Reading 1 Pompey 0

Stephen Henderson and Aaron Mokoena look on as Hal Robson-Kanu gets a header in on goal Picture: Oliver Zee
Stephen Henderson and Aaron Mokoena look on as Hal Robson-Kanu gets a header in on goal Picture: Oliver Zee
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey v Plymouth: pre-match talking points

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Pompey slumped to the foot of the Championship after falling to defeat at Reading.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Michael Appleton’s men to conquer a team sporting six successive victories.

As it was, the visitors certainly weren’t destroyed by the division’s most in-from side.

Noel Hunt scored the decisive goal in the 24th minute, heading home Jason Roberts’ low cross from the right.

But the fact the Blues failed to muster a single shot on target tells its own sorry chapter in what is proving to be a story of pain and despair.

Reading were comfortable, far too comfortable, and never had to climb through the gears to secure their triumph.

As ever, the effort and endeavour was apparent from Pompey.

However, that cutting edge continues to elude them, even with the return of Luke Varney to the starting line-up.

The reported Leeds target was given his first start in 15 matches, having been sidelined by a medial knee ligament injury.

The service was lacking, though, too often the ball into the final third glaringly absent.

It was a Tuesday night stroll for the Reading defence who were untroubled from start to finish, while their opponents laboured.

The impressive Scott Allan crashed two long-rangers wide, yet that was the sum of Pompey’s attacks on a depressing night.

The visiting fans, 1,340 of them, certainly kept their spirits up by chanting ‘We are bottom of the league’.

Among the more original chants was ‘Let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal’, followed by a cheer.

Gallows humour it’s called – and there is plenty of that attached to the Blues these days as they still remain on death row.

Still, on the pitch there was little to smile about as Pompey enjoyed plenty of possession but offered precious little in the form of goalscoring opportunities.

A 1-0 scoreline certainly does not accurately represent a match in which the visitors were always second best.

Elsewhere, Doncaster’s 2-1 victory at Nottingham Forest ensured Appleton’s men sank further down the league.

It is the first time since September 18, 2010, that the Blues have found themselves at the bottom of the Championship table.

With 12 matches remaining, they are now six points adrift of Steve Cotterill’s Forest side who are just outside the relegation zone.

The fight goes on to remain in the Championship.

Off the field of play, the battle continues to ensure the club can even fulfil their fixtures.

Still, the remarkable Fratton faithful keep coming back and still they sing loud and proud as if they don’t have a care in the world.

Having featured for 25 minutes on Saturday as a substitute, Varney was given a starting spot at the Madejski Stadium.

He replaced Marko Futacs in attack – a player who had looked increasingly weary by the match for Pompey.

The Hungarian under-21 international dropped to a bench once again without veteran striker Benjani.

There was no sign of Tal Ben Haim either, who was not included in the squad as he was suffering with a virus.

The Israeli’s place at right-back was taken by Aaron Mokoena, while the ever-versatile Greg Halford continued in the left-back berth.

The substitutes also included Kelvin Etuhu, who had returned following three matches out with a hamstring injury.

When the game kicked off, it was Alex Pearce who came close to giving Reading an early advantage.

Halford committed a foul in the eighth minute and Ian Harte whipped in a free-kick from the right which was met by the head of the central defender at the far post, but his effort flashed just over.

Moments later, Kaspars Gorkss was presented with another golden opportunity, this time in an even more dangerous position.

Irishman Harte delivered another free-kick and the defender nipped in front of Ricardo Rocha to send a low header just past the post when he should have done better.

Rocha was left grounded after that attack and had to receive treatment before returning back into the action.

In the 19th minute, a fantastic run by the lively Allan saw him carve a way through the middle of the Royals’ defence.

But Joel Ward couldn’t quite pick up his through ball inside the penalty area and the move broke down.

It was Reading, though, who broke the deadlock in the 24th minute.

Roberts whipped in a fierce low cross from the right byline and it was headed home by Hunt.

Pompey were struggling to threaten the home goal and, on 38 minutes, Jem Karacan fired in a vicious volley from 25 yards which flashed just over the bar.

The match fell flat after the break, with Reading comfortable and not looking like surrendering their advantage.

It was to be the 68th minute before Pompey had their first attempt on goal, Allan driving a 30-yarder well wide.

Moments later, West Brom loanee Allan popped up on the right and fired in an angled shot which flew comfortably over the crossbar.

It remained all Reading, however, and in the 82nd minute Jobi McAnuff’s corner was met at the far post but headed agonisingly wide by Pearce.

There was another rare Blues effort on the home goal in the 85th minute when Ward nodded a cross wide.

That was to be their final attempt as Reading cantered to a 1-0 victory, a remarkable seventh win on the spin.

For Pompey, though, it’s now just one point from their past five matches, while they have netted only one goal in that time – and that was a Greg Halford penalty.