Expecting a cautious affair, many were surprised by the entertaining start to today’s game. The home side looked threatening, with LeFondre forcing Guzan to get a hand to deep cross and Robson-Kanu failing to control a fine cross within the first five minutes of the game.
Seven minutes later, after Lowton found himself booked for a late challenge, Benteke made a great leap to rattle the crossbar – and Reading’s nerves.
Benteke was hard done by, getting none of the decisions he should have done.
The defending was dodgy from both sides and Weimann was presented with a decent chance to open the scoring but scuffed the ball wide.
It was the home side that took the lead in the 31st minute, although the goal was down to Baker who was defending very close to the line and rushed to clear the ball but found it bouncing off his leg and over the line.
Reading fans’ chants of ‘That’s why you’re going down’ proved to be rather premature as their lead lasted only two minutes: Weimann was allowed acres of space on the right and Benteke waited patiently for the pass. A simple cutback allowed the Belgian to smash the ball, which took a deflection off Kelly on its way to the back of the net.
The visiting Villans patiently pressed their advantage and were rewarded in injury time: Lowton head the ball for Bannan, whose deft touch saw the ball rebound for Gabby to thump home, with a little help from Reading’s Taylor.
The second half began as intensely as the first and, ten minutes in, claret and blue hearts sank as the Royals found the net thanks to Hunt who poked the ball in but it was, mercifully, ruled offside.
McDermott’s double substitution – bringing on McCleary and Blackman for Hunt and Akpan – was greeted by boos from the home fans. However, it was Blackman who made an immediate impact, seeming set to level the tie but fired wide. Villa allowed Reading, who were stepping up the gear, too much space and Blackman soon had another scoring opportunity but headed the ball over.
Villa began to attack on the break and Agbonlahor fizzed the ball wide before a well-placed N’Zogbia walloped the ball over the bar.
Reading kept pressing for an equaliser and, well aware of the home side’s recent tally of late goals, the vocal claret and blue army endured a nervy finish to the game.
Lady Luck shone on the visitors and the vital three points allowed them to leapfrog Wigan and take themselves out of the relegation zone, with a chance to bridge that gap at home against bottom side QPR next Saturday.