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Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Saturday, 22 March 2008

Reading 2-1 Birmingham

By Ian Hughes

Andre Bikey (left) heads Reading in front
Bikey (left) heads Reading in front in the first half

Two Andre Bikey headers gave Reading three vital points and deepened Birmingham's relegation fears.

The hosts almost took the lead when Stephen Hunt's drive hit the bar, but they went ahead when Bikey glanced in John Oster's free-kick on 31 minutes.

After the break, Mikael Forssell did superbly to cross low into the box for Mauro Zarate to slot in an equaliser.

But Reading snatched a crucial victory when Bikey nodded into the bottom corner from Nicky Shorey's free-kick.

Reading made a fast start to a match that both sides were desperate not to lose, with the relegation zone only a few points below them.

And the hosts almost took an early advantage, but Kevin Doyle could not stretch enough to turn in a low cross.

That set the tone for Reading's attacks as they used the flanks well, with Hunt particularly effective.

Yet they would have been chasing the game had Gary McSheffrey's shot been placed an inch inside, rather than outside, the post.

But if that was good fortune for Reading, they may have felt unlucky not to have won a penalty when it appeared Liam Ridgewell stopped Dave Kitson from reaching Oster's cross.


And it seemed it was not Reading's day when Hunt's fierce shot cannoned back off the bar a little later.

But after a scare when Radhi Jaidi headed just over from a corner, Reading took the lead when Bikey nodded in Oster's left-wing free-kick.

Birmingham, though, could have gone into the interval on level terms but Forsell poked narrowly wide from a corner.

That miss almost looked worse for Birmingham when Oster was presented with a superb chance just after the restart, but his effort flew over.

And after that let-off, Birmingham began to force the game and got their reward after some excellent forward play from Forssell.

The Finn held off Ivar Ingimarsson before delivering a low centre that Argentine Marate tucked away for his first goal in English football.

Shortly after, Forssell had a chance to put his side in front when a deflection took Jaidi's shot into his path, but keeper Marcus Hahnemann made a fine close-range stop.

But back came Reading, and Oster cut inside from the right flank before dragging a shot just wide.

And they were not to be denied a winner, which came on 79 minutes when Shorey floated in a free-kick from the right and Bikey again added the finishing touch with his head.

  • Reading boss Steve Coppell on goal hero Bikey:
    "The goals were very welcome. The second one came at a stage when we hadn't quite lost our way but they had changed their shape.

    "We're not very good at holding on, so our mentality must be to score more goals. Bikey's second was a delight.

    "At one stage I thought we would be punished for not taking our chances."

  • Birmingham manager Alex McLeish on setting a points target to avoid relegation:
    "I don't really like doing the points thing.

    "I did that for the Scotland campaign - and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said 24 points would be enough to qualify for Euro 2008. But it was not.

    "It's important we pick up some wins because it's becoming so tight. But need to keep everyone fit and stop shipping goals."

    Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster (Long 77), Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse 81), Hunt, Kitson, Doyle.
    Subs Not Used: Federici, Sonko, Kebe.

    Goals: Bikey 31, 79.

    Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Ridgewell, Jaidi, Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Nafti, McSheffrey (O'Connor 65), Forssell (Jerome 80), Zarate.
    Subs Not Used: Doyle, Parnaby, Johnson.

    Booked: Ridgewell.

    Goals: Zarate 64.

    Att: 24,085

    Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

    BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Reading's Andre Bikey on 7.54 (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
    Premier League as it happened
    22 Mar 08 |  Premier League
    Saturday's football photos
    22 Mar 08 |  Football
    How to watch Match of the Day
    08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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