Madness at the MadStad. In a game in which forwards occupied their time trying get sent off rather than trying to score goals, Reading’s Pavel Pogrebnyak and Leo Ulloa of Brighton succeeded before half-time. The inevitable result was that spaces opened up but the possibility of the resulting chances being taken was minimised.
Despite the loss of their top scorer, Brighton had the better of the match and are now unbeaten in four matches but the absence of Ulloa for three games will hurt their chances of closing the gap on the top six. The play-off places, of course, would have been Reading’s minimum target for this season but they never looked remotely like promotion challengers before or after Pogrebnyak’s dismissal.
“I thought we were very poor in the first half,” Nigel Adkins, their manager, said. “In the cold light of day we’ll establish why. We were nowhere near where I’d like us to be.”
That was partly because Brighton refused to let them have much of the ball, and the Seagulls should have pushed home their advantage in possession when Pogrebnyak had his first start of the season ended after 32 minutes, shown a second yellow card for a blatant dive after an earlier booking for a trip – of sorts – on Kazenga LuaLua. The Russian’s fall after his arm had been pulled by Keith Andrews was over-theatrical, although Adkins felt there had been a foul.
“You feel for him, because it hasn’t worked for him since I’ve been here, and it’s a clear foul, but he’s a big man and shouldn’t go down presumably.”
But Ulloa offered Graham Scott, the referee, an immediate opportunity to even up the sides with a high, reckless kick as the Reading defender Alex Pearce headed the ball away. Nathan Jones, the Brighton assistant head coach, said: “Leo’s not malicious but he didn’t give the ref an option. We’d have preferred it to stay eleven versus eleven and to keep our striker for three games. But we were fantastic today and we’re disappointed we didn’t take all three points.”
That was mainly down to the Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who was in unbeatable form, saving well from Ashley Barnes and Inigo Calderon, then deflecting Barnes’ late near-post effort onto the woodwork.
Reading (4-3-3): McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Kelly (Bridge ht); Williams, Karacan (Blackman 86), Guthrie; Drenthe (Robson-Kanu ht), Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre.
Brighton (4-1-2-3): Kuszczak; Calderon, Greer, Upson, Ward; Andrews; Crofts, Forster-Caskey; Lopez (Barnes 60), Ulloa, LuaLua (Buckley 81).
Referee: G Scott