Simon Church fired Reading out of the drop zone and left Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock with plenty to ponder in a 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park

Church hit a well-taken double either side of Jimmy Kebe's strike to secure a fourth straight Championship win for the resurgent Royals.

The hosts were thrown a lifeline by Sean Scannell's header to make it 2-1, but Church's clincher leaves them outside the bottom three on goal difference only.

It could have been so different had Royals keeper Adam Federici not pulled off a stunning fingertip save to deny Darren Ambrose in the fifth minute. The 16-goal midfielder, whose free-kick came so close to knocking Aston Villa out of the FA Cup at the weekend, met Neil Danns' cross perfectly on the volley but Federici just managed to stick out an arm and keep the ball out.

Federici also blocked a Danns volley and Calvin Andrew put a free header over with Palace dominating. Yet it was Reading who went ahead in the 23rd minute with their first real attack, and former Selhurst winger Jobi McAnuff was the instigator.

Kebe found McAnuff on the right and his deep cross was met by Church, whose acrobatic volley crashed into the ground before bouncing over the despairing dive of Julian Speroni.

Church should have doubled Reading's lead when he sprung the Palace offside trap and charged through one-on-one with Speroni but his heavy touch allowed the home keeper to block.

After the break Federici pulled off another fine save to keep out another Ambrose thunderbolt, and almost immediately Reading were two up.

Brynjar Gunnarsson's cross was headed on by Palace's Nick Carle into the path of Kebe, who neatly side-footed a volley past the exposed Speroni. It could have been three moments later but Church's cheeky effort clipped the outside of a post.

Substitute Scannell stole in unmarked to head home Ambrose's corner in the 55th minute to offer Palace a glimmer of hope. But they could not find an equaliser and instead Matt Mills teed up Church to wrap up the win with nine minutes remaining.

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Topics:
Nick Carle
Reading
Calvin Andrew
Bristol City
Football
Championship
Jimmy Kebe
Brynjar Gunnarsson
Darren Ambrose
Neil Danns
Adam Federici
Julian Speroni
Sean Scannell
Aston Villa
Nick Carle
Crystal Palace
Simon Church
Jobi McAnuff
FA Cup