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ROMP ROYAL; Mac's men storming to the big time.

Byline: Tim Worsnop

Barnsley 0

Reading 4

BRIAN McDERMOTT'S revvedup Royals took another giant step towards a return to the big time with a sensational four-goal blast at Oakwell.

The question is, with nine wins out of 10, can any other Championship team stop them? Southampton and West Ham could scarcely have imagined their party would be gatecrashed in such devastating fashion.

Saints hung on to top spot but the Royals are bang on form and just waiting for a slip-up.

If McDermott continues to get this level of performance from his players, only a fool would back against them rejoining the elite four years after they were relegated.

Barnsley had clung on grimly in the opening half, with their keeper making three super saves to keep Reading in check.

But they ran into trouble immediately after the break as Reading changed gear.

McDermott said: "We just needed to get through that first spell and we knew we would get stronger. These guys know how to win games. They know exactly what is required.

"The first goal was so important and to get a second so quickly really put us in control."

The Royals could only draw at struggling Doncaster in midweek but all that was put behind them two minutes after the break.

Old head Jason Roberts gave Jimmy McNulty the slip and pushed a beautifully weighted pass into the path of Jobi McAnuff, who needed only a tidy sidefoot finish to beat Steele from the edge of the area.

Barnsley barely had time to lick their wounds before Ian Harte's cross fell to Jem Karacan, who smashed it in from close range.

Karacan made it three in the 65th minute with a rip-roaring drive from 30 yards following more defensive indecision and finally 34-year-old Roberts was rewarded for his endeavour at the end of 90 minutes with a shot from close range.

It was a tough result for Barnsley boss Keith Hill to swallow and he is under no illusions about the problems his side now face.

He said: "This was probably the most effective side we have faced all season. I thought we were competitive in the first half but those first two goals drained us of our confidence, self-belief and energy.

Cultured "We are in relegation form and we are in a relegation fight.

"We now need to show bravery. I trust my players. This is not a place for the faint-hearted and things could get worse. It's a massive fight but it's one I am up to."

Barnsley have now failed to score in three matches, their last win was six games ago and, if they do not pick up points soon, they really will be in the mire.

Despite that, there was little to separate the teams in the opening half, although Reading played the more cultured football. The hosts, led by Matt Done, had their fair share of possession but were often too eager to fire the ball forward and gave away possession cheaply.

Frank Nouble, making his debut for the Tykes on loan from West Ham, went close to opening the scoring with a header.

Danny Rose, a product of the Tykes academy and making his first start, twisted and turned and squeezed in a cross.

But Nouble failed to connect properly and sent the ball just the wrong side of the post.

Reading captain McAnuff had an excellent chance in the 26th minute. The superb Mikele Leigertwood fired the ball in, Noel Hunt unsettled Steele with his challenge but, when the keeper's weak punch fell to McAnuff, he put too much weight on his lob, which cleared the crossbar.

BARNSLEY: Steele 6 - Wiseman 5 (Stones, 52mins, 5), Foster 5, Collins 5, McNulty 5 - Smith 5, Doyle 5 (Dawson, 70mins, 5), *DONE 8 - Davies 5, Nouble 6, Rose 6 (Cotterill, 70mins, 5). READING: Federici 6 - Mullins 7, Pearce 7, Gorkss 7, Harte 7 - Kebe 6 (Church, 82mins), Karacan 7 (Tarb, 76mins), *LEIGERTWOOD 9, McAnuff 7 (Robson-Kanu, 66mins, 6) - Roberts 6, Hunt 8. REFEREE: D Sheldrake 6.

CAPTION(S):

YOU LITTLE JEM: Karacan drills his second to delight boss McDermott (inset) cDermott
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 18, 2012
Words:689
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