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Football: Royals set to reign in M4 derby.

Byline: PAUL JOHNSON

READING'S grip on the

Second Division title is by

no means vice-like after

Monday's loss at Brighton, but the Royals are good enough to respond to that

reverse by winning their

derby at Swindon tonight.

Defeat at the Withdean Stadium this week should have blown away any complacency that might have crept up on Reading after an 11-match unbeaten run that included seven straight victories without conceding a goal.

Although they were outplayed by Brighton, nobody in the whole of the Nationwide League has won more games than Reading. They boast the best defensive record in their section, and only Oldham and Brentford have scored more.

A hot topic for debate at Madejski Stadium has been the continued inclusion of goal-starved Tony Rougier as striker alongside Nicky Forster, which has left the prolific Jamie Cureton on the bench.

Rougier looked skilful but rather blinkered in Reading's recent 1-1 draw at Bury, but with Darius Henderson also at his disposal, boss Alan Pardew has a variety of options.

Swindon have collected all but three of their 15 points from the 12 league games since the departure of Roy Evans at the expense of sides in the bottom seven, and defeats by Huddersfield and Cardiff on their last two appearances must have knocked their confidence a touch.

Only relegation contenders Cambridge, Northampton and Bury have scored fewer goals in the division than Town. And Swindon are hardly

watertight at the back either, with just two clean sheets in their last 22 outings.

Reading have won on their last two visits to the County Ground, and there has been no stalemate in the last 11 meetings between these rivals.

Recommendations

Reading

4pts 6-5 (Ladbrokes)

Reading to win 2-1

1pt 15-2 (Tote)

BRIGHTON have been cut from a best-priced 7-1 to 4-1 to win Division Two after Monday night's 3-1 win over leaders Reading. The Royals have been eased slightly, with Stanley and Super Soccer now going 8-15 from 2-5.

In Division Three, Mansfield are 12-1 third favourites from 16-1 after their 4-1 win away at Lincoln on Tuesday.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2002
Words:348
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