Date: 8th March 2014 at 5:12pm
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A second-half goal from Royston Drenthe kept Reading in the play-off spaces, albeit maybe for a short time, after the Royals drew 1-1 with ten man Brighton at the Amex Stadium.

Nigel Adkins sprung a few surprises in his starting line-up, partly to do with injuries, but also due to international call-ups & long travelling for some individuals. Gorkss and Williams were rested, while Williams and Pogrebnyak picked up injuries during the week, which meant rare starts for Nick Blackman and Royston Drenthe, a place for Danny Guthrie and a first start for Michael Hector.

Drenthe would have been keen to make a point to his manager in his start in nearly three months and he nearly did just that, as he beat two players on the left, before firing in a shot-cross, which the keeper palmed away, only into the path of Adam le Fondre, but his volley was blocked well. As Reading started the game the better, disaster well and truly struck in the Royals back line.

A cross came into the Reading penalty area, which McCarthy went to claim but failed to do so, yet Chris Gunter attempted to head it back to his keeper, only to find him not there, with the ball going into his own net. Hope Akpan attemped to get the sides back on level terms after good work from Obita, but his shot went nowhere near to troubling Kuszczak in the Brighton goal.

It was a fairly disappointing second quarter of the game after a bright first one, with both sides having an equal amount of possession and Reading having the only shot on target, which was blocked anyway. The half time whistle sounded in what was a rather slow-paced game at the Amex Stadium, with a comical own goal separating the sides at the break.

Adkins` side started the second period well, keeping the ball around the Brighton penalty area, but Royston Drenthe had the only effort of note, which was awful to say the least. Then was to come a potential turning point, as Seagulls skipper Gordon Greer was shown a second yellow card for a bodycheck on le Fondre – the defender didn`t have many complaints with the decision.

We couldn`t score against eight men last week, so maybe this wasn`t as good as we thought! We did start to a take a stranglehold of the game though, as Akpan`s goalbound effort was blocked away well. The blocks kept on coming from the Brighton backline, as Drenthe also had an effort blocked away for a corner. Guthrie and Blackman also had efforts, but nothing to test Kuszczak.

The pressure of the extra man did eventually tell though, as the Royals got an equaliser just after the hour mark. Royston Drenthe got his first goal for the Royals and it was a very good finish too, getting the ball onto his stronger left-foot on the edge of the box, before firing low into the corner of the net. A great response from Reading since the break, irrelevant of the extra man.

Brighton did have the ball in the net, but was thankfully ruled out by the linesman for offside. Blackman forced Kuszczak into a good, low save, before Buckley went up the other end and had a good chance to put Brighton back in front, but placed his effort just wide of the post. It was becoming a very open game on the south-coast, with the Seagulls now coming back into it.

Substitute and skipper Jobi McAnuff came on and within minutes had the best chance of the afternoon, as he skipped past the last Brighton defender and went through on goal, only for Kuszczak to save well with his chest – what a chance it was to give the Royals the lead! McAnuff again forced the Polish international into a save, with a low effort as the 90 minute approached.

It wasn`t all one way though as we went into final six minutes of injury time, as Ulloa forced McCarthy into a smart save at his near post. The final whistle went and despite our late pressure, we couldn`t find a winner at the Amex. I suppose a point against Brighton is a good result as we really couldn`t afford to lose this one if we want to remain within the play-off race.

We are still sixth, but with Wigan with two games in hand and Brighton having one game in hand on us, you cannot really call us favourites for that last play-off spot. Our next two games against Leeds and Derby are games we really need to get points from over the next week, at least winning one of them. Let`s remain positive, as there are still 12 games to play for yet.

Brighton – 4-3-3: Kuszczak, Bruno, Greer, Upson, Ward, Andrews, Ince, Forster-Caskey, David Lopez, Lingard, Ulloa
Subs: Ankergren, Dunk, Calderon, Buckley, March, LuaLua, Obika

Reading – 4-2-3-1: McCarthy, Gunter, Hector, Pearce, Obita, Guthrie (c), Akpan, Drenthe, Blackman, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
Subs: Federici, Gorkss, Kelly, Tshibola, J.Taylor, McCleary, McAnuff