MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

2 November 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Forster (6 mins), Hughes (90 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 13,081

DIVISION ONE  2 Nov 2002
Table as at full time (2pm)
Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Notts Forest 15 26 +11
7 READING 16 26 +6
8 Coventry 16 24 +1
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Upson, Shorey, Hughes, Harper, Newman (Butler 85), Watson, Forster, Tyson (Salako 55).
Subs not used: Ashdown, Mackie, Cureton.
Warner, Ryan, Nethercott, Phillips (Ward 5), Johnson, Livermore, Roberts (Kinet 68), Wise, Ifill, Claridge (Davies 60), Harris.
Subs not used: Gueret, Bull.
Reading: Newman. Millwall: Kinet, Roberts.
Referee: P Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)

After Tuesday night's 1-0 home victory over Bradford City, the Royals continued where they left off against Millwall at the Madejski Stadium. Yet another clean sheet and our fifth win from the last seven league games - this latest win takes Reading over half way to survival with only a third of the season played. With performances like this there's more likely to be crazy talk of play-offs rather than consideration of a return to Division Two. Millwall finished fourth last season in this Division - yet looked an inferior side to the Royals today - we've all seen enough proof now that Reading truly are a Division One side.

It was the same formula again today - a five man midfield and a four man defence with just Nicky Forster up front. And it worked, as Reading severely restricted Millwall throughout the game - particularly in the first half. The midfield game might not create a massive number of chances but it certainly prevents the opposition getting even close to scoring - which explains why Reading have the best defensive record in the entire division. Millwall couldn't manage a single shot on target during the entire first half - on the other hand Reading carved out at least three excellent opportunities to score during the opening 45 minutes. It was clear as anything that Reading really wanted to win this one today - every player worked really hard and we chased down every ball. There appears to be massive confidence across the side at the moment, and there's no doubt we're working well as a team unit. Pardew deserves massive credit for how the side is shaping up and his record so far must make him one of Reading's most successful managers in the history of the club. Long may it continue.

Salako has been a bit out of form recently leading to questions over his inclusion in the starting eleven. It was appropriate enough to start him on the bench today and give a start on the pitch for Nathan Tyson. The formation meant Reading had Tyson and Harper playing on the wings - and both players had good games despite the fact that we didn't make massive use of playing the ball wide. Tyson looked a little inexperienced at times and sometimes tried to take the ball past players and ended up losing out when perhaps he should have played a simple ball - but there was more than enough on display from him to indicate he has a big part to play in the squad this season. Harper really stood out today - some excellent running, some great tackles in midfield and the ability to deliver some superb passes.

Reading's first goal provided a good summary of the input of Harper and Forster to the game as Reading worked the ball out from midfield with Harper supplying an excellent cross from the right. The ball was perfect - clearing the goal keeper who failed to get to the ball as he jumped, and finding Forster steaming in at the far post. Under a bit of presure from a defender Forster stuck his head on it and powered it into the back of the net putting Reading ahead after just six minutes of play. Millwall were forced to make an early substitution just before the goal and they seemed to be unable to find their pattern with Reading enjoying a lot of the ball and closing down players at speed. We seemed to be playing a little bit further forward than we did against Bradford - but again relied on Forster to come up with the goods. Forster had two good chances that nearly found the net. One saw him create a shooting chance from nearly nothing forcing the keeper to tip the ball onto the crossbar and over. Another saw their keeper race out of his area to leave an empty net - Forster's long range effort curved wide at the last moment when it seemed certain to make it 2-0.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of Reading today was the way we seemed to sit on the lead throughout the entire second half. The formation didn't really lend itself to the creating of a whole load of goals but it seemed clear we needed to get one to kill Millwall off - and it didn't look likely to happen. After a fruitless first half for the visitors they got more and more into the game as the second half progressed and enjoyed the majority of the possession. Reading gave the ball away a bit too easily - but thankfully made up for it with some superb tackling and chasing players down that stopped Millwall being able to play it around as much as they'd hoped. Reading's packed defence restricted Millwall to just a couple of efforts, and Upson's dominance in the air must have frustrated them no end. The combination of Williams and Upson seemed nearly unbeatable - there's no dout Williams' game has improved dramatically playing alongside the Arsenal loanee.

Reading looked solid despite Millwall's increasing pressure but there was always that worrying feeling we could chuck it away towards the end. Hahnemann was well protected - but when he was called on he did well to claim a few dangerous crosses and corners into the box. There was the odd goal mouth scramble where we hacked the ball away and we expected a nervous finish. Thankfully the game will killed off as the game ticked over into injury time. Millwall's frustration boiled over into a couple of late tackles and they were lucky to escape with a couple of bookings. However one of the resulting free-kicks saw a well worked move from the right of the area and the ball played to Andy Hughes who drove in a powerful low shot from well outside the box that ended up in the bottom left corner of the net. It was a typical Hughesy goal from long range that was followed up with a typical Hughesy celebration with a dance around the corner flag. So, 2-0 to the Royals and massive relief.

The Millwall fans had all disappeared by the time the final whistle blew, while the Reading fans stayed to applaud another great team performance. Mark McGhee once again suffered at the hands of the Royals - despite his aspirations to manage a club much bigger than Reading his current side are substantially below the Royals in the table. I doubt he's a happy man tonight.

Following report from John Wells:
Another clean sheet, another three points, and a another convincing and thoroughly professional performance. There can be few Reading fans that would not have walked away from this game without feeling satisfied with the result and the entertainment that this game provided. There were passages of scrappy play, and Millwall in their typically abrasive style caused a few scares late in the game, but on the whole Reading again played the better football and created more clear cut chances than their opponents.

The return of Mark McGhee and Millwall was clearly going to give this game a bit of an edge. Before the kick off as Reading went into their huddle the visitors gathered in the centre circle and glared intimidatingly at them. A pathetic gesture. The opening exchanges were robust at times but the referee was a lenient at but fairly consistent and the game which had the potential to flare up never reached boiling point. After five minutes Warner in the Millwall goal completely misjudged the flight of a harmless looking Harper cross allowing Forster to nip in and head into and empty net. Reading dominated the opening fifteen minutes and the football was fast, exciting and very entertaining to watch.

Millwall gradually eased their way back into the game but I felt Reading were still very much in control even though they probably could have kept possession better on the break with more careful passing. The Royals back four dealt comfortably with the Millwall attack and Shorey in particular looked very composed when playing himself out of trouble.

Just before half time Forster could have notched another hat trick but this time he was unlucky with two great efforts rather than careless as he had been on Tuesday against Bradford. Four minutes before half time Warner came out to clear and Forster found himself about forty yards out with and empty net in front of him. It needed to be hit early and he struck well but the ball flew wide of the upright. Then right on the stroke of half time he got on the end of a Hughes cross only to see Warner fingertip his header onto the bar.

The second half was scrappy from the outset with both sides finding it hard to string passes together. Tyson, who had made some promising runs and an appetite for defensive duties, was replaced by Salako. It seemed a sensible decision to bring on someone with experience at that stage of the game.

Millwall mounted a bit of pressure towards the end, but didn't really create and clear cut chances or serious attempts on goal. Wise, acting true to character, started trying to wind everybody up with verbal abuse and, in Newman's case, a bit of off the ball argy bargy. Nobody took the bait and which made his efforts look even more pathetic.

The Millwall back four had been having communication problems resulting in embarrassing mix-ups throughout the game but they saved the best for last. As Reading prepared to take a free kick just outside the area, my attention was taken by a Millwall centre back having an animated discussion about the defensive position taken up by one of his midfield colleagues. The defender was urging him to move upfield as his team mate pointed at the unmarked Hughes on the edge of the box. Meanwhile the ball was slipped to Hughes who settled the argument by driving the ball cleanly into the bottom corner of the net. One for Mark and the boys to chat about on the bus home - that and the need to get out of the relegation zone!

My season ticket is looking good value for money so far. What pleasure it is to see how well the team plays without the pressure of expectation. Mind you the way things are going that won't last - everyone I know is starting to count how many points we need to get into the play-off positions.

nick newbury
Tremendous performance and tremendous result . Let's just reflect on what this club has now achieved this season and our status in division one. To be eighth in the league at this stage of the season must surely exceed all our expectations. What's most pleasing is the way we are looking so confident at this level. Today Reading for the main part made Millwall, a play off side last season, look very mediocre. Our movement, passing, work rate and creative play is really top stuff and surely must be the best football to grace the Madejski in it's short history. Survival is now a pipe dream, mid table is probably a realistic goal, but as previously reported, should we find ourselves in a similar league position in February, then we really can start to dream about play offs, but this time without any pressure and simply nothing to lose . But that's a long way off. Nicky Forster again continues to impress, and rumblings are starting that if he continues the way he is going the Premiership may beckon, certainly not impossible, Harper is now starting to produce the talent and ability what many of us believed he possessed and Upson is now becoming like a dream car on a test drive that you know has to be returned soon because you cannot afford it. These really are good times to be a Reading fan, how long before we get blasť about mid table respectability I don't know, but if we continue the way we are going, then the future can only be bright. The future is blue and white hoops!! URZ!!
caversham royal
Just got in after a soggy journey back from the ground listening to that twit Pete Morris on Radio Berks going on about how 'wonderful' the 4-5-1 system is. I'm sure they watch a different match sometimes. Overall a solid team performance and worth the 3 points. Tyson deserves credit for his enthusiasm and running, not sure I'd call Salako "nice & fresh" when came on as Pardew did though. Having criticised Forster for missing so many Tues, he did well to pop up in the right place to take his only real clear-cut chance today. He still lacked support upfront at times, and I remain unconvinced about the 4-5-1 system being played at home. It invited pressure on us in the 2nd half and with better finishing, a pretty average Millwall side could easily have taken a share of the points. I can see the value of the system away from home, but Cureton or Butler should start alongside Forster at home so we're not relying so heavily on him as our attacking threat. Harper was good again today, and whilst Hughes was relatively quiet again, he took his goal really well. Upson was excellent and has had an influence on improving William's game since they started playing as a partnership. He will be really missed when he goes back to Arsenal in December. Finally, what is the point of still doing all the McGhee chants? It was a long time ago and a lot has happened since. They are really dull now and say nothing positive about RFC. I reckon he has a right to be p****d off with it all now as he said in his post-match interview. I doubt this will be a popular opinion, but I reckon the 'singers & chanters' should grow up. Every chance of getting a decent result at Gillingham. COME ON....
paul finch
Reading are competing at the moment in the first division and you can sense that the players have a great team spirit which is galvanising them together as a unit. Pardew must be congratulated for signing Marcus H, what an asset to have, its like having an extra outfield player sometimes, his distribution and domination of his box is so good. No wonder Adie is playing so well at the heart of defence, he has several less things to worry about! Even Harper has thrown off his reputation as a showman and has strung together some excellent performances in midfield even if he has stolen Hughes and Watson's Thunder, don't worry guys you will get used to young Harps and find your rhythm again. Shorey and Murts look good enough to step all the way up to the Premiership, whilst no one has told Fozzy he is not already in it such has been the quality of his performances. Salarko needs to decide whether to join the party or retire as his work rate and commitment really does come into question, is it written in his contract that he plays every week? Come on John get stuck in and enjoy yourself you will be a long time retired and I know you still have it in you! Looking at the Royals success you can't help noticing the defensive qualities Reading have displayed recently, despite some hairy moments in the last 15 today Millwall had hardly a sniff. Shore up the back and the rest of the team can concentrate on playing and confidence grows, Mr M you should grasp the opportunity and make an offer for Matt Upson, he is a real asset and his performances indicate that his purchase would be an investment as I am sure he will only get better with time. He could be the next £30 million pound defender to be bought by the likes of Man U or Liverpool. Anyway what ever, so far this year watching the Royals has been great and with the playoffs appearing a realistic opportunity based on our performance on the pitch, hopefully the crowd numbers will begin to reflect the position and exiting play Reading are serving up. Well done lads keep it up.
ken c
A confident, competent performance by a team who work hard for each other and deserve what they have achieved so far this season. The first half was dominated by a skilful Reading team who played Millwall off the park with their clean passing and their speed. The only criticism was that we did not add to the Forster goal. That was the result of a tremendous cross from Harper and a bit of poor defending. Millwall reacted to switching to a back three which enabled them eventually to put us under more pressure in the second half. They lacked a cutting edge, whilst in Forster we certainly had one. We also had pace all over the place. The inclusion of Tyson added to that. Yes some of his runs were a little naive, but he excited. When Solako replaced him you could see that he wanted his place back and the contrast of his experience against Tyson's youthful exuberance was there for all to see as he won a succession of corners. The defence was outstanding again, but that is because we defend as a unit, and we do it from the front. Hahnemann had little to do all game, but the back four showed composure all game and when the ball needed to go to row Z, it went. If there were negatives today and there will always be some as we seek perfection, then it was the fact that we gave the ball away a little too easily in the second half. Newman was as guilty as anyone and gave away a daft free kick just before halftime which could have been costly and got him booked for dissent. Ideally we would have got the second before Hughes's strike in the 90th minute and then we just might have seen a rout! At present whoever plays for the Royals is doing well. The results have improved confidence and Forster is having a superb spell. Upson has proved to be a good temporary signing. His defensive play is terrific though his distribution today wasn't wonderful. All this is nit picking. Another three points, let's just keep this going, but let's remember what we have had to do to get where we are today!
thatcham royal
Listening to BBC Berkshire on the way home I was surprised at the number of people complaining about 4-5-1. "We shouldn't play it at home" "Forster is too isolated" "Cureton must play" etc This reminds me of last seasons debates about Rougier. "Why is he playing when he doesn't score goals"? My opinion is the same as last season. When you find something that works, don't mess with it. If it ceases to be effective, then change things. As Tuesday's game showed when Butler came on, we still know how to play 4-4-2 if we need to. The fact is, Forster is playing so well right now that he is able to keep both Cureton & Butler out of the team. Either they have to impress the hell out of Pardew in training, or Forster has to lose his form. A more relevant debate should be about the midfield. Right now James Harper is in serious danger of convincing me that he really is a star player. Yesterday he was my man of the match. His work rate was superb, he actually won some tackles and he was always tracking back and defending or looking for the ball up front. Tyson looked an effective alternative to Salako, though he has to work on his marking.
To the phone in moaners I say, read the above reports, think about how we are playing, look at our results for the last 5 games.
Won 4, Lost 1, Scored 9, Conceded 2
We are 8th in the table, there are 16 teams below us who would gladly swap places.
bob lethaby
This was an excellent result against an improving Millwall, and whilst the play offs are probably a pipe dream you never know. Upson was the best player on the pitch today, he simply oozes premiership quality. I read a dissapointing quote from Pardew today saying that he was not affordable... just buy him Reading, you can afford it somehow surely!
One of the things that amazed me today was that Nicky Forster cost 750k and Kevin Davies once cost Blackburn £7.5 million... I repeat £7.5 million. F*ck me that is some overrated player, my mate was convinced it must have been another Kevin Davies.
The other was the behaviour of the Millwall fans. They gave their poor side tremedous vocal support right untill Reading's second goal, but never looked interested in causing the violence they have in recent years. I can only assume that Millwall's membership policy has paid dividends in ridding the club of the club of the scum that would happily throw bricks at women, children and pensioners. The Millwall fans I saw at the game yesterday were more concerned with the demise of their team than kicking in some poor buggers head.
I also read with interest Caversham Royal's critism of the abuse given to our dear friend Mark McGhee. I do generally agree with his comments that it is a bit old hat to abuse McGhee non stop, but I am sorry to say that as a 35 year old man I still found it f*cking funny when the "F*ck Off Mark McGhee" anthem echoed round the stadium with a couple of minutes remaining. I'm sorry but that's my opinion, and seeing him racing up and down the line in his prattish long coat reminded me of that other idiot Tommy Burns. I mean what is it about these jock mangers that they have to wear these stupid coats. They all do it, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Alex Ferguson, the list is endless. Who the f*ck do they think they are, gangsters!! Even the Scottish manager of our local village team bought one. He thought he was Tommy Burns the sad twat.
Well done Reading, well done Pardew (dont get a long coat) this is becoming a season to rival 1995, long may the ride continue.
thatcham reporter
Just wanted to say that I think Caversham Royal's report on the game is spot on in a number of respects not least the boring chants about McGhee. I wonder whether many of our fans actually saw the football we played under his leadership, which in my humble opinion was some of the best I've seen in the 33 years I've been watching The Royals. Yes, the way he left us did leave a sour taste at the time but it should be pointed out that much of what we as fans know about the circumstances was fed to us by our wonderful local press! If John Madejski and Alan Pardew can move on from it then surely it's about time that everyone else connected with RFC did as well. Secondly, if John Salako was so in need of a rest then why wasn't Sammy Igoe at least on the bench as cover for Nathan Tyson (who showed a lot of potential on debut especially as he was up a Premiership class full back). 4-5-1 isn't the most attractive way of playing particularly in home games because it does invite the opposition to push on to us, however, no one can question the results we are getting using this method.
The spine of the team now looks very strong with Hahnemann, Upson, Watson and Forster outstanding over the last few games. As has already been stated the benefit of Upson on the performances of the rest of the back four, particularly Adie Williams is immense. We must hope that something can be done to keep him at Reading for a while longer as the alternative options are not so encouraging! 26 points after 16 games and a positive goal difference, we'd have all taken that before the start of the season.
Well done to all the lads on Saturday, 2 difficult away games now follow but if we could get 4 points from these then the place will be really buzzing and hopefully some of those fair-weather 'supporters' who come along for the good times might be back at the Mad Stad for the Watford game. Come on URZSS
crowthorne royal
Oh what joy it is to read Teletext at the moment! I kept on looking at page 325 on Sunday and grinning. I enjoyed the game on saturday and as most people I can't really believe how well we are doing. So many players had good games on Saturday, I would mark them like this :
Hahnemann - 8 Didn't have a lot to do but did it well
Murty - 6 A poor game by his good standards, got caught out a couple of times
Shorey - 9 A class act
Upson - 10!! - What a performance, Premiership bound I'm afraid
Williams - 8 Another solid game from Adie
Hughes - 7 Good goal, some good runs but again wasn't in the game enough and gave the ball away far too cheaply
(Loved his Dennis Wise 50/50 though, which he won and left little Den on the track!)
Watson - 8 Some sublime passing
Newman - 7 Not one of his best games but still gives us an edge and wins some important challenges
Harper - 9 Great performance Harps, suddenly showing what we all hoped he had. His quick feet got us out of 2 or 3 sticky situations today
Tyson - 6 Did quite well, certainly showed promise
Forster - 9 Electric, brilliant to watch - his run from the short corner in front of The East stand was amazing. The one thing he lacks as we all know is the ability to find the back of the net more, needs to learn from Curo.
So surely nothing to moan about...... I wouldn't be a footie fan if there wasn't! - We gave the ball away so much it was embarrassing at times Against good sides coming soon like Portsmouth, C Palace, Sheff Utd etc we will be in danger of conceding far more goals. Couple this with Upson probably on his way and we could start to see a different team. If we start to lose confidence then the whole thing can fall apart very quickly. We must practice this in training as a necessity.Finally, thanks to Nick Newbury whose description of Upson as ' Like a dream car on a test drive that you know has to be returned soon because you can't afford it' is so accurate it's amazing!!
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