Long makes Pilgrims pay penalty: Match Review

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Shane Long hit a stoppage-time penalty as Reading edged closer to escaping the Coca-Cola Championship relegation zone with a vital 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Plymouth.

The Republic of Ireland international had failed to register a single league strike all season until Brian McDermott was named as permanent manager last month but has now scored in three-straight wins for the Royals after his brace denied the visitors a point.

The hosts had dominated the first period but looked out of sorts in front of goal until Long's cool 51st-minute finish.

Argyle skipper Carl Fletcher then looked to have earned the Pilgrims a draw with a scrappy finish but Long had the last word with a debatable spot-kick which leaves Paul Mariner's side staring at relegation to League One.

Reading, meanwhile, are just a point shy of safety after their best run of form all season and will be confident of keeping their place in the second tier of English football.

McDermott's in-form side made an understandably bright start and Long almost scored inside two minutes but his header from an excellent Jobi McAnuff cross was well blocked.

Simon Church then wasted another great chance to cap Reading's early dominance with a goal when Brynjar Gunnarsson played him in, but the Wales striker took too long to get a shot away and Reda Johnson made a good challenge to deny him.

Church was then guilty of another bad miss on the half hour mark.

Long and McAnuff linked up well down the right and the former Watford winger sent in an early cross which cut out the Plymouth defence perfectly.

Church took a touch to steady himself but shot wildly over the crossbar from 10 yards out.

Mariner made a double change at the interval, bringing on Craig Noone and American striker Kenny Cooper, and the visitors enjoyed a positive start.

Jamie Mackie forced Adam Federici into his first save of the night with a low shot from the edge of the area, and from the resulting corner Gary Sawyer came close to an opener but hit his instinctive volley straight at the Australian goalkeeper.

It was a good chance for the visitors but a minute later Long struck to put the Royals ahead.

A loose ball in midfield was poked forward and Long sped away from the despairing challenge of Kari Arnason and confidently planted the ball across David Stockdale and into the far corner.

It was a moment of class amongst the panic of a relegation six-pointer and Long went close to a second when he shot wide following smart play from Church.

To their credit, the visitors kept coming at Reading and drew level through Fletcher in the 68th minute.

A sweeping pass from the left flank found Chris Clark vacant at the far post and he cut the ball back for Cooper.

The on-loan 1860 Munich striker saw a powerful shot blocked on the goalline, but the ball fell for captain Fletcher to drive home from eight yards out.

Both sides worked tirelessly to try and find a winner and it was the Royals who won a penalty when Clark bundled over substitute Hal Robson-Kanu.

Long stepped up and blasted his penalty down the middle - his fourth goal in three games - to leave Royals fans relieved.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Kari Arnason
Hal Robson-Kanu
Carl Fletcher
League One
Brynjar Gunnarsson
David Stockdale
Adam Federici
Gary Sawyer
Jamie Mackie
Shane Long
Reda Johnson
Simon Church
Jobi McAnuff
Craig Noone
Plymouth Argyle
Chris Clark

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