Date: 30th January 2017 at 10:52am
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Reading climbed back into third-place with a hard-fought victory over Neil Warnock`s Cardiff City, thanks to Yann Kermorgant`s superbly executed second-half free kick.

Jaap Stam made just one change from the side that beat Fulham on Tuesday night, as Yann Kermorgant was restored to the starting XI ahead of Tyler Blackett, meaning Garath McCleary was used in a wing-back role. It was a bright start from Stam`s promotion hopefuls, as Swifty and GMac linked up well with a neat one-two, with the latter forcing an early stop from McGregor in the Cardiff goal.

The best chance of the game fell to Danny Williams with fifteen minutes played, as McCleary`s smart feet had the beating of Jazz Richard who was playing in a less-familiar left-wing back position. GMac got the byline and pulled back perfectly for Williams ten yards out, but in typical Williams fashion, took too many touches and allowed the Cardiff backline a reprieve – a first time finish would have seen the opener.

Cardiff finally started to break out of their shell and came almightily close themselves, as Joe Ralls picked up the scraps of a Bluebirds free kick – his low effort from the edge of the area had Al-Habsi scrambling, but luckily hit the base of the post and away. The contrast in two approaches was noticeable – direct, long ball against patient possession player, but there was nothing to separate them.

It wasn`t the prettiest game for that reason, but an opener came about with a piece of neat play from McCleary. Williams took aim from twenty yards and McGregor could only parry out to McCleary, whose inventive first time back-heel gave Swift a great chance to slot home from ten yards. A great time to score with Cardiff holding their own, but it didn`t take the visitors long to get level!

Cardiff`s set pieces were causing an issue for the hosts and it paid dividends, as Morrison was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by Liam Moore with a push, as he headed towards goal. The referee pointed to the spot to a shocked reaction around the Madejski, with Joe Ralls stepping up to roll it past Al-Habsi. It looked very soft to say the least, but a blow for the Royals going into the break.

Warnock`s men came out in the second half the better side and Hoilett forced Al-Habsi into an early save, as he found a pocket of space in the left side, but the Omani stopper parried well. Gunnarsson`s long throws were causing an issue with the height of the Cardiff team, but Stam`s men weather the storm well enough. As we struggled to get back into the game, it was a set piece of our own that was the difference.

The returning Kermorgant was fed the ball on the edge of the box, but was hacked down cynically by Sol Bamba, the referee insisted on not playing the advantage and it was a good thing he didn`t. The Frenchman stepped up himself to wrong-foot McGregor on the keepers` side and put Reading back in front with an impressive finish. Cardiff were now starting to look tired as Reading searched for a third.

Kermorgant nearly had himself a second goal in as many minutes, as he was slipped through on goal, he evaded the onrushing McGregor but took the ball too wide to finish, so instead looped the ball to the back post, but Halford was on hand to clear. From the resulting set piece, it was nearly a goal made in Ireland as McShane attacked Kelly`s inviting corner, but the skipper couldn`t get his header on target.

Cardiff were maintaining their direct approach in an attempt to get back into the game, but struggled to create any clear cut opportunities. Neat interchange from Beerens and McCleary forced McGregor to parry a low cross, as the Royals looked for a killer goal to fend off the away side. Substitute Kadeem Harris made a good impact, as his low, inviting cross wasn`t met by a team mate in red.

Harris again seemed the likely outlet for Cardiff to get back into the game – this time he had an effort of his own, but his low strike went just wide of the post. Reading were dropping deeper and deeper as four minutes of injury time approached at the Madejski, but they stood their ground to see out the three points and rise back into third position ahead of Leeds United in the table.

The game was far from a classic, but an important three points nonetheless, as we beat Cardiff for the first time since the 05/06 season at home. It gives us a healthy eight-point gap between third and Barnsley in seventh, but Derby have a game in hand close behind. It also takes us to 52 points, the same amount as the whole of last season! Kudos to Jaap Stam again, onwards and upwards!

Reading – 3-5-2: Al-Habsi; Moore, McShane, Van den Berg; McCleary, Swift, Kelly, Williams, Gunter; Beerens, Kermorgant.
Subs: Jaakkola, Blackett, Obita, Evans, Meite, Mendes, Samuel.

Cardiff City – 5-3-2: McGregor; Peltier, Halford, Morrison, Bamba, Richards; Ralls, Gunnarsson, Hoilett; Healey, Zohore.
Subs: Murphy, Connolly, John, Noone, Whittingham, Harris, Kennedy.