Reading 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Kitson helps Reading stay up with pace

Yet victory means that Steve Coppell's side are now nine points in front of Watford, in third, and a first-ever appearance in the Premiership appears an increasingly possible outcome next May.

Coppell said afterwards he "never looks at the League table, just at the next game", and until his side are mathematically promoted that will probably not change but taking him towards the élite is arguably the most important asset a team at this level can possess, which is a defence that is hard to beat.

The hardest, in fact, in the Football League, with only three goals conceded in the last 11 games and they even enjoyed a little piece of good fortune when Chris Brunt's shot hit the post late on.

By that stage Reading were already two goals to the good and set to end Wednesday's revival. The Owls had gone five games without defeat, which had taken them out of the relegation zone, but after their weekend win at Norwich, trying to get a point at the Madejski Stadium is a request of an altogether higher order these days.

When the hosts took the lead after 38 minutes they had just survived an effort by Ritchie Partridge, which required Marcus Hahnemann to rush off his line to block the striker. "The critical moment," was how Coppell termed it. "If Wednesday had gone in front, it could have been different, but in the second half we were on top," he added.

Coppell's counterpart Paul Sturrock had a slightly different take on the night's crucial incident, when he said: "Partridge should have blasted it rather than try to chip it."

On the counter-attack and with Wednesday caught out, Kevin Doyle crossed from the left and with Kitson set to shoot, Glenn Whelan slid in to clear. However, the unlucky midfielder only steered the ball past a wrong-footed David Lucas from eight yards out.

After the break, in the space of a few seconds, Lucas kept his side in the game with three saves and, having rightfully earned some luck, saw another effort come off the post.

Kitson was the first to be denied, and then Steve Sidwell and Doyle from close range, while Bobby Convey saw his shot rebound off the frame. Three minutes later Reading were then denied what appeared to be a clear penalty when Doyle beat Graeme Lee and was tripped, but the referee gave a free-kick outside the area, to everyone's astonishment and Lee's great relief.

But Wednesday's luck ran out when Kitson finally succeeded after his earlier miss. He took Glen Little's pass in his stride and powered his shot between Lucas' legs after 64 minutes to confirm a deserved victory.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Little (Oster, 81), Sidwell, Harper, Convey (Hunt, 72); Doyle, Kitson. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Osano, Obinna.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Lucas; Peacock (O'Brien, 81), Lee, Wood, Hills; Partridge (Eagles, 63), Rocastle, Whelan, Brunt; Agbonlahor, Simek. Substitutes not used: Bullen, Graham, Heckingbottom.

Referee: M Thorpe (Suffolk).

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