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Birmingham City 0-1 Reading FC: 60 Second Report

Valiant Royals close gap on leaders with hard-earned win at St. Andrew's.

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Reading: Al Habsi; Gunter, Moore, Blackett, Obita; Evans, Kelly, Williams; Swift, McCleary (Meite '71), Beerens (Mendes '82)

Subs: Jaakkola, Mendes, Wieser, Popa, Meite, Watson

Reading have closed the gap on second-placed Newcastle United to just three points after securing victory at struggling Birmingham City, who remain winless under new manager Gianfranco Zola.

The Royals were up against it before the match had even begun, with Jaap Stam able to name only six substitutes for the trip to the Midlands owing to the team's recent injury crisis. Any sense that this sort of setback had effected the Reading squad however was well hidden by the players on the field, who immediately set into the calm passing game for which Stam's squad has been known for this season. Indeed it took just four minutes for the visitors to have their first clear-cut opportunity, with Gareth McCleary forcing former Manchester United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak into a fingertip save to keep the scores at 0-0.

As the St. Andrews' turf became more and more sodden with the torrential rain that began to fall, the Royals continued to pose more of an attacking threat than their hosts. Liam Kelly struck the crossbar after 25 minutes, before John Swift saw an attempt narrowly ruled out for offside, as the score remained goalless heading into the break.

Come the second half the Royals continued to be frustrated by a Birmingham side who were proving increasingly difficult to break down. Stam began to ring the changes with the introduction of Yakou Meite for the booked McCleary after 71 minutes, but still Reading appeared to be no closer to finding an opening.

However with 77 minutes on the clock, the breakthrough finally arrived. Some slick interplay amongst the Reading frontline culminated in Kelly's backheel finding Jordan Obita, whose low-drilled cross found the unmarked Swift, who was on hand to coolly slot the ball home and secure an invaluable three points for the Royals in their promotion pursuit.