The clash of the season between the Second Division's top two clubs at the Madejski Stadium yesterday was always likely to be the stage for second place Brighton's much-prized striker Bobby Zamora to confirm his potential. In the event leaders Reading controlled him but were unable to impose themselves on an understandably tense match.
Reading's high ambitions are not immune to setbacks. Brighton had beaten them 3-1 last month and, almost inevitably, Zamora bagged one of the goals. But at least by then they had come out of their black period which in autumn had seen them fall to 14th in the Second Division.
Contrary to the norm it was not their manager Alan Pardew but his assistant Martin Allen who was fired. Since then Reading have not only gone back to the top but made their chairman John Madejski think that he could even be in sight of seeing some reward for the £40m he has put into the club.
Brighton had kept the pressure on in midweek by beating Wycombe Wanderers 4-0, with Zamora scoring twice. Reading had managed only a draw with Bournemouth after another with Cambridge, which tightened the nerve strings without the additional hardship of seeing leading scorer, Nicky Forster, injured and out of yesterday's match.
Obviously of prime importance to Reading was nullifying Zamora's menace, but they elected not to man-mark him and for the first half he hardly had a significant touch. John Mackie and Adie Wil-liams controlled him well but clearly he is unusually gifted and Peter Taylor later reitereated: "It's no good anyone making enquiries – he stays."
Predictably the game was tight. Brighton had the better of few chances but too often Zamora was caught offside. Paul Brooker swept a fierce shot into the hands of Phil Whitehead but, that apart, the approach work of both sides exceeded the quality of the finishing. The comprehensive defensive marshalling of Brighton's Simon Morgan and Danny Cullip relentlessly deprived Reading of openings. But the home side were guilty of failing to move the ball inside swiftly enough from wide.
Although Reading substantially increased their productivity in the early part of the second half and suffered the sight of John Salako heading over with a clear sight of goal, Brighton ought to have taken the lead both from Richard Carpenter's drive that Whitehead turned over and from Zamora, who volleyed too high from eight yards.
Ironically, the incidents that could have swung the game came when Brighton's Paul Watson swung the ball into the penalty area and Williams headed on to his own crossbar, and when Kerry Mayo's deflected glance forced his own goalkeeper, Michel Kuipers, into a diving save.
Even so, Brighton did eventually think they had won when, in added time, Gary Hart crashed the ball in only for the referee to blow for an earlier foul on the goalkeeper.
Reading 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 0
Attendance: 22,009Reuse content