30th September 1995
SUNDERLAND 2 READING 2
(Sunderland: 75,89; Reading: Archie 55th min, Kerr 87th min)
Not exactly a suprise result eh?
Five away games and five draws. If we'd scored one extra goal in each of those games we'd be right at the top but as it is this latest draw drops us further down the table to 16th, as we carry on sliding.
Of even greater worry is the injury to Lee '4398342 billion' Nogan who was attacked by an evil Sunderland tackle resulting in him being stretchered off the pitch with 3 minutes remaining. The only consolation was Kerr scoring from the resulting free kick to give us a 2-1 lead right at the death. But with just a minute remaining the inevitable happened. Faced with the possibility of actually winning an away game we let them equalize. Shit.
It turns out that Nogan's injury isn't quite so bad as I first thought. He took a knock on his ankle and is doubtful for the West Brom C-C Cup game, but it's not so serious.
Heres a full report from Anne Newbery...
Chamberlain; Kubicki; Scott; Bracewell; Kelly; Melville; M Gray; Ord (Ball 70); Mullin (Smith 45); P Gray; Atkinson (Russell 84)
Mikhailov; Bernal; Gooding; Holsgrove (Codner 84); Wdowczyk; Thorpe; Gilkes; Parkinson; Nogan (Quinn 85); Lovell; Lambert (Kerr 80)
Attendance : 17,503
Reading managers Mick Gooding and Jimmy Quinn made a number of changes to the side that drew at home with Port Vale in its previous game in a bid to notch their team's first win on its travels this season. Such changes included relegating Quinn himself back to a place on the bench but keeping faith in scorer of last week's brace, James Lambert, who reverted from his leftback role to replace Tom Jones in midfield. The other change in the centre of the park saw Phil Parkinson replacing Brighton trailist, Robert Codner.
Sunderland meanwhile, unchanged and fired up after last week's vital 2-1 win at fellow challengers Millwall, knew that a win today could have been enough to take them to joint leadership. The Rokerites were strengthening their cause with the signing of David Kelly from Wolves and the former Hammer was set for his home debut.
The first half provided the visitors with few opportunities to record a much-awaited away win. Indeed much of the early action was in their half with their hosts coming close in as early as the second minute when Dariusz Kubicki's angled shot from the right edge of the area shot through the legs of Andy Bernal only to skim just inches past the far post. Minutes later Bernal was again in the thick of things, this time more effectively, when he powerfully headed clear Martin Scott's effort at the near post. Immediately on the counterattack the ball fell to the advancing Stuart Lovell whose low driven shot was deflected unwittingly by the Sunderland 'keeper. Lambert was the player following up and his clever lob just flew inches wide of the upright.
After 13 minutes a rare error by Reading's recently acquired Bulgarian shot-stopper almost lead to Sunderland's opener. His hesitation to clear let Kelly in who rounded the hapless 'keeper leaving Bernal as the last defender to bravely clear Kelly's resulting close-range effort off the line.
The play was, by this time, resembling pin-ball tactics and the visitors particularly should rue their poor first touch and an apparent difficulty to execute close ball control.
Sunderland had more than the lion's share in first half efforts and again came close in the 21st minute. Kubicki's right-wing cross found Kelly, again threatening at the far post, and he saw his headed effort fly just inches wide. Paul Bracewell put the Reading goal under further seige 4 minutes later; Scott's cross enabling the FA Cup Final veteran to unleash a powerful volley from 20 yards out which just shaved the top of the bar.
A minute later Reading's goal was threatened again; a cheeky backheel from Phil Gray picked out Brian Atkinson who coolly played the ball inside to Michael Gray deep in the crowded area but he scooped his shot over from a short distance. On the break, Nogan pushed forward menacingly only to find 2 over-attentive defenders putting paid to his efforts on this occasion and Alec Chamberlain dived at his feet to smother the ball in its path.
Nogan made a name for himself after half an hour for the *wrong* reasons when he became the first player to be cautioned after his push on an opponent deep inside the Reading half. Within a minute the sinner became the sinned *against* when it appeared that a push on the Welsh striker inside Sunderland's penalty area had illegally thwarted Reading's attack although, on this occasion, referee Mr Mathieson saw nothing wrong with the challenge and Reading's half-hearted penalty appeals were dismissed.
A couple of minutes later sustained Sunderland pressure saw a number of dangerous crosses poorly cleared by the Reading ranks until Mikhailov leapt to collect at the third attempt.
In the 35th minute an excellent ball from the middle found Lambert in acres of space on the left flank. A clever jinking run into the area left 3 defenders standing in his wake but his final ball let him down when an attempted chip failed to reach sufficient height and was blocked by a fourth defender. Lovell's attempt to break the duck a minute later forced Chamberlain to collect from his driven shot.
On the stroke of half-time, following good build-up, Nogan came close to giving the contingent of travelling fans congregated on the rare, open terracing cause to celebrate. Gooding's superb ball across the face of goal from his wide left position was intelligently left by Lovell for Nogan to strike first time; his shot just edging past Chamberlain's left-hand upright.
Both set of managers will have been disappointed with the lack of clear- cut chances offered in the first 45 minutes and undoubtedly would have been looking to rectify this after the break. They will not have been disappointed then with the events that followed.
Within 4 minutes of the re-start Kelly again came close with a thumping header following a left-wing cross from Michael Gray, himself becoming a thorn in Reading's side.
Six minutes later, however, it was the visitors who silenced the home faithful. Michael Gilkes, whose performance up till now had proved indifferent, but it was his well-placed cross from the left, deep within the Sunderland half, that was met at the near-post by Lovell and his powerful header flashed past the out-stretched arm of the advancing Chamberlain.
Lovell again was instrumental 5 minutes later in a move that saw Paul Holsgrove narrowly missing the target after his first-time strike of Lovell's cross.
Again, though, much of the play was Sunderland's and they continuted to threaten Reading's slender lead. Michael Gray, particularly, was prone to bursting dangerously clear of the Reading defence on a number of occasions and creating considerable havoc that the visitors were finding increasingly difficult to avert.
Nevertheless, the travelling support thought their lead had been doubled a minute later when a right-wing cross from Gilkes was met by a deceptive looping header that just marginally cleared the cross-bar.
With just quarter of an hour remaining again it was the home side who still looked most likely to score. Aktinson's corner from the left was punched clear by Mikhailov but only as far as the substitute Smith who hit the rebound from a very short distance. With lightning reactions Mikhailov blocked again, this time his defence averting the danger of the resulting follow-up.
Reading could be excused, however, for thinking they had bagged the full 3 points until the final minutes when a late rally justly altered the scoreline. Gooding was dispossessed on the halfway line by Bracewell - now into his third spell at Roker Park - whose shot was blocked. Kelly though had more luck with the rebound and fired home Sunderland's equaliser from close range in the 75th minute evoking a fiery passion amongst the home support, giving rise to the much acclaimed Roker Roar that had, so far, been so dormant that afternoon. Within seconds of the restart Sunderland came close to adding their second after pressure from Phil Gray resulted in Smith's cross from the left finally being plucked to safety by Mikhailov, leaping defiantly to the rescue.
In the remaining minutes it was Sunderland who looked the more inspired and they pushed for a winner whilst the visitors appeared to be looking to rely on a chance break.
With just 3 minutes remaining a clash between Nogan and an opponent saw the Reading man stretchered off to play no further part in the day's proceedings. The man to replace him, Quinn no less, was to prove instrumental in the events that ensued along with Dylan Kerr, himself an 80th minute substitute for Lambert. A direct free-kick was awarded to the Royals 20 yards out and both men stood over the ball facing an imposing looking wall of red and white. It was Kerr, though, who struck the ball sweetly and direct from the kick saw it fly decisively into the far top corner.
Reading understandably thought they had the victory signed, sealed and delivered but Sunderland were not so hasty in letting matters rest like that.
In the dying seconds of normal time a cross from the left found Andy Melville in space in the box to fire home the equaliser. Indeed Sunderand had ample opportunity to find the winner during stoppage time; Michael Gray coming closest with a superb short-range header that was miraculously finger-tipped over the bar by Mikhailov.
Sunderland will be disappointed in their failure to capitalise on home advantage and will rue the 2 points dropped against a Reading team, as yet, failing to find the form that was so crucial last season.
The Royals, meanwhile, maintain their unbeaten League sequence away from Elm Park this season but will be looking for improvements if last term's success is to be mirrored.
Anne "Nobby" Newbery
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