Brighton earn hard-fought point at Reading

Liam Rosenior. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

Liam Rosenior. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

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Brighton continued their unbeaten start to the Championship season with a hard-fought 1-1 draw away to Reading this afternoon.

Jamie Murphy gave the Seagulls the lead when he side-footed home on 51 minutes but the hosts levelled 12 minutes from time when Matej Vydra pounced to rifle into the roof of the net after Albion keeper David Stockdale was unable to hold Nick Blackman’s stinging drive.

The draw increased Brighton’s unbeaten start in the league to 14 games but their lead at the top of the table was cut to two points as both Hull and Burnley won.

Albion started well and enjoyed plenty of the ball, with Murphy winning an early corner, while at the other end Lewis Dunk had to be alert to clear the danger after Nick Blackman had skipped past Bruno.

Brighton keeper David Stockdale was forced into a excellent save, diving high to his left to keep out Oliver Norwood’s 22-yard free kick on 12 minutes after Orlando Sa had been brought down.

The hosts had another free kick in a dangerous position on 17 minutes when Beram Kayal brought down Blackman, whose strike from 20 yards cannonned off Kayal and behind for a corner.

From the resultant flag-kick, the Seagulls broke quickly and Murphy’s cross found Sam Baldock unmarked at the back post but he sliced the ball well wide as he looked to connect on the volley.

Reading then threatened again on 22 minutes when Andrew Taylor crossed from the left but Garath McCleary could not wrap his foot around the ball and volleyed high and wide from 15 yards.

Despite Brighton seeing plenty of the ball, it was the Royals who continued to create the better openings and Blackman glanced a header just wide of the post after Matej Vydra crossed with the outside of his right foot on 27 minutes.

Albion then began to look dangerous and had several opportunities in quick succession around the 35-minute mark. Liam Rosenior delivered a lovely cross which was a fraction too high for Tomer Hemed, before Hemed was denied by Paul McShane’s block.

From the resulting corner, Baldock had a half-volley from the edge of the penalty area deflected over and then Hemed’s diving header at the near post was tipped over by Ali Al-Habsi.

At the other end, Blackman had a curling shot comfortably saved by Stockdale on 39 minutes, before the same player fired over from 20 yards in injury-time as the teams went in level at the end of a tight first half.

After a quiet opening to the second period, Brighton went ahead on 51 minutes with a superbly worked team goal. Andrew Crofts, Bruno and Baldock were all involved, before Hemed crossed low from the right and Murphy coolly side-footed home from six yards.

Reading went close to an equaliser just four minutes later when Blackman’s low strike was cleared off the line by Rosenior.

The Seagulls then almost doubled their lead when Al-Habsi raced back to scramble Michael Hector’s back pass off the line, before Hemed headed Dale Stephens’ corner just wide at the back post.

Reading should have levelled on 61 minutes when they broke and had four in two in their favour. However, Vydra tried to pass to Blackman when one-on-one but the pass was behind his strike partner and the chance went begging.

Then, two minutes later, Blackman skipped past a couple of challenges but his low strike was kept out well by Stockdale.

Brighton responded well and then had a little spell of pressure themselves, which ended when Crofts blazed well wide from 20 yards on 68 minutes.

Reading’s Danny Williams drilled a shot just the wrong side of the far post from 25 yards on 73 minutes, before the hosts made a double substitution when they brought on Lucas Piazon and Paolo Hurtado for McCleary and Sa.

Brighton brought on Bobby Zamora and Inigo Calderon for Hemed and Bruno with 13 minutes left but the hosts levelled just a minute later.

Stockdale failed to hold Blackman’s powerfully-hit strike from 22 yards and Vyrda pounced to fire the rebound into the roof of the net for his first Reading goal.

Blackman then produced an excellent piece of skill to skip past three challenges, before he fired over from 20 yards with five minutes to go.

Reading’s Paul McShane had a header blocked in the final minute, before Brighton cleared their lines and then brought on Rohan Ince for Kayal for the four minutes of injury-time as the game finished all square.

READING: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Taylor, McShane, Norwood, Vydra, Hector, Sa (Hurtado 73), McCleary (Piazon 73), Blackman, Williams. Subs: Obita, Fernandez, Liburd, Ferdinand, Bond.

BRIGHTON: Stockdale; Bruno (Calderon 77), Hunemeier, Dunk, Rosenior; Murphy, Crofts, Stephens, Kayal (Ince 90), Baldock; Hemed (Zamora 77). Subs: Maenpaa, Goldson, Manu, March.

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