Long On Hand To Stun Rams
Two goals from Shane Long gave Reading an unlikely 2-1 victory at Pride Park yesterday but in truth it was The Rams profligacy in front of goal teamed with a number of fine saves from Adam Federici in the visitor`s goal that turned the match. After a slow first half that saw them trail at the break to a Long penalty Derby came out of the blocks in the second period and threw everything at Reading and looked set for all three points after a diving header from Kris Commons levelled the scores just after the hour mark. However, further chances came and went for Luke Moore and Commons and Alberto Bueno also went close as The Rams should have been out of sight by the time a late hanging cross into the area was badly misjudged by Stephen Bywater allowing Long the simple task of heading into the unguarded net. The strike condemned Derby to a fourth defeat in a row in unlikely circumstances although positives can be taken from the second half performance.
Nigel Clough made only one change to the side that lost 2-0 to Bristol City last weekend with Dean Moxey coming in for Gareth Roberts who had not sufficiently recovered from a calf-injury picked up in that match, there were also returns on the bench for Robbie Savage and James Bailey. The Rams were looking to get back on the front foot from the off and nearly had the perfect start on four minutes when Luke Moore laid the ball back to Alberto Bueno who turned neatly inside the area only to see his low shot come back off the far post with Adam Federici beaten in the Reading goal. It wasn`t all one way traffic though with the visitors looking dangerous on the break with the pace of Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff keeping Derby`s defence on their toes.
McAnuff had a shot deflected wide of the mark by Dean Leacock just after the midway point of the half with the visitor`s first serious effort and Noel Hunt then directed an effort over the top when well placed inside the area as McAnuff again caused problems down the left before firing in a low cross. At the other end a deflected Commons free kick fell to Stephen Pearson who hit his shot first time on his weaker right foot but Federici made a sharp save to deny him and the Australian reacted superbly again to keep out a Luke Moore effort as the on-loan striker turned sharply inside the area and hit a firm effort after a good run from John Brayford. With three minutes to go in the half Reading took the lead after a neat ball to release Shane Long in the area saw the striker tugged back by Shaun Barker with the referee pointing to the spot, Long picked himself and fired the penalty past Bywater to give his side the lead at the break.
Nigel Clough made two changes to the side at halftime with Dean Leacock and Stephen Pearson being replaced by Robbie Savage and James Bailey meaning John Brayford moving to the centre of defence and Paul Green lining up at right back. The Rams started the second half in the same vein and Bueno came close with a free kick from just outside of the area only for Federici to touch it over for a corner. Reading where not sitting on their lead though and Bywater pulled off a superb low save to touch a Hunt effort around the post and Long then saw his header strike the bar after winning a cheap free kick out wide. The Rams kept flowing forward and were rewarded with an equaliser on sixty-two minutes when Green`s cross from the right picked out an unmarked Commons and his diving header diverted the ball wide of Federici and into the corner of the net.
Bywater blocked an effort at close range from Simon Church three minutes later as the striker latched onto a neat McAnuff through ball and Federici was again called into action at the other end this time blocking at point-blank range from Moore after neat work from Bueno and Commons teed him up almost inside the six-yard area. Tomasz Cywka and Bueno both flashed efforts narrowly wide as Derby continued to press for the winner and Moore again curled an effort inches wide of the far post after being played in by Commons as the chances piled up. The Rams were made to pay for their wayward finishing with two minutes on the clock as a deep McAnuff ball into the area was misjudged by Bywater who was left stranded in no mans land allowing Long to head the ball into a virtually unguarded net to put them back in front. With only added time remaining Commons clipped the top of the bar with a free kick from just outside of the area but his side couldn`t find a second equaliser and they left the field wondering how they managed to lose an entertaining encounter.
Derby County: Bywater, Brayford, Moxey, Leacock (Savage 46), Barker, Green, Cywka, Pearson (Bailey 46), Commons, Bueno (Porter 86), Moore.
Subs: Deeney, O'Brien, Hendrick, Pringle.
Reading: Federici, Griffin, Karacan (Howard 82), Mills, Leigertwood, Long, Hunt (Church 65), McAnuff, Kebe (Robson-Kanu 77), Harte, Pearce.
Subs: Tabb, Khizanishvili, Antonio, McCarthy.