Reading: Federici, Mills, Gorkks, Pearce, Cummings, Robson-Kanu, Tabb (Karacan), Leigertwood, McAnuff (Hunt), Le Fondre, Church
Yeah, I realise these headers don't get any better but hey, cut me some slack, we won.
Around 12 months ago Jay Tabb inspired us to a 4-0 win at Burnley that laid the foundations for a slow climb up the table and today it was an incident involving the midfielder that could end up sparking our season.
Join me after the jump as we pick through a welcome away win that extends our unbeaten run to five, and move within three points of a play-off place.
Steve Coppell used to bemoan the fact that Reading seemed to always be away after an international break but based on this season's form we should ask to be away all the time, as Reading followed up a win at Leicester back in August with a win yesterday. We have had one home game after an international break this season, against Watford which was one of our worst performances in recent memory but since then we've gone unbeaten to put some distance between us and the bottom and close the gap on the early play-off contenders.
Leading up to yesterday's game the main talking point was whether winger Jimmy Kebe would be fit to make the trip but the Malian winger wasn't even fit enough to make the subs bench as Brian McDermott named an unchanged team from the one that had drawn 0-0 with Middlesbrough two weeks before.
The first half was a pretty even affair, with former Reading Academy youngster Charlie Austin going closest for the home team, while Reading had a goal ruled out for offside. In many ways the game mirrored our last before the break against Middlesbrough, with both teams probing but neither really having a cutting edge.
Reading then lost skipper Jobi McAnuff, who was subbed at the break for Noel Hunt after picking up a knock before losing Jay Tabb in an incident that would lead to nine minutes of injury time and set the scene for a dramatic win. With just under 20 minutes left of the game Tabb was smashed in the face by a clearance by Burnley keeper Lee Grant and was knocked unconscious, being stretchered from the pitch in a neck brace and taken straight to hospital. Thankfully scans revealed no lasting damage and Tabby was fit to travel back with the rest of the squad on the team coach, hopefully he'll be all right for Tuesday's game against Derby. Jem Karacan replaced Tabb, making his first appearance since being subbed off against Watford and the Turkish Under 21 international showed how he's ready to step back in with a composed performance capped off by his winning goal.
Before that Le Fondre had a good claim for a penalty turned down after going down in the area under a challenge from former Royal Andre Bikey (now Andre Amougou) Even though no penalty was given Bikey was incensed with the Royals forward and still managed to earn himself a booking, but the game seemed to be destined for a draw. But nine minutes into stoppage time Reading earned themselves all three points after a move created and executed by the three substitutes. Noel Hunt chipped the ball out wide to Manset who held up the ball before putting Hunt through inside the area where the Irishman hit the ball first time across the six yard box into the path of Karacan who scored his first goal of the season to give Reading the win.
While Burnley will probably feel they were robbed of a point, it was nice to see one of these tight away games go in our favour, after being on the losing side of tight games at Hull and Portsmouth back in August. Once again it's a delight to see the team keep fighting for the win until the final whistle and the team have already earned 5 points thanks to goals in the last five minutes of games. With the unbeaten run now at five we're beginning to look up the table again, with the team now closer to an automatic promotion place then the relegation zone. However we've only played 3 teams in the top 12 and this week's home games against 4th placed Derby and leaders Southampton will give us a much better idea of where we might finish come April.
Finally, if you're a superstitious sort of person you'll be pleased to know that a win at Turf Moor bodes well for a play-off spot or better come the end of the season. The Royals won 1-0 in Lancashire on their way to the Division 2 title in 1993/94, then won 2-1 in the 1994/95 season, with the next win coming in the 2002/03 season when Alan Pardew's side finished 4th. Reading won 3-0 at Turf Moor on their way to the title in 2005/06 while winning 4-0 at the ground last year on their way to Wembley..... time to order your cheesy promotion t-shirts now folks!