Derby 2 Reading 2: Reading's lack of stars keep Coppell aiming high

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The Independent Online

The Championship table suggests Reading are not wanting for much but their first dropped points in 11 matches revealed a shortcoming Steve Coppell may need to address if he wants to be sure his promotion ambitions are realised.

Injuries to Dave Kitson and Leroy Lita left Coppell with only Kevin Doyle as a recognised frontman and though the young Irishman headed his 11th goal of the season - and his seventh in nine games - the Reading manager still felt a weakness had been exposed.

With the multi-millionaire club owner John Madejski not exactly short of funds, the obvious answer is to use the transfer window to buy in more firepower - but Coppell argues that keeping his team on track is not so straightforward a task as simply reaching for the cheque book. He says team spirit has taken Reading this far and that an influx of new players may not help.

"The lads have worked very hard to be where we are," he said. "We have no stars as such but we do have a group of players who are prepared to have a go for each other. We have the potential to bring in new players but whether to do so is a delicate decision because I don't want to disrupt what I have. I will not be signing anyone for the sake of it."

Coppell insisted it was character that saved the day at Pride Park, when the substitute Shane Long's goal two minutes from the end stretched their unbeaten run to 26. Two points dropped against a side with relegation worries looked below par after 10 straight wins but Coppell was adamant it was "a great result".

"I don't look at the table so I don't know where Derby were before the game but they were a good team today and that's all I can judge them on," he said. "I knew this would be a tough fixture and they put us under a lot of pressure so to come away with a point is fantastic."

Seven points ahead of second-placed Sheffield United and 18 clear of the play-offs, Reading appear to have one foot in the Premiership. Derby sit five points above the drop.

"It is disappointing to only get a point after getting ourselves in front twice but for endeavour, commitment and non-stop running we matched the side I'd say were champions-elect," said Derby's manager Phil Brown.

The midfielder Seth Johnson, scoring his first goals since returning to Derby from Leeds in August, had put Derby ahead by converting Tommy Smith's low cut-back and though Doyle headed a quick equaliser, Johnson restored the lead with a powerful volley midway through the second half.

Derby found themselves a man short when the on-loan centre-back Andy Davies received his second yellow card with 20 minutes left, the Middlesbrough player's third red of the season. His dismissal handed Reading the initiative and Long nodded home from close range to preserve their unbeaten record.

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