Memory Match: Reading v PNE
It only seems like five minutes since Preston North End were making the trip south to Berkshire.
April 30 was the date as Simon Grayson’s side triumphed 2-1 in their final away game of last season at Reading.
A late goal from Daniel Johnson sent the travelling support into raptures as PNE picked up their first league win at the Madejski Stadium, their only other success having come in an FA Cup replay in January 2004.
Johnson struck in the 91st minute, tucking a low shot past the Royals keeper Ali Al Habsi to complete a dramatic finale.
Jermaine Beckford had given North End a 55th minute lead, latching on to Johnson’s through ball to lift a shot into the net.
It was an advantage they deserved after dominating the first half and carving out chance after chance.
Reading looked to have denied them the three points in the 86th minute though, Stephen Quinn finding the bottom corner with a low shot from the edge of the box.
A draw would have been scant reward for Simon Grayson’s men and thankfully there was time for Johnson to pop up and net his ninth goal of the season.
Aside from the first 10 minutes, North End bossed the first half.
Jake Cooper had the ball in the PNE net from a free-kick but the assistant’s flag went up for offside against the Royals centre-half before North End got into their stride.
Twice in the space of 20 seconds they worked Al Habsi, Paul Gallagher getting to the byline and driving in a cross which the keeper pushed out to Calum Woods who saw his rebound saved.
Gallagher’s curling free-kick into the box was then met by Joe Garner but his flicked header was too close to the keeper.
Johnson, Beckford and Bailey Wright all went close as North End dominated.
The best chance of the lot fell to Beckford in the 28th minute but with only Al Habsi to beat his attempt to dink the ball over the keeper lacked sufficient height and the former Bolton stopper was able to save.
The chances kept coming.
Woods dragged a shot wide and Garner volleyed high and wide from a tight angle before Johnson saw a low effort saved in the final action of the first half.
After Beckford had seen a shot go narrowly over early in the second period he got his goal in the 56th minute, the front man breaking in behind to take Johnson’s pass and lift a shot over Al Habsi and into the net.
Reading had a spell of pressure after the goal, Josh Barrett firing wide from inside the box after Paul McShane had headed the ball into his path.
But North End kept finding openings, Gallagher testing Al Habsi with a low shot. At the other end, Barrett got away from the PNE defence and into the box, his low shot flashing wide of the far stick.
Beckford then might have done better when Johnson’s pass found him on the edge of the box, poking a shot goalwards which Al Habsi saved.
Yann Kermorgant curled a shot inches wide as the hosts pressed for an equaliser, a warning which perhaps was not heeded by North End as less than three minutes later, Quinn’s first-time shot left stand-in ‘keeper Chris Kirkland rooted to the spot as it travelled into the far bottom corner.
Kirkland then kept out Barrett’s low shot with the game up for grabs.
It was North End who grabbed a deserved winner however, the clock ticking just beyond the 90-minute mark when Johnson took Adam Reach’s pass before steering a low shot past Al Habsi.
More of the same will do just nicely this Saturday.