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AFC Bournemouth: Cherries shock Reading with stunning away victory
CHERRIES produced a near-perfect away performance to halt their seven-match winless run with a memorable 2-1 victory at Reading this afternoon.
More than 2,300 away supporters were left in jubilant mood as first-half goals from the exceptional Lewis Grabban and Matt Ritchie proved enough.
Adam Le Fondre struck in stoppage time for the hosts but with Tommy Elphick and Steve Cook excellent at the back, Cherries comfortably played out time for a superb victory at Madejski Stadium.
Bidding to respond to the 3-0 defeat at QPR, Howe made two changes. Leading goalscorer Grabban and midfielder Eunan O’Kane replaced Brett Pitman and Shaun MacDonald, who both dropped to the bench.
The hosts, relegated from the Premier League last term, set about maintaining their promotion push by recalling Chris Gunter, Jordan Obita and Hal Robson-Kanu.
In stark contrast to Cherries’ recent run, the Royals came into the game in the play-off zone thanks to a four-match unbeaten sequence which included back-to-back wins over Nottingham Forest and Charlton.
Reading, operating a flexible midfield formation in support of striker Billy Sharp, started brightly and dominated possession in the opening exchanges.
The hosts came close to going in front with just five minutes on the clock when Sharp met a dangerous inswinging corner, but Andrew Surman was alert to clear off the line at the far post.
As Cherries struggled to get any possession, Cook received a yellow card for a late challenge on Garath McCleary as the Reading wide man threatened to burst clear on the counter.
With Reading dictating the play, Cherries’ defence stood firm and they steadily started to take the sting out of the hosts’ forward work to gain a foothold.
From a rare foray into enemy territory, Harry Arter found Surman who skipped past one man before seeing appeals for a foul waved away after his run had been abruptly halted by Kaspars Gorkss.
A slick move involving Marc Pugh and Arter released Grabban on the left but a wayward touch cost Charlie Daniels as he tried to control the frontman’s inviting low cross.
Grabban, who was beginning to cause problems with his direct running and pace, smashed high and wide with an ambitious 25-yarder – but he made no mistake moments later.
Danny Guthrie’s trip on O’Kane earned him a yellow card and Cherries a free-kick which Daniels whipped in. Elphick and Cook rose highest and after they had been unable to force the ball past the despairing dive of keeper Alex McCarthy, Grabban was perfectly placed to thump high into the net from close range.
With the home crowd falling silent, stunned Reading found themselves 2-0 down when Ritchie added another goal to his fine collection. Having netted a beauty against Brighton, the playmaker this time let fly with his less favoured right foot but it had the same result, with McCarthy unable to do anything as his low 18-yard drive flew in. Ritchie capitalised from being afforded time on the edge of the penalty area after Grabban had stretched Reading down the left flank.
Royals boss Nigel Adkins decided he had seen enough and introduced experienced striker Pavel Pogrebnyak at the break.
Ritchie curled wide following good work from Pugh and Surman but Cherries were largely forced on to the back foot as the hosts sought a route back into the clash.
Despite Reading’s intensity, though, it was Cherries who had the better opportunities. The visitors came close when Elphick glanced on a Ritchie corner, only for Pugh to arrive just too late to divert the ball on target.
A beautiful reverse pass by Arter then released Pugh, who had made an intelligent run, but the Lancastrian dragged narrowly wide from 18 yards.
Grabban’s work in attack continued to make him an excellent out-ball and his pace in behind often forced the Reading defence on to the back foot.
The 25-year-old leading goalscorer was giving Gorkss a torrid time and he almost served up a third for Cherries with a powerful cross-shot, which the on-rushing Pugh was agonisingly close to converting at the far post.
Howe introduced fresh legs in the shape of Ryan Fraser and Brett Pitman with Ritchie and Grabban having both worked tirelessly for Cherries.
Adkins called on Le Fondre in place of centre-half Gorkss as Reading prepared to throw everything at Cherries in the closing stages.
Le Fondre made an almost immediate impact when he fired home from 12 yards after a shot from fellow substitute Royston Drenthe had fallen kindly into his path.
But there was to be no late heartbreak as Cherries comfortably held on to spark jubilant scenes among players and supporters.
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss (Le Fondre, 80), Cummings, Guthrie, Williams, Obita, McCleary (Drenthe, 66), Sharp, Robson-Kanu (Pogrebnyak, h-t).
Unused subs: Kelly, McAnuff, Blackman, Federici (g/k).
Booked: Guthrie, Gunter, Drenthe
Cherries: (4-1-4-1) Camp; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels; O’Kane (MacDonald, 90); Ritchie (Fraser, 76), Surman, Arter, Pugh; Grabban (Pitman, 80).
Unused subs: Harte, Rantie, Yennaris, Flahavan (g/k).
Booked: Cook, Surman, Camp, O'Kane
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)
Attendance: 20,944 (including 2,338 away supporters)
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