Reading 5 Brighton 1: Kitson clinches magnificent seven for Reading

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The Independent Football

Reading's chairman, John Madejski, considers his team "a joy to behold" and he will find few locals prepared to disagree with this seasonal comment, issued in yesterday's programme notes, after the way Brighton were dismantled thanks to a Dave Kitson hat-trick.

Struggling Brighton had assembled a decent away record, drawing eight of their 11 games, but they were overwhelmed by a slick, confident Reading once Gary Elphick was sent off at the start of the second half. Reading's unbeaten run, which started at Brighton in August, now stretches to 22. This was their seventh straight win, they are approaching a half-century of goals and have conceded only a dozen, the best in the Championship. No wonder the fans chanted: "That's why we're going up", as the goals rolled in.

With five at the back, another four in midfield and two early bookings conceded, Brighton clearly stated their intent. For almost half an hour, the home side achieved little. But then a stroke of good fortune came their way. The excellent Glen Little conjured space in the tightest of situations, tricked Alex Frutos on the byline and slung in a low cross which Brighton's captain, Charlie Oatway, bundled into his own net.

As Reading's manager, Steve Coppell, observed: "That first goal was the vital one." Brighton needed to become more enterprising if they were to rescue anything, and thus Reading were offered more room to unroll their slick, confident football.

And within a minute of the resumption Brighton's lingering hopes were dashed when Elphick was sent off after bringing Kitson down. From the free-kick, Kitson crashed to earth again, this time in the box, and a penalty was given, much to Brighton's dismay. Kitson, back after missing the previous four League games through injury, walloped home the spot-kick.

His second, a close-range header, came courtesy of a long shot which luckily looped into his path. Substitute Stephen Hunt then headed a fourth before Brighton's Colin Kazim-Richards scored a spectacular consolation from 35 yards. But Kitson had the last word, clinching his hat-trick at the death.Unable to avoid a satisfied look, Coppell insisted: "Promotion? We don't mention that word." He had better start learning soon.

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