
Stoke looked to finish the job off but Etherington put his shot over the bar and Le Fondre, scorer of five goals in Reading’s recent unbeaten run, began to cause problems. He had the ball in the net in the 74th minute but referee Michael Oliver judged Pavel Pogrebnyak had handled before teeing Le Fondre up and the strike was disallowed.
Stoke pressed once more and Mariappa made an important clearance when Jones tried to nod the ball into Jerome’ s path. Jerome then capitalised on a Mariappa error, collecting the ball when the Reading defender misplaced a header from Shawcross’ long delivery, getting the better of Alex Pearce and smashing a strike into the net.
Reading hit back swiftly with Mariappa heading in Harte’s corner but they could not salvage anything this time.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis: “We deserved to win the game. They had a penalty shout at the end of the game but if we hadn’t have got the three points I’d have been really disappointed because I thought we deserved it. We got stronger and stronger. We had really good chances. It was a good goal from Robert [Huth] from the corner and Cameron [Jerome] and Kenwyne [Jones] came on and livened it up for us. The disappointing thing was to concede from a set-play because I don’t think Asmir [Begvic] has had a shot to save and then he ends up picking the ball out of the net from a set-play.
“The best thing about today is we’ve got the three points; we’re 10th in the Premier League with 12 games to go, and we’re absolutely delighted. Unless we’re 100 per cent on it, time after time after time, week-in, week-out, we’re not good enough to relax and take our foot off the pedal – it’ such a tough league. We’ve got to get to 40 points, the sooner we get to 40 points we’ll then look to push on, but it’s a massive season this year for every football club in the Premier League and every manager who manages outside the top five or six clubs.
"There’s such a big incentive with respect to the finances and the Coates family have been absolutely wonderful to me and to this football club in the six or seven years I’ve been back here. There’s been a bit of pressure really because I’m desperate to get it for them deserve it more than anybody else.
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "It was a tough game, you know coming here it always will be, they've only lost once here this season to Chelsea. We stayed in the game, created chances late on. They had a lot of long balls into our box which you expect, we did OK apart from the set play, then a great bit of skill from them for 2-0.
"We got back into it and at 2-1 I thought we'd get something from the game. I was proud of the character and resilience once again. At half time we changed to 4-4-2, we had a lot of long balls coming down our throat so we tried to get a foothold. I'm happy with everything but the result, we will keep going, we move on and look forward to our next cup game."
|16 Mar 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|12 May 2013||v Spurs (H)|
|14 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|
|27 Apr 2013||v Norwich (H)|
|23 Feb 2013||v Fulham (A)|
|20 Apr 2013||v QPR (A)|