Sidwell nods Reading to top

Watford 0 - Reading 1
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The Independent Online

Watford may have won the battle between these two clubs in midweek - the battle in question being a 3-0 League Cup victory - but they lost the war for Championship points at Vicarage Road and saw their seven-match unbeaten run come to an end, thanks to Steve Sidwell's second-half strike.

Watford may have won the battle between these two clubs in midweek - the battle in question being a 3-0 League Cup victory - but they lost the war for Championship points at Vicarage Road and saw their seven-match unbeaten run come to an end, thanks to Steve Sidwell's second-half strike.

That goal by the former Arsenal midfielder also saw Reading go top of the division, from where they have threatened to win promotion in the past few seasons only to miss out in the play-offs.

This year, however, they have hit their stride earlier than usual. Indeed, the only reason the men from Berkshire had not taken an earlier grip on the division was their poor form away from home. This win - although barely deserved as both teams scrapped for possession - ended a sequence of three defeats on the road and saw them leapfrog Wigan to first place.

Yet before Sidwell's decisive header, the visitors had cause to thank Watford's striker Danny Webber, who had an off day. The Championship's top scorer has hit nine goals this season and should have had a tenth in the first half.

Just before the interval, James Chambers, who signed a three-year deal on Friday, charged down the right-hand flank. His pass found Webber but as he stretched his leg out in front of an empty net six yards out he could only sidefoot his shot to Marcus Hahnemann, the Reading goalkeeper.

Earlier, the visitors had carved out a couple of chances. With just six minutes gone, Sidwell sent a powerful shot just over the bar before Paul Brooker was only denied by Richard Lee's legs. In more orthodox style, the Watford goalkeeper, Alec Chamberlain, then used his hands to push away a header by Dave Kitson eight minutes before the break.

In a poor quality clash that was as much a battle of mediocrity as each team's mettle, Sidwell's goal came from an adventurous raid down the left flank by Brooker after 65 minutes. The midfielder's cross was meant for Kitson but although it missed his intended target, Sidwell did not.

The first goal the Hornets had conceded in four games left them chasing the game. They should have earned a point, but when Heidar Helguson directed his header on target 14 minutes from time, Hahnemann deflected the ball wide - a save that Reading manager Steve Coppell, who would not comment on going top, could not praise highly enough.

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