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22nd FebSouthgate v Reading (2-2)

3 years ago By Liz Spencer

by Dave Wright

Richard Mantell opened and rounded off the scoring as Blues drew 2-2 at Southgate on Sunday.

The whole game was played in rain and a biting cold wind which made even holding a stick difficult for some players.

But nothing troubles a player of Mantell's class and the former England defender looked the best player on the pitch.
It was one of his trademark long passes that led to Blues taking a sixth-minute lead.

Current England international Tom Carson still had a lot to do, but he showed good control before finding the net from an angle.
Reading, who had won 1-0 at the same venue in the National Cup two weeks earlier, had the better of the early exchanges.

So it was against the run of play when Southgate equalised in the 14th minute through John Sterlini. The goal gave the home side a lift and seven minutes later they look advantage of hesitancy in the Blues defence to take the lead through Italian Giulio Ferrini.
Reading, missing several regulars, were dealt another blow when Timmy Lewis limped off with a recurrence of a hamstring injury, leaving Blues with only three fit players on the bench for more than half the game.

Skipper Chris Newman was not far away from bringing Reading level, while former team-mate Darren Cheeseman twice threatened to add to Southgate's lead.
The hosts forced two penalty corners early in the second period, but it was Reading's first of the half that saw Mantell bring the scores level in the 52nd minute.

For the rest of the game there were few clear cut chances as players struggled in the atrocious conditions, but it needed keeper Kevin Pereira to make the best save of the game to prevent Fergus Dunn snatching all three points for relegation-threatened Southgate.
Reading also had a couple of half chances to win the game.

Coach Andy Watts said: "After giving away two relatively soft goals which was disappointing, I was pleased with the effort in the second half particularly as the injuries to Jonty Clarke and Timmy Lewis left us with just three on the bench.
"It is an important point as it keeps us away from Southgate and the other teams lower down in the league."

Reading remain fifth in the table, 10 points behind Wimbledon, who occupy the last of the play-off places with four matches remaining.
Blues face two away games this weekend, travelling to Hampstead & Westminster on Saturday and bottom club Canterbury on Sunday.
But they have serious selection problems through injury and international commitments, while Mantell could miss out as his wife is due to give birth this week.

To add to their problems, Reading have to decide how many of their young players they will release on Sunday, as the club also have an England Under-18 Cup quarter-final tie up at Beeston.
Watts will wait until after Thursday's training session before naming his squads.
"It is another big weekend for us," he said. "Hampstead & Westminster and Canterbury are both in the bottom four and will be fighting hard for the points."


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