Football: Gillingham 2 Reading 1 - Asaba finds goal touch

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The Independent Online
CARL ASABA scored against his previous club last night but, more significantly, his goal gave Gillingham breathing space in their pursuit of a Second Division play-off berth. The Kent side move into fifth place, seven points clear of the in-form Wigan, who have made a late challenge for a play-off place.

Gillingham's recent run, yielding four points from a possible 15, has left them the most vulnerable of the Second Division's top six, so they were relieved to come up against a Reading side whose confidence in reaching the play-offs appears to be on the wane.

They certainly took the game to Reading. Within four minutes they were ahead. Andy Hessenthaler, the captain, swung over a corner from the left and when Barry Ashby flicked on Mark Saunders was first in to head over the line.

Asaba, Gillingham's 18-goal striker, was clearly up for this game. Jettisoned last summer by Reading, Asaba had been without a goal for seven games. When Chris Casper clattered into him, Asaba turned on him, but it was the Reading defender who was cautioned.

Gillingham went close again when Guy Butters' powerful 25-yard shot was held by the goalkeeper, Scott Howie. Mark Patterson, collecting the return off an intended one-two from the Reading captain, Phil Parkinson, then ran through, only to pull his shot across the goal.

Just before the hour mark Reading came closest to equalising when the left-back, Stuart Gray, unleashed a shot from 25 yards just over the crossbar. But just as the visitors appeared to be playing their way back, Asaba scored the goal he so dearly wanted in the 63rd minute. The centre-forward played the ball out to Hessenthaler on the right wing and raced to the far post to head in his captain's excellent centre.

Reading finally gave themselves more options by introducing Keith Scott. Within seconds his cunning glancing header from a right-wing cross drifted inches past a post.

Indeed, it was the former Wycombe Wanderers striker who brought an edge to the final stages when he headed in from Linvoy Primus's long ball 13 minutes from time.

Gillingham (5-3-2): Bartram; Patterson, Ashby, Pennock, Butters, Southall; Hessenthaler, Smith, Saunders (Browning, 70); Asaba (Hodge, 72), Taylor. Substitute not used: Lisbie.

Reading (4-3-2-1): Howie; Maybury, Primus, Casper, Gray; Caskey, Parkinson, Glasgow (Brebner, 72); McLaren, McKeever (Scott, 66); McIntyre. Substitute not used: Bernal.

Referee: W Jordan (Herts).