Football: Reading stray as Hay shines

Reading 0 Swindon 1
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The Reading programme gave fulsome details of the work in progress on their new stadium but the chances of it welcoming more illustrious opposition in the foreseeable future are remote. Judged on this performance, there are a lot of socks to be pulled up if they are even to be sure of maintaining their current status.

Swindon's first win at Elm Park in almost a decade was easier than the score suggests. In the visitors' goal, Fraser Digby had only two minutes of danger as Reading huffed and puffed to save the game. Only James Lambert showed any sign of the wit or vision that might have done the trick and Digby's 81st minute dive to touch his volley for a corner was the closest they came.

Elm Park's record signing, Carl Asaba, had his only real glimpse of goal in the first half but Digby shot off his line to save feet first. That was it for Asaba as he spent the afternoon securely handcuffed by the battle-scarred Alan McDonald. The Northern Ireland international and the other new boys were vital factors in Swindon's victory.

Chris Hay got the only goal in the 17th minute when he poked home Scott Leitch's cross from the left and he should have had another 10 minutes later but Steve Mautone got down to block the too-deliberate shot.

Philippe Cuervo, a free transfer from St Etienne, added more than a dash of spice with his willingness to run at defenders as well as displaying a skilful left foot which unleashed a shot that Mautone again did well to clutch under his crossbar.

A one-goal lead is no basis for complacency, but Swindon oozed confidence as they repulsed Reading's haphazard attempts to get back into the real action. However, when Lambert forced that fine save from Digby nine minutes from time, manager Steve McMahon decided to make sure of the points by sending on defender Darren Bullock in place of Cuervo. Goal scorer Hay had already succumbed to an early groin strain and did not start the second half. His substitute, Steve Finney, only lasted 10 minutes before he, too, was injured and gave way to Mark Walters.

Reading's new manager, Terry Bullivant, wants to impose a passing game on his new charges. Reading may lack the foreign element their opponents used to good effect, but there is a danger that Bullivant may be speaking a foreign language as far as some of his players are concerned.