READING 0 NORTHAMPTON 0 (Half Time: 0-0)
Northampton Scorers: -
1 April 2002
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Shorey, Viveash, Mackie, Hughes (Harper 87), Parkinson, Watson, Salako (Rougier 72), Cureton, Forster (Henderson 80). Subs not used: Williams, Talia.
Northampton: Welch, Hunter, Marsh, Burgess, Sampson, Hope, McGregor (Forrester 37), Hunt, Hargreaves, Frain, Parkin (Asamoah 76). Subs not used: Hodge, Carruthers, Sollitt.
Bookings: Burgess (Northampton), Parkinson, Cureton (Reading).
Report by John Wells
This was yet another frustrating afternoon for the Royals and their fans. It is hard to remain rational when you see your team throwing away their chance of the championship and seriously jeopardize their chance of automatic promotion. I am sure many will direct their venom at Alan Pardew after this performance and not without some justification, but the players also have to accept some responsibility. Clearly everyone at the club is finding it hard to handle the pressure - especially at home. Most often victory goes to the team that is bold, confident, and aggressive, with their selection, their tactics and their play. It was obvious that Northampton would come to stifle the home side, and that a team capable of breaking down a resolute and packed defence was required. Once again Pardew played safe in midfield with three players that are strong defensively. Also, I'm not sure much was gained in replacing Williams with Viveash. We are always vulnerable against pace with Viveash at the back.
Reading completely dominated the game against a five man Northampton defence which was perfectly content to hoof it into touch when danger threatened. Reading mounted some pressure early in the game but the first real threat came from a Watson strike that was deflected and eventually scrambled away by Welch. Two minutes later Forster broke through and struck a good shot wide of the far post. The best move of the first half ended with a great ball from Cureton sending Forster through. This time he struck it well with his right foot only to see his effort parried by Welch. Hughes was following up but could not get to the loose ball. The Royals came closest to scoring when Mackie timed his run superbly to meet a Salako corner and send his header crashing against the bar - a repeat of the move that had worked against Bristol City earlier in the season. Although there had been chances we were generally finding it hard to create openings.
There were no substitutions at half time and I did not feel we would be able to break through without making changes. Reading continued to press forward but seemed to be getting increasingly anxious and hasty around the penalty area. Shots were miscued, crosses were being over hit and Northampton remained disciplined in defence. Forster shaved the post with a header after sixty minutes and a couple of minutes later Hughes came close from twenty yards.
Pardew persisted with his formation until the 70th minute when he replaced Salako with Rougier which I found puzzling. Salako wasn't setting the game alight, but he was at least keeping the ball and sending in some decent crosses. The obvious change was to take off Hughes and play Rougier wide on the right - especially when Henderson, the player most likely to do something in the air, was due to replace Forster. The best chance of the game fell to Forster in the 74th minute. He completely lost his head and fired the ball high into the stand with the goal at his mercy. That is how championships are lost! Hughes was finally taken off and replaced by Harper when it was too late for him to make an impact. The play deteriorated as the game drew to a close and Reading began hitting balls forward hopefully and giving the ball away carelessly.
The shortcomings today were not only tactical. Murty and Shorey who have been brilliant for most of the season were not at their best. Cureton passed the ball well but was a bit slow to come off the defence when it was played in to his feet and was consequently often second to the ball. Hughes passing was poor again.(Which has nothing to do with him playing wide on the right!) The quality of the crossing was poor. Often the ball was delivered from deep positions which made it easy for Welch to come out and claim it. Having said all that I would have gone home happy if we had scrambled the ball over the line for a last minute winner. We haven't suddenly got a bad team or a bad manager. There is no doubt about the ability in the squad, what is being tested now is character and temperament.
I listened to the commentary on the Brighton game before today's match and it sounded like they owed their win to an outstanding performance from their 'keeper as well as a last minute winner. I would have been thoroughly depressed this evening but Bury made my day. Brighton look set for the title and Brentford have the toughest run in of the three clubs in contention for automatic promotion. Unless we lose the next two games and Brentford win theirs we will still be in with a chance of going up on the last day, and I'm not sure it is a disadvantage being away on curent form. My biggest nightmare, which is a distinct possibility, would be for us to go to Brentford on the last day only needing a draw - and then playing for draw. It is just as well that I have a standing ticket for that game - I don't think I would feel comfortable sitting down.
Post Match Opinions
Another depressing result, another reasonable performance. The team
lacked nothing in effort and commitment, what it did lack was flair and
subtlety. I thought that the performance of Murty summed up the whole
afternoon. He could not be criticised for his lack of effort, as he continually
looked to charge down the wing. So often though, he ran out of ideas or
his cross was just not good enough.
Since we moved to the Madjeski, I have lost count of the number of
teams that have come down with the same game plan.
I so angry I can hardly bring myself to type. It's nearly two hours
since the final whistle and I still fuming. This column is all about personal
opinions not judging or commenting on others, so, here goes... We are
a bloody laughing stock in this league. I know we may still do it, but
the way I feel tonight, we've more chance of signing Beckham than going
up. The players are an absolute disgrace as is the manager. What does
it take to get motivated and die for the club and the fans? The moment
a bloke told me in the bog just before kick off, that Brighton had scored
in the last second to win, I knew we would blow it.
Well, the cobblers came and huffed and puffed, as expected, put 10
men behind the ball, as expected, created little, as expected. And what
do we do, fail yet again to turn over a shite team like them, as expected.
There cannot be a team in the entire history of the game that infuriates
its fans as much as the Royals. This run of six draws in the last seven
is simply not good enough especially considering the calibre of some of
our recent opposition. Even with my wealth of knowledge gleaned from Sunday
pub football it was obvious even after 15 minutes we would have to change
our shape to win this vital game. So what does Pards do? Stands in the
dugout waving his piece of paper about and sticks his head in the sand
as per bloody normal. If we can see it why cant he? Bold decisions were
called for yesterday and yet again he is found wanting in that and most
defiantly the tactics department. To break down a 5 man defence and four
strung across the middle you must get players forward from midfield. But
Parky does what Parky does and sits in the hole and rarely looked like
getting forward. And he chooses yesterday to give Jamie a rare full game
when he looked decidedly off colour. At half time I would have replaced
Parky and Jamie with Harper and Darius and told the greedy sod Fozzy to
play off Hendersons shoulder if the dimwit could do so without getting
caught off side. Given half decent service and his pace we should have
destroyed them. But no, we are talking about Reading here! At the start
of the season we vowed that we would not allow ourselves to be put through
the torture of the Play off final again. To the extent that if that happened
we would rather go fishing. Up until a couple of weeks ago it looked like
the perch in the Kennet and Avon looked safe now I'm not so sure. Looks
like I may be dangling me worm after all! URZZS
OK - it was a disappointment, no two ways about it. But lets not talk
about Pardew and the players not having the bottle ... seems to me it's
the contributors to this site who need to take a look at themselves. We
controlled the match on Monday. True, we lacked the finish but we had
plenty of chances and a few inspired saves from their goalie and some
greedy/hopeless shots from one or two of our forwards denied us an easy
win. But let's compare our performance with that of Brighton and Brentford.
The latter got stuffed by Bury, Brighton got a lucky win. Of the top three
contenders we gave far and away the best account of ourselves. So, we've
now got a fight on our hands, but its a fight we can win. I'd rather be
in our shoes than Brentford's ... and Brighton can still be taken. There's
three games left ... two away and one home ... bit like the play-offs
really ! Let's sew it up without the need to visit Cardiff this year ...
but in the meantime, get behind the team and Pardew and show we've got
the bottle too!
I'm very disappointed, angry, really pissed - not only with the bastards
that trashed my car to nick my radio but with this match. It's slipping
away. What went wrong today.
Bristol City and Northampton. Ifs and Buts. All is not yet lost. Brentford
are losing form, they were lucky to beat Stoke and lost to Bury. It's
quite possible that they will drop points to Huddersfield at the weekend
and, if we can find a bit of form (or even luck) at Tranmere and at home
to Peterborough, we could find ourselves going to Brentford on the last
day already promoted. I think that Brighton will just scrape the championship
with Reading second and Cardiff winning the play-offs (let's face it,
who would fancy their chances against Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium?).
With three games left it's too close to call. Although we've lost our
big lead, none of the other sides in the top three is outstanding and
any one could drop points unexpectedly over the next three weekends.
Was this England/Poland 1973 re-visited or what? Reading had more
chances than a lifetime of Monopoly but still ended goalless. I can't
remember a game at which my head has been in my hands as often. Much like
England, we certainly don't like to make things easy for ourselves. We
want to go to Cardiff about as much as England wanted to go to the Ukraine.
This was a heartening performance, but a very depressing result. The
post/bar/keeper somehow conspired to keep this 0-0, however the opposition
had a great chance to steal it too. Listening to the radio afterwards
made me want to smash it up during the phone in. "Pardew's not the man
for the job" and "the players are not motivated" ABSOLUTE BOLLOCKS!!
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