Reading 2 Southampton 0: Reading continue royal march towards promotion

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The Independent Online

When facing a team unbeaten in the league since the first day of the season then most sides should be on their guard to at least avoid making the most obvious mistakes.

That was Southampton's challenge last night, one they failed to meet, especially in the first half when Nathan Dyer's indecision in defence and the whole Saints backline's failure to cope with a long, high ball of the most basic variety led to yet another defeat for George Burley's men

Southampton attempted in the transfer window last month and in the loan period this week to try to plug the gaps in a squad that has been worsening and shrinking seemingly by the month since last year's relegation.

Some of the fruits of Burley's trawl through the Premiership, Championship and European cast-offs were on display here, especially in the shape of three debutants. Grzegorz Rasiak, from Spurs, Richard Chaplow from West Bromwich and Jermaine Wright from Leeds were all present, with the latter two forming an untested midfield partnership.

It didn't appear to matter after just five minutes when Darren Potter, another recent signing from Liverpool, put in the perfect cross for Peter Madsen, also newly arrived from FC Koln, and the Danish international's header brought a fine save from Marcus Hahnemann.

A goal then would have provided some sort of insurance for a Saints side that had won none of its previous five games. As it was, 10 minutes later they had no cover at all as Reading took the lead.

Kevin Doyle underhit a pass to Glen Little on the right wing but as Dyer dithered, Little nipped in and with time to pick out a team-mate, he found Leroy Lita who scored his tenth of the season with a tap-in.

Ibrahima Sonko almost doubled the Royals' lead when his header from Bobby Convey's free-kick hit the post before Rasiak showed why Spurs let him go on loan. After 36 minutes a Chaplow pass found its way to the Pole but he dragged his shot wide from eight yards. He was unlucky two minutes later when his header hit the post with Hahnemann stranded.

The price of those misses was amplified a minute later when Hahnemann hit a long clearance that Doyle controlled before coolly finding the bottom corner.

The pressure the visitors had exerted at the end of the first half never carried on convincingly after the interval, despite occasional incursions. With 54 minutes gone Chaplow shot straight at Hahnemann from distance and soon after, from Dyer's pass, the Swedish full-back Alex Ostlund sent his effort over the crossbar from 22 yards.

For their part, Reading, who appeared to have long understood they had done enough, cantered to the final whistle. The Royals are now unbeaten in 32 league games and lead the Championship by 13 points and have a 21-point advantage over the third-placed team. Promotion in May is theirs to throw away.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Little, Sidwell, Harper, Convey (Hunt, 81); Lita (Kitson, 76), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Gunnarsson, Oster.

Southampton (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Ostlund, Lundekvam, Powell, Higginbotham; Potter, Chaplow, Wright, Dyer (70); Madsen (Jones, 81), Rasiak. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Baird, Blackstock.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).

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