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Reading FC 2-1 Norwich City: Clarke's Royals Battle To First Win

Goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Simon Cox gave Reading their first win under new boss Steve Clarke, in a high intensity encounter with Norwich City. A controversial Bradley Johnson goal proved to be but a consolation as The Madejski witnessed it's first home win since early November.

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

The hosts lined up in a typical 4-4-2 formation, with Garath McCleary returning from injury and Jake Taylor dropping to the bench. Norwich, meanwhile, took form in a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond that saw Premier League experience littered throughout the starting XI and bench.

Kicking off in the chilly December sun, it was the Canaries that earned the first shot on goal via a long ball over the top; Gary Hooper stretched to receive it but fired over from a good one-on-one position. Reading replied with a dainty Oliver Norwood free-kick that beat everyone, and the far-post, before the sides settled.

It became quickly apparent that Norwich were a fine footballing side, in terms of slick passing and dangerous movement. The Royals start was, in contrast, slower- but all the while solid in defence. One feature of Reading's game that has certainly stuck around post-Adkins is the tendency to knock the ball along the back four; tactically sound, but less than entertaining.

Reading kicked up a gear after Glenn Murray stung keeper John Ruddy's fingertips with a 25-yard effort that fell to an offside Simon Cox- who failed to convert the futile but nonetheless easy rebound. That was followed by Jordan Obita freeing himself up to attack from the left-flank, the 21-year-old's trickery earning a corner.

Norwood's 24th minute set-piece was initially unthreatening, but the sight of Norwich's Bradley Johnson wrestling Alex Pearce to the ground was enough for referee James Linnington to point to the spot. Hal Robson-Kanu stepped up, and netted his first of the season with a straight-and-narrow conversion down the middle.

Neither side let up after the goal, with Adam Federici required to make a commanding punch before Cameron Jerome sliced a near-post effort wide that proved to be the height of the visiting pressure. Indeed, it was the home team who could make their chances pay.

The tables were fully turned from early exchanges, and it was Reading's turn to operate with slick passing down the right-hand side. Welsh wing-back Chris Gunter released Murray for a skidding cross that Cox converted at the far-post. While the goalie could have done more to keep it out, Reading had established a two-goal lead within the first 35 minutes.

The pre-half-time five minutes experienced the double comedy moment of a Reading attack caused by Norwich firing a free-kick into their own man- which was ended by a poor Robson-Kanu touch, and a blatant dive by Jerome that the referee kindly opted out of making a decision on. The striker was to be quietly removed from his regular offside position to view the remaining 30 from the bench.

City decided to throw on attacking midfielder Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond for the second-half, with an initial pressure patch easing as Reading defended stoically. As the game became scrappy, the hosts began to move the ball quickly when given the chance, and became a potent counter-attacking threat.

Firstly, Welsh winger Robson-Kanu ran excellently to find Murray, who's poor cross for the waiting Cox was to be equally reciprocated moments later. Plenty of crosses came in, in particular a Jordan Obita daisy-cutter that somehow stayed out, and The Royals looked comfortable with an intention to extend their lead.

However, it ended up being halved while the ref Linnington gave a great example of game mismanagement. With Danny Guthrie primed to come on, a Norwich throw was halted. It became quickly apparent that Garath McCleary was injured on the floor, and thus began receiving treatment. With a long pause in play, it was clear that GMac had to be subbed off. And yet, the referee watched the Jamaican leave the field, ignored the ready-as-ever substitutes, and restarted the game.

Needless to say it was a complete coincidence that Johnson fired in a Norwich goal with Reading temporarily down to 10-men, a fearless rasping shot from outside the area that gave the many visiting fans a bit of hope.

Nevertheless, it was The Royals who proceeded to be more threatening, as Murray almost marked his last appearance in a Reading shirt (for now) with a goal, and Jamie Mackie made a very worthwhile contribution from the bench.

With a brief period of backs-to-the-wall defending, for once, successfully maintained Reading were finally granted their Christmas wish and took the three points, which was fully deserved to boot.

Reading: Federici; Gunter, Obita, Hector, Pearce (c), Norwood, Williams, McCleary (Guthrie 71), Robson-Kanu, Cox (Mackie 72), Murray (Blackman 90). 
Subs Not Used: Andersen, Cummings, Kelly, Cooper.
Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Olsson, Martin (c), Bennett, Johnson, Tettey (Redmond HT), O'Neil (Hoolahan HT), Howson, Hooper, Jerome (Grabban 64). 
Subs Not Used: Rudd, Turner, Miquel, Lafferty.