Reading last night moved level on points with Southampton, the Championship leaders, ahead of the two clubs’ summit meeting at St Mary’s on Friday evening, and if their 13th win in their past 15 matches was hardly their most convincing, then Brian McDermott, their manager, will not worry.
A bad-tempered, spiteful affair was settled by a deflected goal, and Adam Federici, the Reading goalkeeper, was man of the match and saved a second-half penalty, but they are three points closer to a return to the Premier League.
“It was a night for resilience and character,” McDermott said. “There are different ways of winning football matches and that was different for us. We hung in there, it was a match-winning save from Adam, and St Mary’s will be the place to be on Friday.”
Brighton had needed a win to return to the play-off places but their manager, Gustavo Poyet, was upbeat despite a first home defeat of 2012 and an ill-timed run of only one win in six games. “We’ll keep believing in what we do and if we get the right players, going into the Premier League is just a matter of time,” he said. “Reading have been outstanding, but when you are at the top you get the luck.”
Federici had already made good saves from Vicente, the former Valencia and Spain midfield player, and Ashley Barnes when Reading took the lead after 13 minutes, Ian Harte’s free kick looping off the wall and past the wrong-footed Brighton goalkeeper, Peter Brezovan.
Tackles started to fly in and both teams tested the patience and judgement of Mick Russell, the referee, who turned down two strong penalty appeals from Brighton, but there was also plenty of good football. Vicente hit the bar after a clever exchange of passes with Barnes and Brezovan saved well from Noel Hunt’s header.
Four minutes into the restart Russell was finally convinced by Barnes’s fall under challenge from Alex Pearce, but the Brighton forward underhit his penalty and Federici saved with ease.
“Sometimes you need your goalkeeper to pull it out for you,” Harte said. “It was a big win but we’re not there until it’s done mathematically.”
Brighton (4-1-2-3): Brezovan; Calderon, Greer, El-Abd, Jara Reyes; Navarro; Vicente, Dicker; Buckley (Lua Lua, 66), Mackail-Smith (Vokes, 81), Barnes (Assulin, 82). Substitutes not used Ankergen, Painter.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Cummings, Pearce, Gorkks, Harte; Kebe, Mullins, McAnuff, Hunt (Church, 79); Cywka (Gunnarsson, 59), Roberts. Substitutes not used McCarthy, Le Fondre, Afobe.
Referee M Russell (Herts).