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02/17/2014
 
Garath McCleary is an extremely talented young man; and I should know, I grew up playing alongside him up until we were both released by Oxford United.

However, his rise to stardom is nothing more than everything he deserves. McCleary is not only a supremely talented footballer, but one of the most humble people you'll ever meet.

After almost quitting the game between periods of lower-league English football with Slough and Bromley, McCleary was given his chance by then Nottingham Forest Manager Colin Calderwood, who offered the Oxford-born youngster a trial with the club.

It took McCleary some time to get off his feet at Forest, being new to the standard of football, but his ability was unquestionable and he became their player of the season in 2012 before his big move to then Premier League outfit Reading.

He still shows flashes of brilliance in the Championship, none more so than his latest wonder-strike against QPR in a resounding away win; causing star teammate Adam Le Fondre to label him "the best winger in the league".

Don't miss out on seeing a strike in the same boat as Neymar's and Balotelli's weekend gems.


 
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08/25/2013
 
In front of a crowd of just under 13,000, Blackpool F.C. dispatched with newly relegated Reading on a glorious sunny afternoon on the Fylde Coast.

Blackpool allegedly started with a 4-3-3 formation according to the pre match report on BBC Radio Lancashire. In reality though it was a 4-5-1, with, for some reason a massive gap between the 5 midfielders and lone striker Ricardo Fuller.


It's a very uncommon thing to see a home team play with 4 defenders and then literally 5 midfielders strung out just in front of them with no depth whatsoever. Needless to say, when any of those 9 players received the ball and looked up, their only option was to boot it up front to Fuller in the hope that he could hold it up and then lay it off to an advancing midfielder. The full backs never joined in attacking play, they just sat back and watched. Very strange.



 
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05/14/2013
 

Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko cheered managerless Manchester City in the wake of Roberto Mancini's sacking as the Argentina and Bosnia strikers scored in a 2-0 win over relegated Reading at Madejski Stadium.


Agüero bagged the first five minutes before the break and substitute Dzeko added a second in the 88th minute as caretaker boss Brian Kidd guided his second-placed side to victory a day after Mancini was fired.


Speculation continues to mount over his successor with Málaga's Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini the red-hot favorite for the post. Alongside the speculation over who would take over from Mancini, another talking point surrounding City was the absence of their skipper Vincent Kompany, said to be suffering from fatigue.


The beaten FA Cup finalists made four changes to their starting XI with Micah Richards replacing Kompany as skipper. Also in defence Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott came in for Pablo Zabaleta and Matija Nastasic while James Milner filled in for Samir Nasri.


Royals' manager Nigel Adkins had a much easier task picking his side and named the same team that beat Fulham 4-2 last time out for his first win in charge of the club. From the outset it was second-placed City in the driving seat as they had a number of early chances against a relegated side looking to avoid finishing bottom.


First, Agüero was denied by impressive Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who palmed away his stinging drive after three minutes. Then James Milner kept the pressure on, only for McCarthy to make an initial save before Agüero followed up and Sean Morrison blocked. Royals, still in 19th place, had little in reply, but when they did muster an attack it tended to either come from or through Hal Robson-Kanu. The Wales winger saw a shot skid wide of the target before Joe Hart was forced to make a low save when Robson-Kanu played in Gareth McCleary on the edge of the box. 


At the other end, McCarthy continued to excel as he showed lightening-quick reactions to push a Carlos Tévez header to safety. But there was little he could do to keep out Agüero's opener as Milner played a one-two with David Silva before picking out the Argentina international, who side-footed home.


It was a move that looked as if it had come straight from the training ground and Reading's defence were as static as cones. In the second-hale Adkins' side took the fight to the former Premier League champions. But even with a changed back-four City were still too strong.


Playing a high line City were afforded time on the ball and enjoyed knocking the ball through midfield with Yaya Toure and Milner working hard in the engine room. Rare advances from Robson-Kanu and McCleary were easily mopped up and lone striker Pavel Pogrebnyak failed to get into the game. Tévez should have added a second to put the game to bed in the 60th minute but fired way off target. He attempted to make up for that miss by firing another fierce shot towards goal - only for McCarthy to parry again.


Dzeko made sure of the three points as he showed neat skill and composure before firing past McCarthy from 12 yards. 


City's search for a new manager now goes on with one game left in the Premier League this season before they jet off to America for an end-of-season tour.

 
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05/04/2013
 

Gareth Bale fired Tottenham Hotspur up to fourth place in the Premier League with a spectacular late winner against former club Southampton on Saturday, but the London team went back to fifth place with Arsenal's win against QPR. 

Bale was this week named the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year, to go with his double success at the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year awards, and he proved his worth once again with his 25th goal of the campaign.


In a game delayed by half an hour due to a nearby motorway closure, Southampton looked set to claim a hard-earned point until Bale struck with four minutes to play. Collecting possession wide on the right, the Welshman cut inside and shrugged off Luke Shaw before arrowing a crisp drive into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards.


Meanwhile, Callum McManaman scored a late winner as Wigan gave themselves renewed hope of avoiding relegation by twice coming from behind to win at West Brom. The home side twice took the lead at the Hawthorns, through Shane Long and Gareth McAuley, only for Wigan to reply on each occasion through Arouna Kone and substitute James McArthur, who scored with his first touch.


McManaman then netted the decisive goal in the 80th minute, side-footing home from close range after a superb run down the left from Shaun Maloney.


"We have worked really hard for two months to get us in the position where, with two weeks of the season left, we are still involved in two competitions," said Wigan manager Roberto Martinez.


"If we stay up, it would be like winning the title."


FA Cup finalists Wigan are now just two points below fourth-bottom Sunderland, who host Stoke City on Monday, and three points adrift of Newcastle United, who could only draw 0-0 at West Ham United. Gabriel Agbonlahor may have secured Aston Villa's top-flight status for another year after scoring an 89th-minute winner in a 2-1 success at Norwich City.


Villa, who thrashed Sunderland 6-1 on Monday, took a 55th-minute lead when Agbonlahor drove forward from the halfway line before planting a shot into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the 18-yard box. Grant Holt equalised from the penalty spot with 16 minutes to play, but Agbonlahor struck again at the death to send Paul Lambert's team five points clear of danger, albeit having played a game more than third-bottom Wigan.


Elsewhere, deposed champions Manchester City were held to a 0-0 draw at Swansea City in a forgettable game at the Liberty Stadium. The visitors' best chance fell to Edin Dzeko, who somehow contrived to shoot wide from Pablo Zabaleta's pass in the dying stages. The result left Roberto Mancini's men 13 points behind champions Manchester United, who could now move 16 points clear at the summit with victory at home to third-place Chelsea on Sunday.


Hal Robson-Kanu scored twice as relegated Reading secured only their second away win of the season with a 4-2 success at Fulham, who fell to 13th place. The Welsh international opened the scoring with a 12th-minute penalty and curled in his second goal 17 minutes into the second half. Bryan Ruiz hit back twice for Fulham, either side of a 75th-minute strike by Adam Le Fondre, but Jem Karacan made sure of victory with a low shot seven minutes from full-time.


Hull City secured a place in the Premier League for next season earlier on Saturday after drawing 2-2 at home to already-promoted Cardiff City on the final day of the Championship season. Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Crystal Palace and Leicester City will contest the play-offs.

 
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