READING Lions secured a much-needed three points to keep their National Handball League South survival chances alive with a 29-23 away win against Olympic Catuvellauni at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.

The Lions only had two draws to show for their efforts going into Sunday’s game and found themselves at the foot of the league, but this win took them above Poole Phoenix and Olympic into fourth place.

However, as only one point separates the three teams, the fight to avoid relegation looks set to go right to the final day of the season.

Not for the first time this season, the Lions started slowly and found themselves trailing 6-2 to their Aylesbury-based opponents with just seven minutes gone.

And they would have been in even deeper trouble, but for the the brilliance of keeper Ahmed Taha, who pulled off a string of outstanding saves, including one from a penalty.

The Lions gradually began to find their rhythm and forced their way into the game with Kiril Tankov and Henry Williams working well in tandem on the left side to create scoring opportunities for each other.

They levelled the score at 7-7 before winger Williams put them ahead with his fifth goal of the first half.

The Oly Cats’ attack struggled to find a way through Reading’s solid defence, yet the Lions failed to capitalise by missing the target or being thwarted by the Catuvellauni keeper.

After nearly eight minutes without a goal, the scoring resumed at both ends with Boris Aillard making sure his side went into the break holding a 15-13 advantage.

Early in the second half, the side coached by Jose Lehmani extended their lead thanks to two quick-fire goals from Alejandro Manzaneda, who had adapted well to an unfamiliar right-wing role.

The youthful Aylesbury side hit back, but Lions defended well with Taha making further outstanding saves, while also launching some perfectly executed counter-attacks.

Fab Maisonny, having much more joy in front of goal from the wing after starting at centre, and top-scorer Artem Kuybida added further goals from the line after a quiet first half by his standards, as the Lions kept their noses in front.

By midway in the second half they began to run short of ideas, having been denied by resolute, but clean, defending with no Reading player receiving a two-minute suspension at any time during the match.

With time running out,Tankov scored the final two goals to take his personal tally for the match to seven, helping Reading to seal victory by a six-goal margin.

Birthday-boy Taha earned the man-of-the-match vote.

Next up for the Lions is a long trip to Newcastle Vikings for a quarter-final tie in the National Shield, before returning to league action next month against Islington.