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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 17:24 GMT
Reading 2-1 C Palace

James Harper's stoppage-time strike gave Reading a last-gasp victory over battling Crystal Palace at the Madejski Stadium.

Reading climbed back to third but Andy Johnson's effort 15 minutes from time looked to have denied the Royals victory after Steve Brown's first goal for Reading gave them a 65th-minute lead.

Reading striker Nicky Forster brought a solid save out of Cedric Berthelin after 10 minutes and Nathan Tyson drilled wide moments later.

Palace were dealt a blow in the 20th minute when Berthelin was forced off by a groin injury to be replaced by Alex Kolinko.

Kolinko was not given long to settle in and had to be on his toes four minutes later to block Andy Hughes' effort.

Shaun Derry tested Marcus Hahnemann on the half hour but his tame effort was easily stopped.

Both sides were reduced to long-range efforts and Forster and Tyson were off target for the hosts in the final five minutes of the half.

The goal the game desperately needed arrived on 65 minutes when Darren Powell hauled down Andy Hughes on the edge of the box.

From the resulting free-kick Tyson back-heeled the ball to Brown and his drilled effort through the wall gave Kolinko no chance.

Ten minutes later and Palace were level as Dougie Freedman capitalised on an error from Hughes and pulled the ball back to Johnson who smashed home from 16 yards.

Whelan wasted a great opportunity to put Palace ahead in the last minute of the game as Brown cleared and he was made to pay by Harper.

Luke Chadwick escaped down the left and his low cross was turned past Kolinko from close range by Harper to the delight of the home crowd.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Brown, Mackie, Chadwick, Hughes, Harper, Sidwell, Tyson, Forster. Subs: Ashdown, Watson, Viveash, Salako, Henderson.

Crystal Palace: Berthelin, Powell, Popovic, Mullins, Butterfield, Derry, Thomson, Routledge, Borrowdale, Johnson, Whelan. Subs: Kolinko, Freedman, Black, Gray, Symons.

Referee: M Fletcher (Worcestershire)

Reading's James Harper
"As soon as it went in I just wanted the ref to blow the whistle"



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