Jamie Cureton, the man referred to in yesterday's Reading programme as a club legend, departed the field an opposition villain when he was shown a straight red card for assault with boot and hands on the home side's captain, Steve Sidwell, following a second-half tangle.
Cureton, scorer of the last-game goal which gained Reading promotion from the old Second Division in 2002, tried football in South Korea before returning to England to join Queen's Park Rangers towards the end of last season.
Keen to make his mark in front of former supporters, Cureton had promised he would not celebrate if he scored against Reading.
In the event, he departed on a bitter note, complaining afterwards he had let the ball run past him when Sidwell called out "jacks", the codeword in football for "leave it". Incensed that he had been conned, Cureton lashed out with a boot and then followed up with a series of violent open-handed pushes.
After consulting an assistant, referee Richard Beeby dismissed the "legend".
"Maybe it was a bit unsporting," Sidwell admitted of his call. "Some people might say it was cheating, some may not. Do I regret it? Yes and no. Yes because the outcome was not nice, but we have got the points and that's all that matters. I do feel bad about it but this happens all over the country in every game. It's just gone horribly wrong today."
Ian Holloway, the Rangers manager watching his side lose their sixth consecutive away game, said he had been angry at Cureton for reacting the way he did. "After that my team had no chance of coming back," he said.
While saying it was not his job to comment on what Sidwell did, he added: "I was an 'orrible little pig [as a player] but I never did that."
The nastiness detracted from a victory which ensured Reading remain unbeaten at home in the League and moved up, however temporarily, to third in the table.
The 65th-minute goal, scored direct from a free-kick by Nicky Shorey, had a large element of good fortune about it. The kick, awarded on the right-hand edge of the penalty area for a foul on the substitute Lloyd Owusu by George Santos, was curled left-footed and went in after glancing off an upright.
Shorey, whose third goal of the season it was, held his hand to his face, certainly in disbelief and possibly also in embarrassment. As his manager, Steve Coppell, said: "I don't question how the goal was scored, I am just grateful it went in. Obviously, the sending-off swung it our way because this was very like a derby game, played at an agitated level, very frenetic.
"Very rarely did either side get into a pattern flow because both were so committed. To get three points was very pleasing without it being a pleasing spectacle."
The afternoon got off to a spectacular start, too, when Father Christmas delivered the match ball by rappelling down to the centre circle from the stand roof. The rest of the first half was never so eye-catching, apart from the yellow card flourished rather harshly against Dave Kitson for allegedly diving in the penalty area. It was not Kitson's day. He limped off in the second half with a knee injury.
Reading might have gone ahead when Ibrahima Sonko's header from a free-kick appeared to be blocked by Marc Bircham's arm but the referee was unimpressed by the appeals, and in the second half Rangers did much better. In fact, they were looking the slicker combination when Shorey's curler and Cureton's clanger dished their hopes.Reuse content