(Half Time: 0-1)
Reading Scorers: -
Chesterfield Scorers: Howard (10 mins)
Date: 1 December 2001
Attendance: 11,209

Reading: Ashdown, Murty, Viveash, Williams, Shorey, Hughes (Henderson 61), Watson, Jones (Harper 61), Salako, Forster, Cureton (Rougier 80). Subs not used: Malessa, Mackie.

Chesterfield: Abbey, Booty, Payne, Breckin, Edwards, Howard, D'Auria, Parrish, Hitzlsperger, Reeves, Beckett (Willis 84). Subs not used: Richmond, Smith, Williams, Richardson.

Bookings: Booty, Edwards, Parrish (Chesterfield).
Referee: A Bates (Stoke-on-Trent).

This was a hugely disappointing result after seven straight victories. At home against Chesterfield, a side close to the base of the table, we all expected a victory. A win would have taken us to second in the table with Brentford dropping three points and Stoke's game being called off - that would have set us up nicely with our break from league action as we turn to the cup competitions over the next week. As it is we lost ground on Brighton, who won again, and the gap between us and the teams below has been reduced to three points. This was a poor result. However, it wasn't a poor performance. It was disappointing not to score a goal at home but it wasn't through lack of trying and we played some good football at times.

It would be easy to have a go at the referee and his linesmen who had such a bad first half that it threatened to destroy the game. The refereeing was, without doubt, complete shite. The number of offsides that were missed, and the couple of really bad fouls let go, was really cause for concern. At half time the referee was not a popular man. However, in the second half it was hard to complain to the same extent. The only real thing to blame for our lack of points at full time was our inability to find the net despite having so much of the ball.

Chesterfield faced a massive task in coming to Reading and attempting to take some points home with them, but they did the business in the opening ten minutes. They seemed keen on pushing forward to get the early goal, and when the chance came they took it. The ball was played to the left, well inside the Reading area, and crossed forwards across goal to the left where it was headed in from a few yards out. The goal had more than a hint of offside about it, but the Reading defence was static hoping for a flag that never came. So, 1-0 to Chesterfield, and that was the difference between the two sides. At full time Reading had had ten shots to Chesterfield's two, and eight corners to the away sides two. The statistics showed Reading's superiority, however, Chesterfield had taken their chance and Reading failed to take any of theirs.

After going a goal down Reading stuck to the game plan, and that seemed the right thing to do. We were playing some nice on the ground football, patiently building it up and working the ball forward. Everyone was involved, even Jamie Ashdown making his first league start who was more than happy to roll the ball out to allow us to build from the back. Murty was outstanding once again, playing some superb balls forward to people's feet. Keith Jones was having an excellent game, collecting the ball and feeding it through. The only disappointment was Hughes who once again failed to deliver the ball successfully into the area. The game was played at a fast pace, with plenty of flowing football - but also a fair amount of heavy tackles to bring the game to a stop every now and again. If it carried on like this it just seemed a matter of time before Reading found the net - but that wasn't to be the case.

Ashdown had little to do in terms of shot stopping after we went a goal down, but he looked confident in collecting crosses and saved, and held, Chesterfield's only other shot of the first half that looked to be heading into the top of the net. The rest of the first half saw Reading threaten to equalise without actually doing it. A couple of low crosses were put in from Forster and from Salako that just needed a touch to find the back of the net, but instead they flew across the face of goal and away. When we did manage to connect with the ball in the middle it found a defender on the line to clear. There was a definate hand ball in the area that would have been a penalty if the referee had been awake, but that might have been the only way Reading would have scored. Chesterfield defended well and frustrated Reading, and that was to continue throughout the second half as shots were blocked by either the defence or our own players who got in the way of perfectly decent shots.

With time running out the ineffective Hughes was replaced with Darius Henderson - the two goal hero from last week. Expecting Henderson to again score two and turn the game around from being a goal behind was probably a bit too much to expect. However Reading changed their tactics when Henderson came on to play to his strengths. Gone was the patient build up play that looked like it might eventually reap rewards, and instead we started hoofing the ball into the box for the lone figure of Henderson to get onto. Unfortunately the Chesterfield defence remained strong and Henderson had a near impossible task of trying to get on the end of a high ball whilst the box was filled with Chesterfield players all around. Henderson did well to get his head on a couple of tricky balls but couldn't produce a goal.

The Chesterfield goalkeeper had his defence to thank during the first half, but the whole Chesterfield team had their keeper to thank in the second half as he pulled off a couple of great saves to keep his team ahead. Abbey was probably the man of the match as Reading were continually denied a goal. Perhaps our best chance of the game came when Salako crossed from the right and Henderson headed down for Cureton. Cureton's volley was pushed onto the crossbar by Abbey when it seemed certain to find the net. Reading seemed even more desperate a bit later when Rougier was brought on. Rougier nearly provided the break through after running all the way through the Chesterfield midfield and defence to take the ball into the area on the left. In typical Rougier style he couldn't come up with the final ball and his shot was straight at Abbey in the Chesterfield goal.

Reading continued to have nearly all the play as time ran out, but it was Chesterfield that took the full three points. Chesterfield deserved something for their solid defensive performance and for continuing to come forward rather than keep all their players behind the ball the whole time. However, Reading should have got something from this game, but somehow didn't. Scoring goals remains a big problem for us this season. The trip to Brighton, a week on Friday, will be a big test to see how far Reading have actually progressed this season.

Following report by John Wells
After the final whistle Chesterfield celebrated in front of their small group of travelling fans as if they had just won the Cup. They are one of many teams in this division which are well organised and sufficiently determined not to go down but do not have the talent or ability to go up. This game will probably be the highlight of their season. For Reading and their fans a long and tense quest for promotion lies ahead. Today's performance was worthy of a victory, but picking up points consistently is what pushes teams into the automatic promotion positions, and this is the sort of game we need to win if we are going to avoid the play offs.

At the end of the game I felt frustrated and disappointed but could not find any real cause to complain. Reading completely dominated the game from start to finish and even will ten minutes to go I still believed that a win was possible. I suppose a number of factors contributed to this poor result.

There were one or two poor refereeing decisions, but I found him petty and irritating rather than totally incompetent. We certainly can't blame the referee for the result. Chesterfield defended well, but Reading did not find it difficult to create openings. Team selection was right and substitutions were made at the right time and in the right places. The passing and movement was good, although the quality of balls into the box was not what it should be. Hughes in particular continues to be disappointing in that aspect of his game. The finishing was a bit anxious and hasty but even when Reading did find the target they found Nathan Abbey in top form making very good saves. The defence looked secure and well protected by a strong midfield but had one lapse in concentration and Chesterfield made the most of it. What was needed to change the outcome was a little bit of luck or little bit of composure in the opposing penalty area. We got neither when it mattered.

As long as the team continues to pass the ball well and compete as well as they are, more good results will come. I will however be very sorry to see Watson leave. His influence in midfield will be greatly missed. He played deep, constantly offering the option of switching the play and retaining possession which is the key to pressurising opponents and protecting our defence. I am pleased that Salako has been retained. He always poses a threat wide on the left and does a good job defensively although even he misdirected more passes than usual today. Cureton still seems to flit in and out of games but he doesn't seem to be getting into as many scoring positions as he used to. He came close with a good header today but was generally disappointing. I was encouraged by a very competent and confident performance from Jamie Ashdown. He was not really tested today but he handled the ball well and looked very comfortable with the ball at his feet. It makes Whitehead's absence less of a worry although I will feel happier when he returns.

It was pleasing to hear the crowd getting behind the team in the second half even when they must have felt the game slipping away. It is better not to dwell on this sort of game too much. Better to dwell on the Brighton game which now becomes very significant not only because we need the points but because there are not many teams that appear to be capable of slowing Brighton down at the moment. I hope we can trip them up before they run away with one of those crucial promotion places.

Post Match Opinions

Good performance, poor result. Most of us turning up today would have gone anticipating another good result possibly 3 - 0 or 3 -1. The beauty of sport is of course its complete unpredictability, especially if you are a Reading fan. The script was written that a comfortable victory would have enabled Watson to go off for the last five minutes to a standing ovation for his contribution over the last month. It was just not to be. The performance was in general good. The ball was passed around to feet for the most part, but it did not end up in the back of the net. Our full backs continue to look impressive, Ashdown made a comfortable debut, but we did not score.
What did we learn from this? We have to get better delivery in from the right. Hughes does not deliver quality balls and he needs to work on that. Salako did deliver but the strikers tended to take the same lines into the box. That is something that can be resolved on the training ground. The partnership of Forster and Cureton certainly needs working at. Forster looked like he was going to take them apart at times, but who else knows what he is going to do? Cureton needs to see the goal, and use his finishing ability. Today he did not look confident which is not like him. We have had a tremendous run. We now play the ball on the floor much more and long may that continue. The Reading fans who came today will have been disappointed, not deflated or angry. We are not the complete team, but we are playing better football. If we carry on as we have bee playing of late and keep up the work rate we will be there.
One last concern. Why did we start so slowly? We need to come out of the traps firing on all cylinders, that may be where we got it slightly wrong today.

-- Ken C

Only Reading, please tell me it could only happen to Reading. Chesterfield, bloody poxy Chesterfield! At home,chance to move into top two, on an amazing run of form, golden chance at home, no hopers in the bottom six... and what do we do... blinking blow it! What a load of absolute crap, when will we learn... probably never, I know we've won nine out of ten and I know we've done incredibly well to shoot back up the league, but it's games like these and the likes of Swindon and Bury at home that are the difference between going up as of right or taking part in the lottery that is the play offs. We huffed and puffed today and bombarded the Chesterfield goal, but never really looked like scoring. One of those days? Probably, but performances from Hughes, who couldn't cross a road yet alone a ball, and Murty who had a mare didn't help matters at all. Last week euphoria, this week depression, such is the life of a Reading FC supporter!
-- Nick Newbury

I don't know what has happened to our strikers. OK, Butler is injured, but was pretty ineffective in his last few games. Cureton is half the player he was last year, and Forster blows hot and cold. Henderson is coming on, but has some way to go in my opinion. On paper we have the most potent strike force in the division. In practice, they are not gelling. Yes, we have had a good run. Perhaps this was a blip, but despite all the possession, I never really thought we would score. We could blame the supply, but that only is part of the problem. I don't think the pairing of Forster and Cureton works. The only way it could would need balls played to feet, where Forster's pace, and Cureton's opportunism could be used. It was disappointing again today. I believe we need to re-assess the way we play teams that sit back in their own half for 90% of the game. We should be rolling over the Chesterfields of this division. All the catch up we achieved is put at risk when we throw points away at home. I bet Pards gets Manager of the Month for November on Monday. Yet again the curse strikes.
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Great to see Reading playing decent football and I would have to say that yesterday was one of those days when the hard work didn't pay off. I left the game disappointed but full of optimism for a side so obviously capable of automatic promotion. My only complaint is Hughes. How much longer can he remain in the starting line up. Every time I have seen him play he has squandered nearly every chance. Yesterday was probably his worst display to date, combining pathetic ball control and what would appear to be a bad attitude toward his team mates. I was convinced he would be replaced at half time, sadly no, he was replaced far too late and although it made an immeidiate impact when he was I can only wonder at what the result may have been if he had been substituted earlier or even better not played at all. What does pardew see in him?
-- Roo, Wokingham Royal

For all our good football, the cutting edge just didnít seem to be there against Chesterfield. Some how it was just one of those days when a laps in concentration was punished and no matter how hard we knocked on the door to get level a goal just would not come. The Lads must be kicking them selves, as 3 points yesterday would have consolidated the revival of recent months and put us right in amongst it. Chesterfield, were definitely the worst team I have seen at the Mad Stad this season and that shows what a fickle game football is. Perhaps the players took for granted that the three points were in the bag, what ever, the honey moon period post Allen is now over and Reading must now pick themselves up after this poor result, which they will have to take comfort from the fact, that on the day it was a fluke and turn their minds to the Brighton and Wigan matches coming up.
Cureton is out of form and one canít help thinking Henderson has now done enough to start with Forster who still looks our most dangerous attacker. (Keep positive Jamie the goals will flow soon) It was good to see Rougier come on and make a difference and with a little more match practice he might have got the equaliser we deserved. With Watson gone next week there will be a massive whole in midfield to fill, which is why the injury to Smith could not have come at a worse time. The player other than Murty and Shorey I have been most impressed with this season is Gamble. Despite his youth, there has been a maturity about the few performances he has given and I canít help but feel that with Henderson and Shorey both featuring regularly, Gamble would also rise to the challenge. I wonder whether he would have been left out so much if he had had a half million pound price tag? Anyway I think it is up to Harper and Hughes to keep Gamble back in the reserves and unless they really make an impression on opponents like Chesterfield they should make way!
Pardew has done well and has earned the respect of everyone following the Allen departure and the bringing in of Watson and Salarko to get us back in the hunt, must be seen as a master stroke. Pardew is still learning and he must now regroup the squad and keep their minds on the season objective, which is promotion and nothing less. The players must do themselves justice as there is little margin for error now and every point will be vital, as automatic promotion is still on. The other teams around us will have poor results injuries especially as it comes down to the wire. Come on Reading stay focused and remain confident.

-- Paul Finch

Having supported Reading for nearly 30 years the outcome of this game came as no surprise. These last two years we've been living abroad, but still follow the Royals, largely thanks to these pages (the official web page is bland to the point of dullness, and is probably edited by Pardew's mum). I was over on business last weekend and so decided to take my dad to this match, but we were disappointed to see that Reading still don't know how to overcome sides that defend in depth and happily force the game into the centre of the park.
At times it looked like a Sunday morning league match, with all the play compressed into the middle third of the pitch, particularly during goal kicks. Reading occasionally played well, especially when they kept it on the ground, but the crossing was generally poor and in the second half they somehow decided to not bother with going for the dead ball line, even though this had caused Chesterfield a lot of problems earlier on. The Forster/Cureton combination didn't generally work; at times it looked like either they'd never played together at all, or there was some sort of feud going on between them. The addition of Henderson late in the second half merely confused things up front and encouraged some players to hoof the ball into the penalty area. From the substitutions, it looks as if Forster was meant to go out on the wing to replace Hughes, whilst Henderson took his place in the middle. Instead he seemed to stay put and so they just got in each others way. In fairness, the goalkeeper and the defence looked pretty good, apart from that silly lapse that resulted in their goal. I'm sure Watson will be missed now that he's on his way back and I'm glad that Salako has been kept on; both were very impressive. Reading have, on paper, a very good squad. However, unless they can consistently beat these sort of teams, then really they can only really hope for the play offs.
On this sort of performance I can't see them making an automatic promotion spot unless the other sides slip up. From what I've read and heard from my friends, none of the other promotion contenders are particularly impressive but, unlike Reading, are far more consistent.

-- Steve, Pennsylvania (!)

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