The fans were chanting "Coppell is Superman" but for an hour Reading were more like 11 subdued Clark Kents than all-conquering superheroes. That was until Kevin Doyle's coolly taken goal on the hour took the Kryptonite out of Leicester City and guided the Royals to victory. "A relief," Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, called it.
Can anyone stop the Royals? The last 10 teams have tried and failed to get so much as a point off them and they are now 20 points clear of the third-placed Leeds United.
The Foxes were just the latest victims, two days after the Boxing Day hunt, of what has become a weekly ritual. Their resistance was stout at times, but Doyle broke them and Brynjar Gunnarsson, late on, made sure of the points.
That the visitors could hold out for so long had looked unlikely. They started the day in 20th place and only five points above the relegation zone. A form line of just one win in nine games pointed ominously to Craig Levein's men leaving Berkshire without improving on that statistic.
In a bright start Reading's Bobby Convey scuffed his shot wide after just two minutes, but that was deceptive and for the next 23 minutes the game had little to recommend it. Then, Nicky Shorey moved up from his full-back position and found Dave Kitson, who had avoided the offside trap. His touch took the ball away from Rob Douglas, who appeared to barge into the striker but the referee Alan Wiley vehemently refused all requests for a penalty against the Leicester goalkeeper.
The visitors' formation was designed for containment, but they showed that they could prove dangerous when Mark De Vries was in possession. The Dutchman tested Marcus Hahnemann from 22 yards with the first half in injury time and when he intercepted a blind pass from Shorey after the interval he was brought down on the edge of the area by Ibrahima Sonko, who earned a yellow cardfor his cynicism.
Coppell praised Doyle, saying: "He did very, very well to put it away. It's what he's been about since he's joined us."
Kitson had dropped off to the edge of the centre circle and found his team-mate who outsprinted and then fended off the attentions of the two chasing central defenders, before slipping his shot inside Douglas' far post.
Coppell said that he felt he could not see his side losing after that. There was no chance of that after Gunnarsson headed home Shorey's free-kick three minutes from time.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Oster (Gunnarsson, 83), Harper, Sidwell, Convey (Hunt, 71); Kitson (Long, 80), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Makin.
Leicester City (4-1-4-1): Douglas; Maybury, Kisnorbo, Hughes (Hammond, 73), McCarthy; Williams; Sylla, De Vries, Gudjonsson, Hamill (Smith, 73); Gerrbrand (Stearman, 73). Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Hume.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).Reuse content