Date:Saturday March 25 2006
Reading finally gained their historic promotion to the top flight but Leicester City completed the month of March unbeaten and gave the runaway Championship leaders a real scare at the Walkers today.
Not only did they lead the game until five minutes from time through a brilliant Iain Hume goal after 37 minutes but they had notable chances to have clinched victory instead of a 1-1 draw.
Closest were two trademark Joey Gudjonsson long range free kicks.
The first, only three minutes after City's goal, thundered against the base of the right hand post with The Royals goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann beaten.
Then, in the second half Gudjonsson hit a 40-yarder which moved so much in the air that Hahnemann looked mesmerised and only saved through the ball deflecting to safety off his outstretched left foot as he fell backwards.
Leicester rode early pressure and were doubly lucky to escape in the 10th minute when Reading's livewire striker Kevin Doyle appeared to be fouled by City centre-back Paddy McCarthy, an offence which, if given, would have meant a penalty to Reading and Mccarthy's sending off.
However, the refereee gave nothing and it was Leicester who went ahead when Iain Hume collected a brilliant 9th League goal of the season.
Matty Fryatt was the creator. Gaining possession on right midfield with seemingly little support, he evaded various Reading defenders before working the ball to Hume who manoeuvered right in typical style to blast home from the edge of the box.
Such was Leicester's competence that they completed the half without goalkeeper Ian Henderson having to make a save.
Gudjonsson had his two free kicks, Henderson then made two important saves before offside decisions denied Matty Fryatt and Iain Hume in quick succession when both would have had only the keeper to beat.
With half an hour to go Leicester seemed to have blunted the Reading goal machine that had scored 81 goals up to kick off and, indeed, with Hume and Fryatt a constant danger to the visitors' defence, another Leicester goal seemed the more likely as Reading started risking more to go forward.
However the non-stop harrassing by City's strikers plus some heavy treatment they received, took a toll and while Steve Coppell made attacking substitutions, Leicester eventually took both their battered and exhausted strikers off in favour of Chris O'Grady and Andy Welsh during the last 15 minutes with the apparent intention of taking the sting out of the game and closing out victory.
It didn't work. In the 85th minute a corner by James Harper was touched on by Ivar Ingimarsson and Kevin Doyle was there to head a simple goal from five yards out.
It was a cruel blow to Leicester and there would have been worse to follow but for Paul Henderson making a spectacular dive to deflect Stephen Hunt's fierce close range drive. It was a fitting climax to what was probably Henderson's best game in a City jersey.
Gareth Williams then had a blistering drive blocked, Stephen Hughes fashioned a 'goal' from a move down the left which was denied for offside and a Williams free kick was half cleared to Richard Stearman whose precisely aimed jump-volley was just touched over the bar by Hahnemann as he back-tracked hurriedly.
Gudjonsson's resulting corner just missed going in at the far post to climax a thrilling draw.
Reading earned their promotion to the top division of English football for the first time in their 135 years history and Leicester made it three wins and a draw for the month of March.
It was their first unbeaten month's football this season and took Kelly's record in 10 matches to six wins, three draws and one defeat from a singularly difficult sequence of fixtures.
The result maintained City's position at 16th in the table, 11 points clear of relegation or effectively 12 clear with goals difference and with only six games now remaining.
It was, however, a measure of the progress made that Leicester finished disappointed with a draw having fought to within five minutes of a deserved win over the team which will shortly win the Championship by the proverbial mile.
There were some stirring performances.
Hume rated man of the match for his goal and constant menace but Richard Stearman, Paddy McCarthy, Paddy Kisnorbo and Nils Johansson worked tirelessly to neutralise a potent Reading attack.
And, in midfield, Gareth Williams, Joey Gudjonsson and Stephen Hughes stiffled so many Reading moves at source that Henderson, while excellent at times, was rarely busy.
Generally it was a performance to be generally proud of and one with plenty of entertainment value.
Leicester: Henderson, Stearman, McCarthy, Kisnorbo, Johansson, Maybury, Gudjonsson, Williams, Hughes, Hume (Welsh 84), Fryatt (O'Grady 78). Subs not used: Gerrbrand, Douglas, Hammond.
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster (Long 61), Harper, Gunnarsson, (Sidwell 61), Convey (Hunt 80), Kitson, Doyle. Subs not used: Stack, Makin.
Referee C Penton.
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|Sheff Wed||2||-||1||Leicester City|
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