The Wokingham Paper

Pogrebnyak rescues a draw for Reading FC in Thailand

ThailandAll StarsvReadingFC(Pic AndrewBatt/Thairath.tv)
Thailand All-Stars v Reading FC (Pic - Andrew Batt/Thairath.tv)

PAVEL POGREBNYAK struck a late equaliser as Reading earned a share of the spoils in a highly entertaining 2-2 friendly draw against Thailand All-Stars in Bangkok.

Played in front of an enthusiastic crowd in testing conditions, Nick Blackman put Reading ahead 10 minutes before half-time after connecting with Tariqe Fosu’s cross.

But the hosts equalised with the last kick of the first half through Pakorn Parmepak from 20 yards.

The Thais began to up the tempo after the break and took the lead when the tricky Pinyo Inpinit found space inside the area to prod home.

But the game was to end level when substitute Pogrebnyak, who had only been on the field for a matter of minutes, popped up to volley in Dominic Samuel’s deep cross to the back post.

There was plenty of excitement in the air in the build-up as the Reading owners got ready to show off their new club and the game did not disappoint.

Steve Clarke had said earlier in the week that none of his four new signings would start the game and he stuck to his word.

Ali Al-Habsi, currently training with the club, got the nod in goal while Chris Gunter captained the side in defence alongside Anton Ferdinand, Niall Keown and Jordan Obita.

Clarke opted for a three man midfield in youngster Aaron Tshibola, Oliver Norwood and Danny Williams with Jake Taylor and Fosu out on the wings to support lone front man Blackman.

It became clear from the off that Steve Clarke’s men would have their work cut out against a vibrant Thai side, midway through their domestic season, as they popped the ball around and left the Royals chasing shadows.

Fortunately for the visitors, Ferdinand was in the right place at the right time on numerous occasions and offered a commanding presence in defence. What Royals fans would give for an injury free run for the centre-back.

For all their neat build up, the Thailand All-Stars were struggling to test Al-Habsi with Chanawan Pombupha going closest on a couple of occasions.

After finding their bearings, Reading began to grow into the game. Fosu became the obvious outlet on the left flank with his pace and trickery certainly something to excite the fans for the coming months.

So it came as no real surprise that the opening goal was to come from the good work done by the teenager.

Fosu did well to get in behind the full back and deliver a cross to the back post where Blackman got to the ball first and tapped in on the half volley.

It looked like Reading would head into half time in the lead but with the final kick of the first 45, lively winger Parmepak lined up a free kick from just outside the area and brilliantly curled it over the wall and out of reach of Al-Habsi.

Jonathan Bond was introduced at the break for his first appearance in a Royals shirt and he was called straight into action.

After a fairly routine initial parry, Bond reacted sharply to dive down low and superbly thwart the rebound to keep the game level. While he may not be the finished article, he certainly showed a glimpse of why Clarke has been so keen to praise the keeper’s potential after signing from Watford last week.

But Bond could not preserve his personal clean sheet for much longer. Half-time substitute Inpinit showed some fancy footwork to wriggle away from a man in the middle of the park and he followed his pass, finding space deep inside the penalty area to stab the ball over the sliding Bond.

Perhaps predictably, Reading began to tire as the second half wore on but that did not decrease the entertainment value for the excited crowd inside the National Stadium in Bangkok.

The lead was so nearly doubled midway through the second period when Kittipong Wongma broke forwards and fired a low effort onto the base of the post before Sean Long was on hand to head the rebound off the line.

Paul McShane and Stephen Quinn were introduced for debuts late on, the former called into action straight away with a sliding block, but it was a fellow late sub who would net the final goal.

Pogrebnyak had not taken part in the full morning training session due to a slight injury but, after coming on with 15 minutes to play, he took just three minutes to find the net.

Leading a breakaway, Liam Kelly did well to lay the ball off to the pacy Samuel on the right, who crossed the ball to the back post for the big Russian to volley in.

Atthawit Sukchuai almost put the Thailand All-Stars straight back in front after robbing Aaron Kuhl of possession but the match was to end level on an encouraging evening all round.

Reading: Al-Habsi (Bond 45); Gunter (Owusu 67), Ferdinand (Long 60), Keown (McShane 75), Obita (Griffin 60); Norwood (Kuhl 60 (Novakovich 88)), Tshibola (Quinn 75), Williams (Akpan 45); Taylor (Samuel 67), Fosu (Kelly 67), Blackman (Pogrebnyak 75).

Goals: Blackman (35), Pogrebnyak (78)

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