Good teams always find a way through, as Reading showed yesterday by climbing to the top of the Championship. For 84 minutes they were frustrated and infuriated by a tenacious Leeds United. Even a numerical advantage, which Reading had from 12 minutes in, did not tell in their favour. But, with six minutes left, substitute Adam Le Fondre finally put Reading ahead, before adding a second late on.
It was a tribute to Reading's perseverance. Seemingly discomfited by Leeds' physical approach, they never developed much of a passing rhythm and, until Le Fondre's goals, they did not create much. It was not their best display of the season, but it might be their most important in their mission to return to the Premier League.
"We just had to keep going," manager Brian McDermott said afterwards. "You have to win game whatever it takes, in whichever way is required. We will not sit back and settle for a draw, we just keep going and keep going."
McDermott was also impressed that his players held their nerve in the face of some robust tackling. Zac Thomspon was sent off after 12 minutes for a late and high tackle on Jobi McAnuff, while Danny Pugh was fortunate not to go the same way.
When Leeds channelled their commitment, though, they were excellent, and were close to what would have been a very satisfactory point. "I'm right pleased," Neil Warnock said. "Not one of those lads could have given me any more; they were fantastic under the circumstances."
The defensive effort limited Reading, for most of the afternoon, to slinging in hopeful crosses which were headed away. The closest the home side came to scoring before they did so was when Ian Harte's first-half cross hit the far post. That aside, it was mainly a game of snatched chances.
It was Leeds, in fact, who created the game's best opportunity before the goals. Ross McCormack, with 20 minutes left, rolled the ball to Robert Snodgrass who shot weakly at Adam Federici. But it was Le Fondre, on for Noel Hunt, who made the difference at the other end. McDermott said he was brought on to "nick us a goal", and first he chested Hal Robson-Kanu's header over the line before diverting Jason Roberts' shot past Andy Lonergan in the final minute.
Reading (4-4-1-1) Federici; Cummings, Gorkss, Pearce, Harte; Kébé, Karacan (Robson-Kanu, 40; Mullins, 90), Leigertwood, McAnuff; Hunt (Le Fondre, 69); Roberts. Substitutes not used: McCarthy (gk), Church.
Leeds United (4-4-1-1) Lonergan; Bruce, Bromby, Robinson, Pugh; Lees, Thompson, Brown, Snodgrass (Webber, 85); McCormack (Rogers, 85), Becchio (Forssell, 87). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Paynter.
Referee: D Drysdale (Lincolnshire).
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