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Ba lends hand as Toon survive

They say luck turns perverse when teams are struggling, and it was clearly the case here when, with bottom of the table Reading 2-1 up and heading for their first win of the season in the Premier League, Demba Ba equalised, using his right hand after missing Shane Ferguson's cross with his head.





Reading were the better team and deserved to have won with goals from Jimmy Kebe and Noel Hunt, both set up by the impressive Jobi McAnuff, but Ba scored with a scorching volley in reply and then the same player rescued a point in the most contentious of circumstances.

The Toon Army were clad in their customary black and white uniform, but their team sported a fetching all-plum number. When there is another strip to flog, tradition goes out of the window, but the Geordies are a canny bunch, and very few of them had fallen for the old ruse.

Both sides were back to something nearer full strength after contrasting fortunes in the League Cup in midweek and both favoured a cohesive, passing game. Too often, however, the final ball was found wanting.

Reading were buoyed by the return of Kebe, their pacy winger, and Hunt to support the main striker, Pavel Pogrebnyak. The player they would prefer to pair him with, Jason Roberts, failed a late fitness test.

With accuracy proving elusive in the final third of the pitch, the first decent chance of the match was delayed until the 30th minute, when McAnuff, from the left channel, lofted the ball into the penalty area and Pogrebnyak, six yards out, produced a testing header that Steve Harper touched over his crossbar.

After a barren first half, the game caught fire in the second, with three goals in four minutes.

Reading went ahead after 58 minutes, when McAnuff found Kebe, who fired a shot that wrongfooted the goalkeeper.

Newcastle equalised within seconds when Cheick Tiote's lovely lofted pass from deep carried over Reading's central defenders and fell inch perfect for Ba, who drove it home on the volley from a central position, 17 yards out.

Reading were ahead again in the 62nd minute, with McAnuff again the provider. The winger's cross from the left was met at the near post by Hunt, who guided his header across Harper and inside the far post.

Newcastle's late equaliser was a travesty, Reading floored by a well directed right-hander.

Two minutes from the end Roberts threatened to restore justice with a thumping drive that demanded a reaching save from Harper, but it was not be to Reading's day.

Observer

Sunday Indo Sport