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Royals hopes dented at Derby

Early goal forces Rams to battle back in promotion battle

Malcolm Howe



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DERBY bounced back from conceding at home for the first time in nearly 13 hours to dent Royals promotion hopes at Pride Park.

John Swift put Reading in front but Darren Bent equalised before half-time and Tom Ince and Will Hughes turned the game around.

Yakou Meite set up a tense finish that saw Reading's Jordan Obita sent off deep in added time, but Derby held on.

Reading gave a debut to new signing Tiago Ilori while Derby made four changes to the team beaten at Leeds, although B £2.5m signing David Nugent missed out with a knee injury,and it was Ilori who almost let in Derby when he slipped, allowing Johnny Russell to break down the left in the 10th minute, but his cross was over-hit. Reading responded with a strong run from Garath McCleary, who shot wide from just inside the area.

No visiting team had scored at Pride Park since September 24, but that run ended in the 16th minute when Liam Kelly burst into the box and crossed low for Swift to turn the ball in at the near post. The goal reflected Reading's superiority as they were given too much space in midfield to create openings, but Derby were level in the 36th minute when the visitors failed to clear a corner.

Tom Ince played the ball wide to Richard Keogh and his cross from just outside the area was chested in by Bent from six yards. The former England striker then fired over three minutes later when an Ince free-kick was half-cleared.

Reading lost their composure and the game became heated when Keogh was caught by Swift, who was booked, before Russell dragged a shot wide in stoppage time after a great pass from Hughes.

The visitors needed to regroup at half-time and they started the second half positively, with Yann Kermorgant forcing Scott Carson to turn a 20-yard shot behind, but a loose pass from Reading proved costly in the 63rd minute when the ball broke off Hughes and Craig Bryson played Ince in to beat Ali Al Habsi from 10 yards.

The momentum was now with Derby and Reading were getting ready to make a double substitution when the home side scored a third in the 74th minute. Marcus Olsson made a run down the left before Russell crossed and when Olsson's shot was blocked, Hughes pounced to find the bottom right corner from 12 yards.

Reading had to respond quickly and they pulled one back in the 80th minute when Meite was unmarked at a corner to head in at the back post and six minutes of stoppage time gave Reading hope and they almost equalised when McCleary just failed to connect with a corner at the back post before Obita was shown a second yellow.

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