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Reading 2-0 Birmingham: Nice and Freesy

Two Danny Guthrie free-kicks made it four wins in five games for Reading as they comfortably beat Birmingham 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium. While Reading never really got out of second gear against a woeful opposition, they showed that they are more than capable of grinding out the results needed to win promotion and a fourth clean sheet in five games was also pleasing.

Reading: McCarthy, Bridge, Morrison, Pearce, Gunter, Guthrie, Baird, Robson-Kanu (Kelly), McCleary (Obita), Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre (Akpan)

Remember our home win over Birmingham during our last title winning season? No? Neither do I, but  that 1-0 win secured three points that would be the difference between promotion and play-offs. You don't have to produce 90 points worth of performances to go up, you just have to get 90 points and here were three more earned towards Reading's promotion target.

Going into today's game Reading were once again dealing with a substantial injury list but they were able to welcome back Wayne Bridge who replaced Stephen Kelly, while Adam Le Fondre returned to the starting lineup in place of youngster Jordan Obita, as Nigel Adkins elected to go for two up front to face Lee Clark's side. There was no place for new Royals signing Billy Sharp, who had to make do with a spot on the bench.

Reading were dominant throughout the early stages and Pavel Pogrebnyak nearly put Reading ahead when Garath McCleary's excellent through ball put the Russian through one-on-one only for Pogrebnyak to hit it straight at Birmingham keeper Darren Randolph.

Chris Baird could also have scored on his home debut with a good header from a corner, while Adam Le Fondre's driving run into the box from the right hand side so nearly produced a chance for Robson-Kanu to score.

Thankfully Reading did go into the break 1-0 up and that came thanks to Danny Guthrie's free-kick about ten yards outside the box to the left-hand side of the area. Guthrie's head-height drive into the box elluded everyone including Randloph to nestle into the far post and while Adam Le Fondre might be claiming a feather of a touch, it'll almost certainly go down as a Guthrie goal.

Birmingham did have the odd opportunity, with Alex McCarthy having to made a couple of saves but in truth they were efforts right at the former England under 21 International and the visitors looked a shadow of the side that less than two years ago were winning a major English trophy.

FIFA 14 came out this week and if you've ever played a football game you'll no doubt have gone through games where you just know you're better than the opposition and just slightly take your foot off the pedal, almost glazed as you start thinking about the next game and this is just what happened to Reading to start the second half.

Slowly but surely Birmingham were pressing deeper into Reading territory but here's the difference between the best and worst sides in the division, because unlike teams such as Reading and QPR who will take advantage of that territory, Birmingham really couldn't muster much in terms of clear cut chances and you do fear for Lee Clark's side going forward.

As mentioned, Reading had taken their foot off the gas in the second period but still had a couple of opportunities, with McCleary's low drive being well saved by Randolph low at his right hand post.

The Royals killed off the game 15 minutes from the end when Guthrie scored his second free-kick of the game, a lovely dipping shot from just outside the area that curled beneath Randolph's far post.

That was about it really, with half the crowd out of the ground by the full-time whistle, so assured was Reading's victory.

Performance wise and it was one of those days where everyone played their part but few quite had that ruthless streak you see when a team is really in top form.  I'll go into my full thoughts on individuals in my player ratings but overall this was a pleasing performance from Reading, who once again demonstrated that they are learning how to just pick up points and keep things tight.

To win so comfortably when we've got players such as Karacan, Drenthe, Williams, McAnuff and Roberts out injured is a credit to the depth in the squad and with another game on Tuesday night against Barnsley we'll need to hope the squad can continue to perform.