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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:04 21st December 2013
By  Nick Taylor

REPORT: READING 1 LATICS 2

Wigan Athletic earned a hard fought three points in the final day before Christmas after a blistering start to the game saw them 2-0 up inside 12 minutes courtesy of goals from Chris McCann and Nick Powell, with Reading's fight back making for a gripping finale after Pavel Pogrebnyak pulled a goal back.

Billy Sharp missed a penalty for the hosts before they scored, but they couldn't break through Latics' rearguard despite six minutes of added time.

Uwe Rosler made three changes to the side that started Wednesday's washout in Sheffield, with Omani international goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi returning to the starting line-up for the first time since the final game of last season against Aston Villa as he replaced the injured Scott Carson between the posts.

Jean Beausejour and Callum McManaman were also recalled into an attacking line-up as Stephen Crainey and Jordi Gomez moved to the substitutes' bench.

If Wednesday's fantastic first half performance was anything to go by, then Latics would have been expectant to start strongly once again, and true to their growing confidence they did just that as they took a two goal lead inside the first 12 minutes.

Both sides attempted to settle and win the lion's share of the possession, but on 10 minutes a smart attacking move saw the hosts come unstuck as Latics' flow took centre stage.

Attacking through the middle with intent, James McArthur fed James McClean down the left wing, setting the Republic of Ireland international up to shoot, but his blocked effort fell back and with a quick-thinking pass he teed up McCann on the edge of the area, with the central midfielder guiding the ball beautifully into the bottom left corner.

There was barely time to sit back down for the travelling supporters before they were up on their feet for a second time when Powell made it 2-0 on 12 minutes.

Escaping between Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss, the on loan Manchester United forward had only Alex McCarthy to beat, doing so despite a touch on the ball from the keeper as it nestled into the net.

Latics were right on top for a strong spell in the first half, but the Royals began to bite back as the half progressed, with Pogrebnyak forcing a solid save from Al Habsi with his sides best chance before the break.

Will Keane and Jordi Gomez were introduced to the driving rain inside the Madejski Stadium at half time as they replaced Callum McManaman and Nick Powell and they were straight into the action as Reading made Latics work.

Things became sticky for Latics just seven minutes into the second period when opening goal scorer McCann pulled down Chris Gunter in the penalty area, but from 12 yards Billy Sharp couldn't keep his composure, couldn't test Al Habsi and instead blazed his spot kick over the cross bar.

It became chance after chance at both ends for the entirety of the second half, first with McArthur firing just wide of McCarthy's left post, before Al Habsi stood tall to block a shot from Sharp as the forward raced through one-on-one.

Half time subs Keane and Gomez then forced unorthodox saves from McCarthy, but Reading were knocking harder on the door and on 68 minutes they got their reward when Pogrebnyak's header found the top corner as the Royals pulled a goal back.

The strapping Russian front man had been a thorn in Latics' side all afternoon, showing goal scoring intent with a clinical header.

Pressure continued as the home crowd grew more and more optimistic, with Latics becoming frustrated with a flurry of yellow cards acquired.

Reading were forcing the issue, but that wasn't without late chances for the visitors, with Will Keane driving the ball forwards and narrowly missing as he dragged the ball across the face of goal from the left.

McCann also burst through late on but fired over, leaving Al Al Habsi to take the plaudits with an earlier save as he kept out Pogrebnyak's thunderbolt effort down the left side of the area, with the keeper's gloves proving to be crucial in holding Reading's late surge back.

Six minutes of added time passed as Reading looked to muster one last effort from a throw in deep into Latics' territory, but the referee's whistle was music to Latics' fans ears as he blew for full time, signalling back-to-back league victories for Uwe Rosler's men.