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Coppell stares into abyss as Reading slips into bottom three

SoccerNews in English Premier League 4 May 2008

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Reading manager Steve Coppell believes next Sunday's match at Derby could be the biggest in the club's history after watching his team pushed to the brink of relegation from the Premier League.

Tottenham's 1-0 win at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday meant Coppell's side slipped into the bottom three of the Premier League, and their two-season stay in the top flight is in jeopardy.

Coppell can draw comfort from the fact that the Royals' opponents at Pride Park were relegated some weeks ago, and their total of only 11 points from 37 games makes them the worst side in the history of the Premier League.

Derby have also won just once at home this term, but even a Reading victory could still see them relegated if other results do not go in their favour.

Coppell said: “The match at Derby is arguably the biggest in the club's history, but matters are out of our hands.

“We need other results to go our way. We have sensed for some time that it would be decided in the final game, and it has proved to be the case.

“Wigan had a memorable end to last season by escaping relegation on the last day. We hope to emulate that.

“There is no point our looking back over what has happened over the last ten months. What matters now are the next seven or eight days.

“We have enjoyed playing in the Premier League, and we want to continue to do so. We have the stomach for the fight, but now all that is important is that we get a result.”

Coppell admitted that he could have gambled more in the transfer market in January – and accepted responsibility if Reading go down because he did not.

He added: “The chairman John Madejski has built a self-financing club.

I didn't spend so much last summer or in January. If it doesn't work it is my fault.”

Reading's lack of potency in attack is a huge worry for Coppell: his team have not scored in their last six games, and the last time one of their forwards netted was on March 8, when Dave Kitson and Shane Long were on target in the 2-0 win over Manchester City.

Leroy Lita, Andre Bikey and Liam Rosenior had chances to equalise, but Spurs were the better team, and could have won by more.

Striker Dimitar Berbatov was missing due to a groin injury, but his regular partner, Robbie Keane, was superb, and gave Spurs the lead in the 16th minute.

The Irishman tricked his way past Liam Rosenior and Kevin Doyle before slipping the ball beyond Marcus Hahnemann for the opening goal, his 23rd of a highly successful campaign.

Steed Malbranque had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside after Keane had released him, while Keane also tested Hahnemann with a free-kick from 25 yards and saw an effort blocked by Rosenior.

Bent sent a free header straight at Hahnemann, shortly before Malbranque fired wide of an open goal after Keane had miskicked.

Tottenham manager Juande Ramos said: “Robbie Keane is a magnificent player, and we rely on him a lot.

“His performance against Reading was tremendous. The position that Robbie played in made it very difficult for them.

“We dominated play, there were a lot of chances, and we really should have finished them off.”

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