Jobi McAnuff: Jimmy Kebe is a big player in Reading's relegation fight

Jimmy Kebe scored twice against Sunderland to help Reading out of the relegation zone. Photo: PA

Reading captain Jobi McAnuff has hailed Jimmy Kebe a "big player" for the Royals after the Mali international netted a match-winning brace against Sunderland on Saturday.

Kebe opened the scoring after just seven minutes at the Madejski Stadium and popped up with an 85th-minute header to secure a 2-1 win against the Black Cats, who had hit back through a Craig Gardner penalty.

Reading have become synonymous with dramatic late goals recently and Kebe's effort means Brian McDermott's side are now two points clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

McAnuff, who provided the assist for Kebe's opener, was full of praise for the former Lens man.

"He's a real handful for any defence in this league," he said.

"He has shown a different side to his game - he was back defending, blocking crosses and it was a fantastic header to get the winner.

"Jimmy is in really good form and he's been a big player for us so far this season. His goal return has been good and he's flying at the moment.

"He's a real sight to see when he's in full flow and I'm glad he's in our side when he's on song like this."

After a run of seven consecutive defeats Reading have lost just once since Boxing Day and have also progressed to a fifth-round FA Cup clash with Manchester United.

McAnuff is keen to keep the current run going, with tough away trips to Stoke and Everton on the horizon.

"We had a tough little spell where we couldn't win a game, and that can happen in this league," he said.

"We're on a good run but we just need to keep the momentum going and keep picking up the points.

"Our objective has always been to get above the team in front of us. There is a long way to go, a lot of tough games ahead.

"We're just going to take it one game at a time and try to churn out the results we need, like we did on Saturday."

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill said after the game that he was disappointed his side had lost at the Madejski Stadium and midfielder Jack Colback echoed his manager's views.

"The winning goal was difficult to take, especially after we'd just had a couple of chances ourselves," Colback said.

"I don't think it was a great game. Reading are fighting for their lives and it was always going to be tough.

"We had some opportunities - Alfie [N'Diaye] went through on the keeper, who then made a good save on Danny [Graham] - so to lose it after that was very disappointing."

Kebe's winning goal came from a deep free-kick from former Sunderland full-back Ian Harte.

The 35-year-old had a number of set-pieces throughout the game that caused havoc for the Black Cats' defensive unit, as Colback alluded to.

"Harte put dangerous balls in all day and he's been doing that for the last 10 or 15 years," Colback added.

"We couldn't defend it and the guy got in there, which means we've come away with nothing when we certainly should have got something."

The defeat means Sunderland sit 12th in the table, eight points clear of Wigan who currently occupy the final relegation slot.