Byfield returns Walsall to top

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Reading's week-long spell at the top of Division Two was ended by their closest rivals, but it proved a close-run thing. Ten minutes from time, substitute Jamie Cureton broke free down the right and fired in a low right-foot shot which substitute keeper James Walker managed to push against a post. Four minutes later, Walsall wrapped up the points and reclaimed the leadership when Darren Byfield headed home from six yards before substitute Jimmy McIntyre scored an injury-time consolation goal for the visitors.

Reading's week-long spell at the top of Division Two was ended by their closest rivals, but it proved a close-run thing. Ten minutes from time, substitute Jamie Cureton broke free down the right and fired in a low right-foot shot which substitute keeper James Walker managed to push against a post. Four minutes later, Walsall wrapped up the points and reclaimed the leadership when Darren Byfield headed home from six yards before substitute Jimmy McIntyre scored an injury-time consolation goal for the visitors.

Walsall were unchanged despite their 2-1 defeat at Brentford, while Tony Rougier's two late goals in Reading's 4-3 win over Oxford earned him promotion from the bench at the expense of £250,000 summer signing Cureton.

The Second Division's top scorer, Martin Butler, returning to his old stamping ground, wasted a good opportunity to impress his former fans in the sixth minute. Ricky Newman's cross from the right was headed out to him 12 yards from goal but Butler blazed the ball over.

Seven minutes later, Butler appeared to have set up Keith Jones but he was adjudged to have fouled either keeper Carl Emberson or Tony Barras as Darren Caskey's long ball landed on the edge of the box. Butler headed across for Jones to score and the outraged Reading manager, Alan Pardew, had to be restrained by the fourth official.

With Caskey, Jones and Phil Parkinson running the midfield, Walsall were forced to attack on the break. Paul Hall always looked lively down the right, and Pedro Matias flashed a header wide from Gabor Bukran's right-wing corner in the 25th minute. As the half wore on, Reading turned the screw with Andy Gurney just firing over, but Walsall responded with a promising spell of pressure just before the break without really threatening the Reading goal.

After the interval, an unconvincing Emberson was replaced by James Walker, who could only watch helplessly as Baskey's beautifully-flighted free-kick hit the side-netting in the 56th minute. Two minutes later, Walsall were ahead. When Ian Brightwell's right-wing cross sailed into the area, Jorge Leitao won the crucial header and as the ball dropped, Matias lashed it home on the half-volley with his weaker right foot from 16 yards.

Reading brought on Cureton immediately but, although he made an impact, along with McIntyre's stoppage-time strike, it proved to be to no ultimate avail.

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