CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2 READING 2 (Half Time: 2-0)
Viveash (57 mins), Fleming (74 mins, OG).
Cambridge Scorers: Kitson (14 mins), Youngs (32 mins).
2 March 2002
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Mackie, Viveash, Shorey, Cureton, Hughes (Harper 58), Parkinson, Salako, Forster (Jones 83), Rougier (Henderson 66). Subs not used: Ashdown, Roget.
Cambridge United: Perez, Fleming, Tann, Angus, Murray, Tudor (Revell 87), Ashbee, Guttridge, Scully (One 75), Kitson, Youngs. Subs not used: Marshall, Jackman, Austin.
Bookings: Fleming, Kitson (Cambridge).
Another superb second half performance from the Royals secured a well deserved point. Reading did well to come back from being two goals down at half time but this was a disappointing result against the division's poorest side.
With Igoe suspended Alan Pardew opted to play with Cureton on the right of midfield with Rougier resuming his partnership up front with Forster. It didn't work. Cureton tried hard but he simply is not cut out to play in midfield. I'm sure this contributed partly to a disjointed first half performance by the Royals, although the main problem was that, throughout the team, the passing was poor. Cambridge didn't play that well, but well enough to exert some pressure on the league leaders, and with the assistance of some sluggish defensive work from the Royals, found themselves two goals up at half time. By then Pardew had realised his tactical error and had moved Forster wide on the right and pushed Cureton forward. I knew we were capable of coming back but I didn't feel confident that we would. There was a feeling of deja vu at half time. It was at Cambridge last year that our promotion challenge began to falter!
After the interval the game burst into life. The referee did well to keep the game under control as the challenges became increasingly robust. Reading at last began to show why they are at the top of the division, but Cambridge had visibly grown in confidence and were not going to lie down. As many teams have found this season, when Reading are in top gear, they are difficult to contain. Twelve minutes into the half Viveash brought Reading back into the game with a carefully placed header. Pardew immediately brought on Harper for Hughes. Hughes was clearly upset by the decision and I felt some sympathy for him. He has worked tremendously hard for the team recently. It has to be said however that Harper looks a better player all round and from the moment he came on he looked sharp as he had in the Cardiff away game just before the long lay off through injury.
Soon after the goal, Shorey almost provided United with another goal when attempting a suicidal header back to Whitehead. Fortunately Youngs blasted his chance wildly over the bar. Viveash nearly scored a second but his header landed on the bar with Perez beaten. Rougier was starting to get caught in possession and was replaced by Henderson on sixty-six minutes. The equaliser followed shortly afterwards when Forster's persistence paid off. He won a ball near the corner flag on the right and whipped the ball across the face of the goal where it was deflected in by Flemming under pressure.
There was still twenty minutes to go and a win looked on the cards but United hadn't finished yet. Kitson made a run into the box and was tripped by Viveash. Reading protested strongly, which resulted in Cureton getting a booking. It looked like a penalty to me. It didn't matter in the end because Whitehead saved brilliantly. Harper had slotted into midfield as if he had never been away, holding the ball up well and hitting some good passes. I was impressed by the way he kept his composure and possession when the boots were flying. To cap it all he almost won the game with a tremendous effort from outside the area which hit the bar. Jones came on for a very tired looking Forster with seven minutes to go as Reading reverted to a more secure looking 4-4-2. Chances kept coming but United were determined to hang on to their point and defended solidly.
It had been a very exciting second half but I'd have been happier with less
excitement and three points at this stage of the season. Pardew has some tough
decisions to make with his selection for the Bournemouth game. I would like
to see Harper back in the centre of midfield with Parky, and Cureton starting
up front with Forster. However the team looks much stronger when Rougier is
in there and playing well. As for Igoe and Hughes, they are also worthy of a
place. They can't all start but I think they all may be needed next week.
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