Reading 2 Preston North End 1: Reading on brink as Lita sinks Preston

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The Independent Football

All things have to come to an end, but the curious thing was that both clubs had come to the culmination of remarkable sequences of unbeaten matches within two days of each other.

Reading's League run of 33 Championship encounters had concluded at Luton, and Preston's 25-game progression without defeat in all competitions finished with their FA Cup defeat by Middlesbrough. So the question yesterday was whether the new experience of being beaten would, albeit temporarily, place any shadows of doubts in previously clear minds.

There was no doubting the clarity of both teams' positive intent. Within nine minutes Reading had scored and Preston had also forced a brave first-minute save at the feet of David Nugent by Marcus Hahnemann.

Reading broke through first. A corner by Bobby Convey was partly cleared by Claude Davis but came to Ivar Ingimarsson, whose shot was blocked on the line. Steve Sidwell bustled into the crowd of defenders and rapped the ball over the line.

The lead lasted less than two minutes. When Brian O'Neil was fouled, Callum Davidson took pot luck with a low free-kick that curled round a hastily constructed wall and flew inside the post. That set the scene.

On a raw afternoon, the game rattled along at a warming pace. After the early goals, neither side wanted to give away even a missed tackle. If Reading strung together four nice passes, Preston would match them. If Preston defended stoutly, Reading stood solid.Reading believed they were hard done by when David Kitson was moving fast towards the edge of the Preston penalty area but was met horrendously hard by the goalkeeper Carlo Nash. Kitson went crashing and remained still for several minutes before being helped off with concussion, and replaced by Leroy Lita. The referee did not even award a free-kick and Coppell had no complaints.

Lita soon made an impact as Kevin Doyle's neat pass put him through to the right of goal and he scored superbly from a difficult angle.

The ruggedness of the game was sometimes balanced by cameos of attacking interplay, and there was no predicting the outcome, with Reading appealing in vain for a penalty when Davis seemed to trap Doyle's foot on the ground with his own.

Over the final 15 minutes, Preston were the more positive, yet lacked a finishing touch. They had done enough to share the points but Reading regained the ability to be restrained and win at the same time.

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