Kebe breaks resistance after Portsmouth run out of steam

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The Independent Online

Three months on from their Wembley day out at the FA Cup final, and three years after beating Reading 7-4 in a Premier League fixture, Portsmouth returned to another kind of reality yesterday. In an error-strewn game, Steve Cotter-ill's team took a first-half lead but – with only four substitutes available – failed to hold it.

That Reading's equaliser came in the 88th minute, when Ports-mouth's stretched resources were puffing and blowing, was no surprise to the manager, who said he was both disappointed and del-ighted with the efforts of the men and boys at his disposal. "I am so encouraged, and so proud, they should be proud of themselves," he said. "Some are just boys and they don't have the hard muscles for this yet, but I hope we have a few more players for next week.

"We just ran out of steam today. I had no more options, but I really felt that the boys put in all the effort they could. They were terrific and so were the fans, who sang and supported us all the way through. It was a magnificent effort from everyone."

A deal– or, at least, the heads of agreement for one – with Balram Chanrai, in which he takes ownership again, is expected to be ratified by the Football League next week, enhancing Portsmouth's prospects for exiting administration and entering the transfer market. That news buoyed Cotterill, but he sensed enough optimism at Fratton Park to give him confidence despite seeing Reading respond vigorously after the home side had dominated the opening half.

In that period, they took the lead after eight minutes when, after good work by David Nugent, Nadir Ciftci's shot was deflected into his own net by Gylfi Sigurdsson.

John Utaka's departure, after 18 minutes, with an apparent hamstring strain forced Cotterill to bring on Joel Ward and the young substitute wasted a glorious chance to add to Pompey's lead when he shot wide shortly before the interval. It would have crowned an excellent first half by the home team, but the miss summed up their fortunes.

Reading gradually fought their way back and began to take control in the second half when Jimmy Kebe, on the right wing, delivered a stream of good crosses before he claimed the equaliser in a scramble following a Sigurdsson corner. Jobi McAnuff and substitute Michail Antonio should have scored with close-range oppor-tunities, but missed the target.

Nugent, at the other end, also wasted a decent opening and Sigurdsson hit a post for Reading.

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