The midwinter blues have hit Wolverhampton Wanderers hard. Mick McCarthy's men have not won in the Championship in January, and this was their fifth consecutive game without victory. Reading have not been flawless this month but this comfortable win, despite the scoreline, thanks to Neill Collins's own goal after 60 seconds, means that The Royals have done the double over Wolves and have closed to within two points of the league leaders.
Collins's night got worse when he was sent off in injury time for swearing at the assistant referee and it was clearly catching. McCarthy's reaction to the goal that condemned his side to a second defeat in those five games was short and sweet. "What a shite start," he said. "It shouldn't happen. Absolute tosh, rubbish, drivel."
The former Republic of Ireland manager continued in a far more colourful and expletive-filled vein after that, all of which made it clear that he is extremely worried about the disappearance of a previously powerful position at the top of the table. "How we respond now is what's important. I can't do anything about what's happened here," he said in a calmer tone.
Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, who would refuse to hype up Christmas, let alone a football match, had spoken beforehand about the impact a win for either side would have here, "regardless of the three points". Although of course they come in handy, too. On the basis of McCarthy's reaction, it would seem as if that is round one to Coppell in the psychological battle for promotion.
What caused McCarthy's anger started with some dithering at right-back by Kevin Foley, which saw Stephen Hunt win back possession. He found Chris Armstrong, who crossed, and in jumping for the ball with Kevin Doyle, Collins, the Wolves centre-back, saw his attempted clearance arc and loop over Wayne Hennessey and under the crossbar.
Given that Reading's last league outing was a 2-0 defeat at Swansea City 10 days ago, the early strike soothed some of the hosts' nerves that their own push for automatic promotion might be faltering. The only thing to upset Coppell's men was Michael Duberry being forced off with a cut head, leaving Coppell with only one of his first-choice back four.
Noel Hunt had a free-kick saved by Hennessey, who also saved from James Harper, but the expected onslaught from the visitors, bar that of the four-letter kind, never arrived.
Goals: Collins og (2) 1-0.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Kelly, Duberry (Gunnarsson, 30), Pearce, Armstrong; Kébé, Cissé, Harper, S Hunt; N Hunt (Long, 81), Doyle (Lita, 82). Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Matejovsky.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Collins, S Ward; Kightly, Henry, Quashie (Edwards, 86), Jarvis (Vokes, 85); Ebanks-Blake, Keogh (Iwelumo, 63). Substitutes not used: Higgs (gk), Vokes, Hill.
Referee: R Booth (Nottinghamshire).
Booked: Reading Gunnarsson; Wolves Ward.
Sent off: Collins (90).
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