Reading 3 Luton Town 0: Shadows of failure cloud Coppell vision

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The Independent Football

Has there ever been a more shell-shocked and pessimistic manager then Steve Coppell? The likeable Reading coach is so scarred from blowing promotion in previous seasons that he could hardly celebrate a victory that left him 14 points clear of third place and top of the Championship, 21 League games unbeaten since the opening day.

"I'm not confident we can do it," Coppell insisted, "maybe we're only top because of a coincidence in the fixtures. Last season's collapse is in the forefront of our minds."

Mike Newell, Coppell's Luton counterpart, steered his team out of League One last season and has a side capable of going up again. And Coppell was at least right when he said the three-goals flattered Reading.

Newell reluctantly accepted the compliment, as he detests losing even to the best, before asserting: "Reading are up, I am absolutely convinced of that. They are a Premiership side and anyone who has backed them can cash in their betting slip. I have seen every team and they are the best."

Coppell was right to dismiss last week's League Cup defeat at Arsenal as a one-off and to conclude that the end of their unbeaten 23-game run would not affect their chances of promotion.Reading have blown promotion before, but they are clearly a cut above the rest of the Championship this season. Meanwhile, chairman and owner John Madejski looks odd on to achieve his goal of taking his club up and selling on from a position of strength.

Luton had a go, but Reading had more quality. "There was only a Rizla paper between us at half-time," Coppell said. That gap was created by impressive midfielder Steve Sidwell who struck a deflected 44th minute goal from 25 yards. It was enough to send the Reading fans into party mode.

And with their side having conceded only 11 goals in their previous 21 League games, they had good reason to be confident. Luton still posed an occasional threat, but they were finished off when excellent substitute David Kitson headed in Glen Little's perfect 76th-minute free-kick. Reading then rubbed it in, when Kevin Doyle headed in another Little cross a minute from time.