Reading 3 Norwich City 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil was berated again by Norwich City's travelling support after the 10-man Canaries slumped to an eighth Championship defeat in 10 games on Boxing Day at promotion hopefuls Reading.
Neil again withdrew Nelson Oliveira, after the striker had got the visitors back on level terms, in a crazy second-half which prompted a predictably hostile reaction in a repeat of the 2-1 defeat against Huddersfield at Carrow Road prior to Christmas.
The Scot opted to introduce Cameron Jerome, after City had Jonny Howson sent-off for handling on his own line in conceding a penalty. Yann Kermorgant, who opened the scoring prior to the interval, slammed his spot kick against the bar only for Garath McCleary to slot the rebound before substitute Callum Harriott added a third in stoppage time.
Neil made two changes from the line up that lost 2-1 in the Championship at home to Huddersfield before Christmas. Alex Tettey returned with Martin Olsson dropping to the bench and Robbie Brady switched to left-back. Steven Naismith was deployed in a midfield three behind Oliveira with Youssouf Mulumbu not in the match-day squad.
Reading were willing to let Norwich's ball players have time and space in the early sparring. Graham Dorrans picked out Ivo Pinto's overlapping run but compatriot Oliveira was slow to anticipate his near post cross. Naismith then headed over Dorrans' corner after a burst to the near post.
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Brady's 25-yard free kick clipped the Royals' wall in the 16th minute after the Scottish international was clipped.
Tettey roamed forward but his shot lacked the power to trouble Ali Al Habsi. Dorrans' impressive start to the game ended in bizarre fashion when he was injured attempting to prevent Reading taking a quick free kick. Neil made his feelings known to the fourth official as Dorrans hobbled off to be replaced by Olsson, with captain Howson deployed in a more central role and Brady pushed further forward down the left.
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Reading moved through the gears after a sluggish start and cashed in on fresh set piece frailty from Norwich when Ruddy got nowhere near Liam Kelly's whipped free kick as Yermorgant rose unchallenged to glance home a header three yards out.
Jacob Murphy tried to respond in the closing stages of the first-half but guided a left-footed shot into the home fans before Tyler Blackett thwarted Howson in a goalmouth scramble.
Norwich gifted Kermorgant another headed chance eight yards out in the 54th minute but the goalscorer headed low down at Ruddy, who gathered.
City levelled on the hour mark after finally applying a cutting edge to their greater possession when Murphy cut the ball back for Oliveira to slam home.
The Portuguese was then denied by Al Habsi before the unmarked Bennett planted a header wide after rising above Naismith.
City, however, imploded again at the other end when Howson was dismissed for handling on his own line to concede a penalty.
Kermorgant slammed his spot kick against the bar but McCleary reacted quickest to bundle the ball past Ruddy. Neil responded with a double change that sparked fresh fury when Oliveira was replaced by Cameron Jerome, and Wes Hoolahan was introduced for Naismith.
City spurned a decent chance in the 89th minute when Pinto's cross was too close to Al Habsi but Harriott crashed a rising shot beyond Ruddy seconds later to seal another Norwich defeat.
• Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Blackett, McShane, L Moore, Van den Berg (Evans 65), Kelly (Swift 77), Williams, Beerens (Harriott 86), McCleary, Kermorgant. Subs (not used): S Moore, Cooper, Samuel, Watson.
• Booking: Van Den Berg (foul on Naismith, 29)
• Goals: Kermorgant (37), McCleary (68), Harriott (90+1)
• Norwich: Ruddy, Pinto, Bennett, Bassong, Brady, Tettey, Dorrans (Olsson 25), Howson, Naismith (Hoolahan 70), Murphy, Oliveira (Jerome 70). Subs (not used): McGovern, Martin, Klose, Pritchard.
• Bookings: Tettey (foul on Williams, 34); Pinto (foul on Beerens, 37)
• Sending-off: Howson (handball, 67)
• Goal: Oliveira (60)
• Time added on: 3 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)
• Attendance: 21,180 (1,483 away fans)