Norwich City 0 Reading 1

Norwich reeling as Harper strikes
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The Independent Football

Norwich had won twice in four days in the last week, against Ipswich and Northampton, but they were punished by James Harper's winner for an organised Reading side who remain unbeaten away from home in the Championship. Nigel Worthington, the Norwich manager, admitted his top scorer was concussed but said: "We spoke to Dean after it happened and he was desperate to play on. Bigger, better players than Dean Ashton have done a lot worse. Over the course of the game we deserved a win. Our performance was very, very good."

Norwich started well when Ashton headed over in the 15th minute from Andy Hughes' cross, but he clashed heads with the Reading defender Graeme Murty in the process.

The England Under-21 striker did not look as though he knew where he was and fell over trying to walk off the pitch. He seemed to recover quickly but appeared to be showing the effects of the concussion when he lashed a 40-yard shot high over the bar.

Bobby Convey, Reading's playmaker, should have done better with a free shot, then sent Glen Little through to shoot against Robert Green. The best opportunity of the half though, fell to Ashton, who rose above the Reading defence to head towards goal after a jinking run and cross from Paul McVeigh on the left. Marcus Hahnemann somehow clawed the ball away.

Reading broke the deadlock after 61 minutes through Harper, who had been anonymous until that point. Kevin Doyle got the better of Calum Davenport to feed the former Arsenal youth player, and after his first attempt was blocked, he fired the ball into the left of Green's goal.

It was poor defending from Davenport, on loan from Tottenham, who had spent most of the match keeping Doyle and Reading's top scorer, Leroy Lita, well in check.

The goal spurred Norwich on, with substitute Darren Huckerby at the heart of much of their attacking play. From his free kick, Ashton glanced a header towards goal but saw his effort cleared off the line by Ibrahima Sonko.

Chaos ensued in the 89th minute when Convey fouled Davenport in the Reading penalty area. The referee went to book the Norwich defender for diving but, after being called over by his assistant, gave the penalty.

Ashton hit the outside of the post with a tame spot-kick to leave Norwich only two points clear of the bottom club, Sheffield Wednesday. "We were hanging on," said Steve Coppell, the Reading manager. "The last three minutes felt like the longest three minutes of my life."

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