Crewe Alexandra 3 Reading 4: Coppell gives bold Crewe seal of approval

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The Independent Football

Crewe Alexandra were put up for sale this week and a controlling stake is yours for just £8m.

For the future of this tradition-rich club, it has to be hoped that potential owners were watching a surprisingly entertaining contest with the Championship leaders, Reading.

The division's bottom club were, though, left pointless yet again by Steve Coppell's irrepressible side, but if this energetic performance enhances the interest of investors, it will not have been entirely futile.

Dario Gradi's side gave a warts-and-all account of what exactly your money would buy you at Gresty Road - an attractive but limited side prone to occasional lapses in concentration, but equally capable of exhilarating approach play thanks to the nurturing of one very careful owner.

"There's consolation in that I thought the players were good," said Gradi. "They've prepared for this all week, and we looked as though we had a chance throughout."

Luke Rodgers , who had a hand in two of the host's three goals, left Reading's normally assured rearguard utterly flustered, unleashing a swerving shot that allowed Lee Bell to open the scoring and later heading into Gareth Taylor's path for Crewe's second.

But by then Coppell's surely Premiership-bound men seized the initiative from their obliging hosts.

Two goals in as many minutes handed Reading the lead midway through the first half, Nicky Shorey curling a wicked free-kick past Ross Turnbull before Steve Sidwell headed home Glen Little's precise cross.

Even when Leroy Lita added a third a minute before half-time, and later doubled Reading's advantage by deflecting Bobby Convey's low cross past the hapless Turnbull, Gradi's side rallied.

Kenny Lunt's penalty, following a harsh handball decision against Shorey, briefly offered hope of salvaging a draw, and even after Lunt was dismissed for hauling down Stephen Hunt in the final minute, Reading endured a nervy passage through to the final whistle.

Coppell, whose Royals set a new record in English football's second tier by registering a 31st game without defeat, again refused to accept Reading's promotion as the formality it has long been talked of. But he was effusive in praise of his opposite number in the dug-out.

"They play the same way whether they're winning or losing, the youngsters have got huge hearts. Dario's fabulous for Crewe. He's fabulous for football, and long may it continue."

Coming from the normally taciturn Reading manager, that is quite a sales pitch.

Goals: Bell (14) 1-0; Shorey (24) 1-1; Sidwell (26) 1-2; Lita (44) 1-3; Taylor (49) 2-3; Lita (53) 2-4; Lunt (pen 68) 3-4.

Crewe Alexandra (4-3-3) Turnbull; Otsemobor, B Jones, Foster, Tonkin (Moss, 87); Lunt, Bell (McCready, 69), Roberts, S Jones; Rodgers, Taylor. Substitutes not used: Tomlinson (gk), Higdon, Johnson.

Reading (4-4-2) Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Little (Gunnarsson, 90), Sidwell, Harper, Convey (Hunt, 78); Lita (Kitson 80), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Oster, Stack (gk).

Referee: C Webster (Tyne and Wear) .

Sent off: Crewe Lunt.

Man of the match: L Rodgers.

Attendance: 6,484.