Derby County were shown the standards they need to reach if they hope to secure promotion back to The Premiership as they were picked off with ease by a Reading side who looked to stay on the heels of Wolves and Birmingham at the top of the table. A Noel Hunt header and two second half goals from Kevin Doyle allowed The Royals' to ease to victory at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon in a game where Derby rarely threatened the home goal despite engineering some good openings at times and Reading also had two goals disallowed as The Rams fell to only their second defeat since April.
Tito Villa got a start up front after his midweek heroics against Brighton and Rob Hulse also returned to the starting line-up after missing out with a rib injury injury in the same game and Martin Albrechtsen was a surprise inclusion in the centre of defence. Derby started well forcing possession in some promising areas and they claimed two early corners although they didn't take advantage of the set-pieces.
Reading then had a goal disallowed on 13 minutes when Stepehen Hunt whipped in a free-kick that glanced off a defenders head and flew past Bywater only for the referee to award a free-kick the other way for a push from Doyle. The Irishamn was involved again setting up Cisse but the Reading man was unable to get his header on target as the home side began to take control. It wasn't long until they took the lead, Addison blocked a shot for a corner that was curled in by Stephen Hunt for his brother, Noel, to head home at the near post in the 20th minute to give his side the advantage.
Chris Armstrong fired over a cross that was met by a well timed volley by Kebe but his effort flew back across goal and wide of the far post. Bywater was called into action again to block a Harper effort and Reading had the ball in the net again after 33 minutes only to be denied by the officials again. Hunt's corner was nodded back by Kevin Doyle and Noel Hunt thrashed the ball into the net only to be denied by the linesman indicating the ball was already out of play before the knock back.
Derby were struggling to get out of there half but a rare foray forward saw Commons hit a deep cross that was just to far ahead of Tito Villa for the striker to get his effort on goal. Paul Green then had a decent sight of goal as Teale's ball fell to him but he couldn't get the ball out from under his feet and Harper was back in to clear. Addison picked up a booking on the stroke of half-time before Noel Hunt headed over from a Kebe cross in the last action of the first half.
Kris Commons had a good opportunity at the start of the second half when another Teale cross found him in space but, needing to hit his shot first time, the winger took a touch and was forced onto his weaker right foot and he fired wide with the home defence closing him down. Albrechtsen made way for Claude Davies eight minutes into the second period with the Dane going off with a calf strain.
Reading began to re-assert themselves on the game as both sides probed without creating any clear chances and Nacer Barazite came off the bench in the 67th minute as Paul Jewell looked to get his side back in it but his side were further behind almost immediately. Armstrong showed determination down the left before a pinpoint cross left Doyle with a simple header to put his side two goals to the good.
There was a confusing moment after 75 minutes when Ingimarsson and Davies clashed in he area and the referee appeared to be pointing to the spot only for the decision to turn out to be a Derby free-kick. Kevin Doyle then picked up his second goal of the afternoon when given space to turn on the edge of the box and he fired home off the post with Bywater seemingly thinking the ball was going wide as he watched it in.
Addison headed a Commons cross down and the ball bounced up over the bar but it was Reading who were soon back on the attack when Long crossed low only for Stephen Hunt to stab wide of the goal. The wide man was then denied by a fine block by Davies after powering his way through two challenges as the home side looked for more goals.
Connolly and Green combined to give Barazite a sight of goal only for Hahnemann to make his first real save of the afternoon to save at the Dutchman's feet. The game petered out towards the final whistle and Derby had been well beaten by Steve Coppel's team who showed the touch of quality needed to push for promotion and who will surely be up there come May.
ever gave up even when the service dried up, easy to see why he's a fans favourite with his workrate. Couldn't quite reach a Commons cross in the first half when well placed after some good football in the build-up.
Stephen Bywater 6
Paul Connolly 6
Jordan Stewart 6
Martin Albrechtsen 7
Lewin Nyatanga 7
Gary Teale 5
Miles Addison 7
Paul Green 6
Kris Commons 6
Rob Hulse 6
Tito Villa 7
Claude Davies 7
Nacer Barazite 6
Nathan Ellington 6