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Royals smarting after Villa comeback
Reading boss Brian McDermott admitted his side were hurting after their survival hopes suffered a significant blow for the second successive home match.
The Royals crashed to a 2-1 defeat to fellow strugglers Aston Villa that leaves them above bottom-placed QPR on goals scored only. McDermott's men had begun the day able to climb out of the bottom three with a win and had led thanks to a calamitous Nathan Baker own goal on the half-hour.
But they failed to cash in on their luck as Christian Benteke levelled two minutes later before Gabby Agbonlahor profited on hesitant defending to thump in the winner in first-half injury time. The full-time whistle was greeted by boos and, with trips to Manchester United and Arsenal next up, McDermott said: "We're hurting. We are very much hurting at this moment in time."
He added: "It was disappointing to say the least. It was rough. When we got 1-0 up I though we were ready to kick on. We didn't do that and that's cost us.
"We were disappointed with both goals. We've got ourselves into the lead and they've scored virtually straight after. We have to hold our hands up. We need to be better and see the game out. I know that and the players know that."
A fourth league defeat on the spin was made worse by QPR's 3-1 win over Sunderland to leave the Royals looking as the most vulnerable of the bottom clubs. Trips to Old Trafford and Emirates Stadium before the end of the month could start to leave Reading adrift with just nine games left.
"They're not friendly (fixtures). They are big, big clubs in Manchester United and Arsenal," McDermott said. "We'll see where we are at the end of March and then go from there."
Villa boss Paul Lambert was full of praise for his side, especially Baker, after he recovered from his red-faced moment to help inspire a win to haul them three points clear of danger. The 21-year-old defender completely missed a routine clearance before the ball hit his standing leg and bounced over the line.
"I thought Nathan Baker was exceptional," he said.
"He has been for the past number of weeks since I've put him at left-back. It was important his head never went down which it didn't. Being young the slight thing in my head was how he reacted. I've got to give him so much credit."