Reading FC miss chances, but Pearce makes a point at Doncaster RoversBy Jonny Fordham
March 14, 2012
The table has literally turned upside down since Reading last played Doncaster Rovers.
Sitting pretty, second from top after last night’s 1-1 draw, Royals could have slipped to level bottom had they not defeated Rovers 2-0 on September 17.
Fast-forward six months and a place in the Premier League remains in their own hands after Alex Pearce’s equaliser scrubbed out Kyle Bennett’s first-half opener.
Two points now separate Brian McDermott’s side and leaders Southampton who welcome Reading to St Mary’s on Friday, April 13.
Royals have not lost away to Rovers in 30 years and made things hard for themselves by spurn-ing a number of gilt-edged opportunities.
For the fourth game running McDermott named an unchanged side, picking the same 11 players that had been instrumental in cementing their eight-game winning streak.
Centre-back Pearce, who saw an effort cleared off the line against Leicester City just three days earlier, was cursing his luck yet again as much-maligned Rovers skipper El-Hadji Diouf deflected his header off the line after five minutes.
Not to be outdone, Dean Saunders’ Rovers broke with pace and purpose immediately and Pascal Chimbonda rifled a shot over Adam Federici’s crossbar in a warning to Royals.
Unlikely danger man Pearce then missed another chance five minutes later when the unstoppable Harte picked him out unmarked at the back post from a corner.
Despite being in the thick of a relegation battle, Doncaster showed the confidence and technical ability to pass the ball around Royals in an end-to-end encounter.
Reading’s profligacy in front of goal began to be a worry and McDermott’s frustrations from the dugout were clearly visible.
In an exact carbon copy of the previous two efforts missed by Pearce, Mikele Leigertwood headed over the bar on the 20-minute mark.
Noel Hunt was the next marksman unable to make Rovers pay for their defensive frailties as he nodded wide from Harte’s in-swinging free-kick.
Then, in a cruel twist of fate, disaster struck as Bennett converted for Rovers when he poked home a Diouf cross at the far post.
Embarrassed by conceding after wasting so many clear-cut chances, Royals huffed and puffed as they looked to make amends.
Roberts, Hal Robson-Kanu and Jobi McAnuff were then all guilty of an inability to hit the target or beat Carl Ikeme between the posts.
Not capable of hitting back before the break, Royals came out fighting after the interval with renewed vigour.
More Harte set-pieces were misjudged by Rovers’ slight rearguard and Pearce took advantage when he beat Fredric Piquionne at the far post to head home the left-back’s corner on 50 minutes.
Pandemonium then ensued among the 546 travelling fans behind the goal with second place rightly theirs.
Pearce, who was on fire both in defence and attack, almost bagged a brace when he chested a cross before volleying towards goal in the 75th minute as he looked more like a cultured striker than no-nonsense defender.
McDermott threw on Adam Le Fondre and Jay Tabb for Jem Karacan and Robson-Kanu as he looked for maximum points.
But there was to be no super-sub to win it on this occasion as has so often been the case this season. A fifth consecutive Championship victory over Rovers wasn’t to be.
The pressure is now well and truly on the Hammers, who have spent big in their efforts to bounce straight back into the Premier League.
Doncaster Rovers (4-3-3): Ikeme, Chimbonda, Spurr, Hird, Beye, Gillett, Bennett, Barnes, Diouf (C), Piquionne, Coppinger.
Subs not used: Oster, Hayter, Lockwood, Robert, Ilunga.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici, Cummings, Harte, Pearce, Gorkss, Karacan (Tabb, 64), Leigertwood, McAnuff (C), Robson-Kanu (Le Fondre, 64), Hunt, Roberts.
Subs not used: Andersen, Tabb, Cywka, Church, Le Fondre.
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire).
Attendance: 8,287 (546 away).