Forster heads Reading home

Reading 1 - Sunderland 0
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The Independent Online

Sunderland strutted around like peacocks, but got what they deserved from this game - nothing. Nicky Forster's early goal won it for Reading, and the margin might have been greater.

Sunderland strutted around like peacocks, but got what they deserved from this game - nothing. Nicky Forster's early goal won it for Reading, and the margin might have been greater.

Sunderland enjoyed a good chunk of possession, and played some fancy-looking football at times, but it was ornamental rather than effective. Too many promising moves died with a hopeful punt and, when they threatened to fashion an opening, the Reading defence generally stood firm as a rock.

One of the visitors' best moments came when Dean Whitehead ran undetected from midfield and latched on to a through ball. He hit his shot well from the edge of the area, but with keeper Marcus Hanemann beaten, it struck the outside of the post and flew to safety.

When Reading broke, they did so at pace and with good movement. The early goal came after just two minutes and stemmed from a move down the right wing. Andy Hughes crossed to the near post where Forster flashed home a fine header with Mart Poom helplessly flailing.

"It was a bad goal to give away," said Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy, "there was no marking."

It was a strangely passionless affair until midway through the second half, when Sunderland seemed to wake up to the fact that three successive away defeats was not a good idea. They had passion, but still struggled for penetration, and when it finally came courtesy of good work from lively substitute Liam Lawrence, Whitehead was left one-on-one, only to shoot hopelessly off target.

Instead it was Reading who on several occasions went close to increasing their lead. A clever move on the edge of the box put Steve Sidwell clean through but he messed up the chance, and Forster could only put the rebound straight at Poom. Reading kept coming: Sidwell's 30-yarder was well saved, and Kitson's header struck the post. Forster, following up, was denied by another excellent save from Poom.

"Poom showed what an excellent keeper he is," added McCarthy. Reading manager Steve Coppell was delighted with the performance: "They had a lot of possession but didn't really get at us," he said. "We made it hard for them to penetrate. We had five or six chances and should have made the game safe.

Reading (4-4-2): Hanemann; Murty (Owusu, 85) Shorey, Williams, Ingimarsson; Hughes, Sidwell, Harper, Brooker; Kitson, Forster (Sonko, 90). Substitutes not used: Goater, Morgan, Young (gk)

Sunderland (4-3-3) Poom; Breen, Williams, Collins, McCartney (Thornton, 60); Oster (Lawrence, 60), Whitley, Whitehead; Arca, Kyle, Stewart (Elliot, 54). Substitutes not used: Lynch, Ingham (gk)

Referee: A Wiley (Staffs).

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