Nogan steals vital points for Reading

Reading 2 Bolton Wanderers 1
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Reading pulled a crucial promotion victory out of the fire last night to demolish Bolton's ambitions of regaining the First Division leadership. Less than three minutes remained when Lee Nogan breached the defensive lines to shoot his side to within two points of Bruce Rioch's challengers from the North-west.

It was a savage riposte to Bolton's attempts to claim the winner. They looked the more likely - John Dreyer seeing a header cleared from the line - but Reading's unquenchable spirit was not to be denied.

They held sway in the first half and could have been regretting their failure to build on Stuart Lovell's initial breakthrough, which came on 15 minutes when Mick Gooding picked him out with a sweeping crossfield ball. The striker delayed his shot but retained the initiative and the good fortune to find his effort deflecting off the luckless Dreyer.

Clearly the instructions were to smother Bolton's efforts to establish their normal rhythm. It worked a treat as did Reading's own efforts to progress. They were passing the ball neatly working their angles cleverly and putting on an entertaining show for Elm Park's biggest League crowd in years.

Two Lovell headers in quick succession threatened to put Reading out of reach before the visitors had found their stride. Then a sparkling one-two between their strikers left Nogan with a clear sight of goal but Keith Branagan was down to make the stop.

With Jason McAteer battling furiously in midfield and David Lee taking more of a hand, Bolton began to impose themselves and two near things before half-time signposted their way back.

Shaka Hislop showed why he is rated a goalkeeper bound for higher things by denying first Mark Patterson and then Owen Coyle. Four minutes after the interval, however, he was found wanting when, under pressure, he spilled a high ball and was unable to prevent David Lee from squeezing the ball in under the crossbar.

Coyle, seizing on a poor Hislop clearance, could not quite turn the ball home as Bolton turned up the heat. Reading's early control had disappeared and now there seemed only one winner. Dreyer produced a towering header from a right-wing corner and was convinced he had scored before Simon Osborn popped up with a saving clearance.

It was a vital intervention but the midfielder was not finished, dispatching the well-flighted pass that released Nogan and condemned Bolton to their second defeat in 11 League outings. It might seem even more damaging when this afternoon's results come in.

Reading (5-3-2): Hislop; Bernal, Wdowczyk, Williams, McPherson, Gilkes; Gooding, Osborn, Taylor; Nogan, Lovell. Substitutes not used: Kerr, Quinn, Sheppard (gk).

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; Dreyer, Seagraves, Stubbs, Phillips; Lee, McAteer, Patterson, Thompson; Coyle, McGinlay. Substitutes not used: Green, MacDonald, Davison (gk).

Referee: J Lloyd (Wrexham).