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Reading 1-0 Portsmouth - Hunting Down Top Spot

Seven wins from seven and Brian McDermott's promotion party bus continues to get fuelled up and ready to hit the streets. This game was anything but a classic as both sides combined for 2 shots on target in 90 minutes but nobody will remember the quality of these games if we're looking forward to Premier League football next season.

It was also a night that could mark the last meeting between Reading and Portsmouth for quite a while. With Pompy's financial problems showing no signs of ending, relegation is a distinct possibility as is the chance of Portsmouth ceasing to exist between now and the start of next year. Despite those problems Pompy still filled out half of the South Stand and made a good amount of noise on a cold spring night in Berkshire, though they didn't exactly have much to shout about.

Pompy included former Reading record signing (... yes hard to believe it but he was) Greg Halford in their starting lineup who got plenty of stick from the East Stand faithful. Two other former Royals were also in the Portsmouth 16 as Jamie Ashdown and Dave Kitson were named amongst the substitutes and both got good receptions. Reading meanwhile made one change from the win at Millwall with Shaun Cummings replacing the injured Matthew Connolly.

Much like the Millwall game Reading struggled to get into any sort of a rhythm but this time they came against an opponent happy to play short passes and keep the ball rather than a team playing hoofball. Fortunately for Reading, the visitors lacked any sort of cutting edge and Adam Federici could have read the first few chapters of War & Peace quite happily, such was the lack of threat on the Reading goal. Not that his counterpart in the Pompy net,  Stephen Henderson had all that much to do either.

The Royals once again clearly missed the inventive spark of Jimmy Kebe, with their attacks so one dimensional and straight forward Pompy kept them quiet for long periods. Thankfully the arrival of Jason Roberts has given this team a little extra edge up front and the striker's ability to create chances as well as put them away came to the fore after 24 minutes when Roberts got free down the right and crossed to Hunt who scored his third goal in five games.

From that point on you might as well have put on some dark glasses and had a snooze because this was quite possibly one of the most boring games I've seen at the Madejski Stadium in quite some time. There were a couple of good runs down the flanks by McAnuff and Karacan but by and large Reading remained happy to contain Portsmouth and wait for a chance to break.

Into the second half and Pompy brought on Dave Kitson while Adam Le Fondre was introduced for Robson-Kanu. Noel Hunt switched to the left wing and you have to feel a little story for Tomasz Cywka who was once again left to sit on the bench bar a few seconds in injury time. The Polish midfielder looked pretty good in his cameos after his signing but hasn't really had a chance since and while you can't argue with results, it would be nice to see what he's capable off. Le Fondre had Reading's best couple of opportunities in the second period, with a flick and a header both narrowly missing the target, but still Henderson wasn't really tested.

The only other point to make on last night's game was a little point on the refereeing which wasn't exactly top class. Hal Robson-Kanu was getting clattered all night yet no Pompy player was booked, something that probably helped add to the attritional nature of the game.

So what can we take away from this game? Well Reading once again showed that they can close out a game very well, while the defence looked as rock solid throughout. Six clean sheets in 7 games and 10 in 14 is something that means Reading are now just six clean sheets away from equalling the record set n the 2005/06 season. Attacking wise it was once again a game where the four attacking players, bar Roberts, might well wonder if they could have got more involved. Noel Hunt and Robson-Kanu were particularly anonymous and although Hunt got the goal I can't remember the last time he actually took a shot on goal.  In general the team also started to look a little bit leggy, unsurprising given some of the battles they've been in recently. No matter what little nit picking I've written above I cannot take anything away from any of the 13 Reading players who played last night because they did exactly what they needed to do, won the game.

A defeat for Blackpool and a draw for Southampton made sure that the win meant that bit more and Reading are now primed for their best shot at automatic promotion in three years. Next up is the visit of Leicester City, who's on play-off push is stuttering after a defeat to Bristol City last night. Last year's meeting at the Madejski was one of the best games of the season as Jimmy Kebe inspired the Royals to a 3-1 win. Let's hope Jimmy's back fit and he can complete his encore this weekend.

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