Reading 1 Derby County 0: Doyle redeems Reading as Derby stay goalless on the road

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The Independent Football

The last time that Derby County visited the Madejski Stadium they were on the receiving end of a 5-0 thrashing. That win, in April 2006, clinched the Championship title for Reading and, as the final whistle went, the pitch was invaded by jubilant supporters.

The harsh realities that were said to await Reading in the top division never quite materialised last year as they pushed for a place in Europe. This season is a different story, however, and the relief was evident around the stadium following a narrow victory over bottom-of-the-table Derby which Steve Coppell generously described as "bitty". It was a win nonetheless and, on the back of the 7-4 defeat suffered at Portsmouth last week, there were positives for the Reading manager.

Kevin Doyle's first goal of the season was chief among these. Doyle, who scored 13 league goals last season, headed a Graeme Murty cross past Stephen Bywater in the Derby goal after 63 minutes.

The clean sheet was another major plus for Coppell, although the lack of confidence in the Reading back four was evident in the second half as time after time the ball was launched out of play in a manner more befitting the London Irish rugby union team, with whom they share the stadium.

"I once had a defence that conceded nine at Anfield [Crystal Palace in 1989]," Coppell said by way of justification. "The way they played in the next game wasn't very pretty. If you're a defender you want the ball as far away from your goal as possible, so I think there was an element of that."

Getting last week's defeat out of their system may have been foremost in the minds of the Reading players and supporters, but it is safe to say they will forget about this game a lot quicker. Coppell had given the same 11 players who started at Portsmouth a chance to redeem themselves and in the opening half they looked like they resented him for it.

Stephen Hunt came closest to breaking the deadlock with a guided header which went just past the post. Reading also had two penalty appeals turned down by referee Lee Mason, the most obvious when Murty's shot appeared to be blocked by James McEveley's arm.

The second half was marginally better, livened by Doyle's goal and a period of Derby pressure which saw substitute Robert Earnshaw come closest to equalising.

Derby are yet to score an away goal this season, but manager Billy Davis also took positives from the performance. "My realistic objective after 10 games was to not be detached from other teams," he said.

They may not be detached but they are still bottom. Davies agreed that the league table does not lie, but added that "the spending doesn't lie either".

Goal: Doyle (63) 1-0.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Rosenior (Oster, 60), Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt; Doyle, Kitson. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Lita, Fae, Bikey.

Derby County(4-4-2): Bywater; Griffin (Earnshaw, 74), Leacock, Davis, McEveley; Mears, Feilhaber (Lewis, 65), Oakley, Pearson; Howard (Barnes, 65), Miller. Substitutes not used: Price (gk), Todd.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Booked: Reading Ingimarsson; Derby Davis.

Man of the match: Doyle.

Attendance: 23,091