Ricketts run rocks Reading

Reading 1 - Wolves 2
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The Independent Football

Wolves had little to play for but pride at the Madejski Stadium yesterday. Reading had the chance to reinforce their hopes of winning a future in the top class, but completely blew it with a timid performance that played back into the hands of their play-off rivals West Ham.

Wolves had little to play for but pride at the Madejski Stadium yesterday. Reading had the chance to reinforce their hopes of winning a future in the top class, but completely blew it with a timid performance that played back into the hands of their play-off rivals West Ham.

Reading have long contemplated promotion to the Premiership, and invested so much for so long in order to bring it about, that having it snatched away again on the approach road would be hard for them to bear. After losing to Cardiff a week ago they dropped out of the play-off places, only to be restored, on goal difference, as a result of West Ham's Friday-night defeat by Sunderland. Finger-nail stuff. What fingernails?

Wolves were substantially weakened by injuries, and within nine minutes were suffering from a bad case of underestimating the danger of failing to deal with a goalkeeper's long clearance. They had been admiring a nice turn and shot from Ki-Hyeon Seol that Marcus Hahnemann buffeted away. Hahnemann cleared the ball into the Wolves half. Dave Kitson nodded it on and, in a wink, Nicky Forster fired in a half-volley of a quality not often seen in this division.

In spite of their lead, Reading were soon being endangered by Kenny Miller, who kept nipping in behind Martin Keown who, these days, is not fond of being tested for pace. Not only that, Wolves settled into a fairly comfortable possession game in midfield, where Reading were negligent, usually being second to the ball and not building all that much when they did have control.

All the indications were that Reading would not maintain their advantage. They were offering Wolves far too much freedom, ever deeper into their own half, and, sure enough, eight minutes into the second half, as a corner came over from Lee Naylor to the near post, none of the defenders moved quickly enough to intercept Leon Clarke. His header deflected off Keown, over Hahnemann and dropped into the net. It was a fitting reward for a long period of domination.

Rohan Ricketts had been doing damage to Reading from midfield for most of the afternoon. He needed no extra assistance from misplaced passes by the hesitant home side, but that is exactly what he received six minutes from the end. Ibrahima Sonko's attempted pass went into his path and he ran through a seemingly open passageway that lead him into the Reading penalty area. He finished with a fine, low shot.

"I set out to win the game," Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, said without being convincing. "Now we have to go to Wigan, win and then hope." As simple as that... As for Wolves, they remain unbeaten since January and Glenn Hoddle will this week meet with club officials "to sort out a few things about the future". He promises a decision on his own future at Wolves in the next fortnight.

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