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Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 16:55 UK

Derby 0-4 Reading

By Jonathan Stevenson

Reading striker Kevin Doyle is dejected after relegation
Reading's players were left devastated by relegation

Reading beat Derby with some ease at Pride Park but were still relegated to the Championship after Fulham's late victory away at Portsmouth.

The Royals needed to better Fulham's result to stay up, but Danny Murphy's goal condemned them to the second tier.

Reading went ahead when James Harper curled a fine shot into the top corner.

Dave Kitson converted Leroy Lita's cross, Kevin Doyle prodded in a third and Lita powered in a late header - but it was not enough for Reading.

The visitors were cruelly relegated on goal difference - a heartbreaking end to the season for Royals fans and manager Steve Coppell.

Their two-year stay in the Premier League comes to an end and it is hard to believe that a year ago on the final day, Reading travelled to Blackburn looking for a win to earn a place in the Uefa Cup.

Coppell wants to assess the season before making any decisions

As for Derby, their 29th defeat of a wretched season means they equalled Loughborough Athletic and Football Club's 108-year Football League record of going through an entire season with only one win.

For the Rams fans who have suffered so much this campaign, the writing was on the wall early on as Reading raced out of the blocks.

Keen to get an early goal to pile more pressure on Fulham at Fratton Park, they poured forward - with Lita causing the Derby defence all sorts of problems with his electric movement.

He raced through twice in the early stages only to be denied by Roy Carroll, while Marek Matejovsky dragged a cross-shot wide.

With 15 minutes on the clock and 566 minutes since Reading's last goal, the Royals struck in decisive fashion.


Kitson teed up Harper on the right-hand edge of the penalty area, he cut in past a defender and unleashed a sumptuous left-foot curler into the top corner.

The Reading fans exploded into life, knowing that if results stayed the same elsewhere, they would be playing Premier League football next season.

Their team was dominant as Derby continued to produce a performance typical of their season, with mis-placed passes and defensive slip-ups once more the order of the day.

David Jones did force Marcus Hahnemann to parry a low shot away, before Carroll denied Lita for a third time as the interval approached.

Jewell is furious with the Rams' performance

Derby made two changes at half-time but it made no difference whatsoever as Reading pushed forward for the killer second goal - Lita having a shot blocked by Darren Moore.

Just after the hour mark they doubled their advantage, Nicky Shorey's 25-yard shot saved by Carroll and Lita neatly turning the ball goalwards for Kitson to poke home from two yards.

With the game as good as won, Reading fans turned their attentions to their radios, knowing that one Fulham goal at Portsmouth would send them down.

As they nervously awaited news their own display got better as Doyle, just on as a substitute, crossed from the right and was then on hand to prod in from three yards after two Derby defenders failed to clear their lines.

But with 15 minutes remaining, news filtered through that Fulham had scored at Pompey and Reading were suddenly staring into the abyss.

Lita got the goal his display deserved as he bulleted in an injury-time header from Stephen Hunt's right-wing cross, but it was a meaningless goal.

Fulham held on to victory at Fratton Park and Reading were consigned to relegation.

Derby: Carroll, Mears, Moore, Nyatanga, Lewis, Sterjovski (Edworthy 46), Savage (Feilhaber 46), Ghaly, Jones, Villa (Simmons 63), Miller.
Subs Not Used: Price, Addison.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Duberry, Shorey, Oster, Harper (Bikey 86), Matejovsky (Cisse 83), Hunt, Lita, Kitson (Doyle 66).
Subs Not Used: Federici, Kebe.

Booked: Doyle.

Goals: Harper 15, Kitson 61, Doyle 69, Lita 90.

Att: 33,087.

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Reading's James Harper (7.33 on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
BBC pundits on the Premier League
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Coppell dodges Reading exit talk
11 May 08 |  Reading
Hodgson relieved by narrow escape
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Abuse may force out Blues chief
11 May 08 |  Birmingham City
Birmingham 4-1 Blackburn
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Portsmouth 0-1 Fulham
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Premier League finale as it happened
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Premier League photos
11 May 08 |  Football
Garth Crooks's team of the week
24 Feb 08 |  Score on BBCi

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