Macari towers over his rivals

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The Independent Online
Reading 2 Stoke City 2

Lou Macari, the Stoke City manager, may only stand 5ft 5in tall, but the impressive aura surrounding the Scot is being re-created by his side, currently standing tall at the head of the First Division.

If ever a case existed where a team personified their manager then the Potters are that side. For Stoke, like Macari in his prime as a player, have a never-say-die spirit in abundance and, although they are not the most elegant or flashy side to grace a football pitch, they seem quite prepared to shed blood for their cause.

An abrupt and direct playing style, which has seen them quietly blossom into a promotion force, was stoutly tested by a Reading side backlashing from two successive defeats.

An opening day victory over Sheffield United seemed a false dawn for the Royals after the concession of eight goals against Ipswich and Barnsley, but the performance on Saturday was full of combative character.

They began in confident manner and seemed more the side with the 100 per cent record than vice-versa. Reading, however, took the lead after seven minutes in rather fortunate fashion.

Ian Butler, the referee, awarded a dubious penalty as Ian Cranson seemed to have made a superb saving tackle on the floored Martyn Booty, who looked on embarrased as Trevor Morley converted from 12 yards with the aid of a post.

Macari's team, however, did not get to the semi-final play-offs last season without the will to battle and, after a summer in which they lost five of last season's team and gained three new players, even the manager is surprised by their start.

Stoke's equaliser came from a 25-yard curling free-kick by the in-form Mike Sheron. Summer signing Richard Forsyth then put Stoke ahead only for Paul Holsgrove to volley the equaliser three minutes later.