Billy Sharp nets to condemn Town to defeat
Reading’s killer instinct was evident at the John Smith’s Stadium this afternoon with the former Premier League side needing just one chance to put Town to the sword.
That chance fell to Billy Sharp, who found the back of the net courtesy of Pavel Pogrebnyak’s cross.
The Terriers general play was superb, but they lacked a finish in the final third. The returning Martin Paterson came the closest to a Town goal when he hit the post.
Town were dealt two big blows before kick-off with both James Vaughan (thigh) and Jonathan Hogg (hip) missing out through injury.
Paterson’s return from injury was timely and he replaced Vaughan in attack, while Oscar Gobern came in for Hogg.
The opening stages of a pulsating first half belonged to the Terriers who tested Reading from all angles as they looked to break the deadlock.
Paterson, fresh from a hamstring injury, had the best of the chances when he shot over from just inside the area under heavy pressure from Reading defenders.
Paul Dixon and Adam Hammill were providing the deliveries, but neither Danny Ward nor Paterson could find a telling touch.
Adam Hammill forced Reading stopper Alex McCarthy into his first save in the 18th minute after cutting in from the right, while on the left, Dixon showed superb pace and skill to cut inside Chris Gunter, but fired just wide on his right foot as Town’s dominance continued.
Reading had offered very little during the first half an hour, but showed their Premier League class to take the lead in the 32nd minute.
Former Real Madrid winger Royston Drenthe carried the charge before switching the play to Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russian found his strike partner Billy Sharp with a precise cross who powered a header past the despairing dive of Alex Smithies.
Town’s spirit was far from broken though, and had it not been for the outstretch fingers of McCarthy they would have been level. The stopper used all of his 6’4” height to claw out Ward’s stooping header from Oscar Gobern’s ball in.
The Terriers started the second 45 brightly and saw Paterson flick over the bar with a header when he had time to bring the ball down in the box.
Reading’s Gunter was then in the right place at the right time to produce a vital block to deny Ward as he pulled the trigger.
The visitors then had to rely on their ‘keeper to keep them ahead when both Lynch and Ward forced McCarthy into full length saves.
Substitute Garath McCleary had the Royal’s first shot of the half in the 72nd minute before Town came within a lick of paint of equalising.
Town Substitute Duane Holmes glided past two Reading midfielders, switched the ball to Dixon who found Paterson, whose left footed shot seemed to take an age before rebounding off the post.
Sean Scannell found the arms of McCarthy with another drive in the dying moments and bundled a Danny Ward cross just wide, but it just wasn’t to be for the Terriers who ended the game with ten men when Joel Lynch received his second yellow of the game.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies (c); Joel Lynch, Anthony Gerrard, Tommy Smith; Paul Dixon, Oscar Gobern (Duane Holmes, 73), Oliver Norwood, Adam Clayton, Adam Hammill (Sean Scannell, 81); Martin Paterson (Cristian Lopez, 81), Danny Ward
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Murray Wallace, Keith Southern
Bookings Town: Oliver Norwood 38, Joel Lynch 87+90
Red card: Joel Lynch
Bookings Reading: Danny Williams 43