Stoke City 0 Reading 1

Kitson keeps Royals hanging on leaders' coat-tails

Stoke might consider themselves unlucky, but there is no denying that Reading come with a streak of resilience as well as a measure of quality. Unbeaten in 16 matches - a club record for a sequence compiled within a single season - they will equal an all-time record if they avoid defeat in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, when their opponents at the Madejski Stadium happen to be Sheffield United.

In the League, the gap between the two is down to three points following the Yorkshire side's draw at Leeds on Friday, but Coppell will not be drawn into a debate on Reading's chances of overhauling them.

"We're not setting our sights on anybody," he said. "All we can think about is looking after ourselves, looking at our next opponents and doing our best to beat them. You can never relax. Your next opponent is always looming large."

The challenge to Reading now is to maintain their standards for the whole season. They were similarly placed at this time last year but faded, although the consensus is that Coppell has a stronger squad this time. Leroy Lita dropped out injured yesterday but Kitson covered for him admirably, while Steve Sidwell, last season's key player, was only on the bench.

For their part, there was enough confident enterprise in Stoke's play yesterday to raise questions over how they have managed to lose five matches in six games, although all that is lacking, it seems, is the knack of turning possession into goals.

In a cagey game, Reading had chances to lead before half-time. Brynjar Gunnarsson, the hard-working former Stoke midfielder, went closest of all with a firmly struck drive from 30 yards.

Stoke deserved a point but were denied it when Reading were awarded a penalty towards the end, the full-back Lewis Buxton adjudged to have tripped Kitson, despite protesting that his side-on tackle had won the ball. He was booked for his trouble and Kitson nervelessly blasted home the kick.

Comments