DONCASTER Rovers were blown off course in their efforts to climb up the Championship table as the Royals ruled at a windswept Keepmoat Stadium. The Royals have proved something of a bogey team for Rovers over the years and Rovers had beaten them just five times in 39 games prior to Saturday.
Having been unlucky to lose 4-3 at the Madejski Stadium in October after leading 3-1 at one stage in the second half, Rovers had fancied their chances going into the return on a ground where they had lost only once in the league.
But the Royals, now beaten just once in their last 12 games, completed the double far more comfortably than they could ever have envisaged would be the case.
Rovers were but a shadow of the side which had played so well against Premier League Wolves in the FA Cup on the same ground a week earlier for over an hour, and will have to raise their game considerably in tomorrow's replay at Molineux if they are to entertain any realistic hopes of upsetting the odds.
Yet prior to the visitors taking the lead Rovers had undoubtedly been the better side.
Midfielder John Oster, who played 76 games for the Royals earlier in his career, tested keeper Adam Federici with a fierce 20-yarder and right-back James O'Connor twice just failed to get on the ball when well placed in front of goal.
O'Connor had moved across the backline to make way for new loan signing Matthew Kilgallon who must have hoped for a happier debut.
"I was disappointed with the result," he said. "They were sloppy goals really.
"I've seen how good Donny are when I've watched them on telly and we can do a lot better than that. We've got to start keeping a few clean sheets and give the other lads half a chance of working their magic.
"They had two wide men who were fast and good on the ball and they had two lads up front who work hard so they've always got half a chance. I think that they'll do well this season."
Reading broke the deadlock on 29 minutes when Jimmy Kebe, who proved a thorn in Rovers' side in the first half, picked out leading scorer Shane Long in the box and the Republic of Ireland striker showed just why he is reportedly interesting several Premier League clubs with a clinical finish.
Reading have not lost this season after taking the lead, and that statistic never looked like being seriously challenged by a Rovers side which uncharacteristically lost their way after going behind.
Reading could have been awarded a penalty on another day when Long took a tumble in the box after Kilgallon had appeared to make contact.
Long also went close just before the break.Rovers looked set to give it a go in the early stages of the second half but the score they needed to get back into the frame eluded them.
The nearest they came to a goal was when O'Connor - who had denied Jobi McAnuff what would have been a great scoring chance with a tackle from behind a couple of minutes earlier - combined with James Coppinger to set up Billy Sharp whose shot on the turn appeared to strike Reading skipper Ivar Ingimarsson on the arm.
Rovers made a double substitution on the hour with Martin Woods, getting his first taste of first-team action since the game at Reading, coming on for defender Sam Hird, and injury-plagued striker Steve Brooker taking over from James Hayter, who had suffered from a lack of chances.
Both men contributed to the Rovers' cause with Woods shooting just wide from outside the box late on and Brooker, who went close with a header, giving them a different option in attack.
Reading should doubled their tally on 64 minutes but McAnuff seemed to get the ball caught in his feet in front of goal from Long's ball.
The 500 or so Reading fans in the disappointing gate of 9,496 didn't have to wait too much longer to cheer a second goal.
The impressive Mikele Leigertwood picked out Kebe with a long ball down the right and h he in turn spotted Sullivan was off his line and lobbed him from 25 yards out.
As Rovers have found out to their cost on several occasions, a two-goal lead isn't always enough, but they rarely looked like mounting any sort of comeback.
Reading hammered the final nail into Rovers' coffin on 74 minutes when an attempted clearance by George Friend took an unlucky deflection off McAnuff, who was challenging for the ball, and ended up in the back of the net.
No-one in the Rovers' camp was more disappointed with the result than Oster.
"We came out in the first half and we looked to be the team that was sort of in the ascendancy and we played quite well up to them scoring their first goal," he said.
"We seemed to go back in our shell a little bit and didn't really organise too well (for the rest of the half).
"We came in at half-time and we spoke about how we needed to get back to how we'd started the game and I thought we did that.
"We came out for the second half and we started okay again, but gave another cheap goal away.
"We go on about how scorelines affect mentality and I think that is what happened. They've scored at the right time and it killed our momentum.
"It was personally disappointing for me with Reading being one of my old teams. I desperately wanted to win this one after giving away such a commanding lead down at the Madejski.
"But we didn't play anywhere near our capabilities. It was difficult. The pitch was quite bouncy and a bit bobbly, and the wind got up, but you can't use that as an excuse.
"At the end of the day it was the same for them, and they basically played the pitch and the conditions better than we did."
WE started the game really well and what was disappointing was that after we conceded, and I can't remember ever seeing it before, we seemed to be at odds with ourselves. Because of that we created an environment where people couldn't make a mistake.
When they made a mistake there wasn't really a reaction throughout the team.
Shane Long was a threat. I said before the game that he should be playing in the Premiership and I dare say before long that he will, either with Reading or with another club.
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