Date: 9th February 2013 at 5:23pm
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Reading were unable to pull off any late heroics in this game, as they fell to their first defeat in seven games, as they lost 2-1 to Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

Royals boss Brian McDermott opted to make just once change to the side that beat Sunderland 3-1 last week, with January signing Nick Blackman making his first Premier League start for Reading, in place of Garath McCleary. It was a well-balanced start at the Britannia, with Peter Crouch having an early sight of goal, but couldn`t connect well enough with Ethrington`s cross.

The England international`s height was causing problems for the Royals backline and his knock down in the box created havoc, but the hosts couldn`t profit from this. Chances were few and far between in the early exchanges. Michael Kightly tried to produce a piece of magic on the right wing, but despite cutting inside of Ian Harte, the former Reading target`s effort was saved comfortably by Federici.

It took 32 minutes for either keeper to be tested and the player in question was Adam Federici. Brian McDermott`s side failed to deal well-enough with a Stoke corner, which allowed Ryan Shawcross to shank a left-footed volley at goal, which the Australian had to tip over his bar. Stoke were starting to get on top of the game, but were not going to take the lead thanks to an ambitious Peter Crouch volley, which sailed harmlessly wide.

Kightly was becoming a thorn in Reading`s side down the right and delivered a perfect cross for the chest of Crouch, but his superbly-hit volley towards goal was tipped over by Federici. From the resulting corner, Reading failed to clear and it fell to the feet of Robert Huth, who was allowed a clear strike at goal from ten yards, but Stephen Kelly made a crucial block to keep the game goalless.

The second period started slowly in a similar vein to the first, with neither keeper having to make a notable contribution. Tony Pulis` side were testing the catching ability with several crosses and long balls into the box, but the Australian was equal to them. Reading reverted to 4-4-2 and showed slight improvement, with Hope Akpan`s effort at goal testing the grasp of Begovic.

Stoke`s corner count was well into double figures, but the Royals resistance from their set-piece threat was eventually broken on 67 minutes. Matt Ethrington`s corner to the back post was inviting and rising highest was Robert Huth to head the Potters into a deserved lead. Reading were struggling to make inroads in the Stoke half, with the Potters defence standing strong.

The Premier League player of the month for January Adam Le Fondre was brought on by McDermott and the striker thought he had scored the equaliser for Reading, but Michael Oliver had already blown up for a handball on Pogrebnyak. The Royals then had half a chance on the break as Jimmy Kebe drove through the heart of the Stoke backline, but his pass for Pogrebnyak was behind the forward.

McDermott`s men would then rue this mistake, as Stoke doubled their lead at the Britannia. A ball was hit in the direction of Cameron Jerome and the substitute chested his effort down before getting away from Alex Pearce, to finish exquisitely past Federici. However, the vistitors put themselves back in the game with a goal of their own, thanks to a near post header from Adrian Mariappa.

Reading were pushing for that all important equaliser, but left themselves open to the counter attack on occasion. Glen Whelan tried his luck from 25-yards with a long-range effort and Federici could only parry to the feet of Jon Walters, but a superb last ditch challenge from Alex Pearce denied the Irishman in reinstating Stoke`s two-goal advantage.

Le Fondre had a half claim for a penalty in the dying seconds, but was waved away by Michael Oliver, much to McDermott`s dismay. It finished with the Royals leaving Staffordshire with nothing, but this is always a tough place to get points from. The majority of results went in our favour, so we just need to focus on the big games at home, against the likes of Wigan, Villa, QPR and Southampton.

Stoke: Begovic, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross (c), Shotton, Kightly, Whelan, N`Zonzi, Etherington, Walters, Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Cameron, Whitehead, Adam, Jerome, Jones, Owen

Reading: Federci, Kelly, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte, Leigertwood, Akpan, Kebe, McAnuff (C), Blackman, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Shorey, Morrison, Karacan, McCleary, Hunt, Le Fondre