(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (52 mins), Butler (90 mins)
Northampton Scorers: -
Date: 3 November 2001
Attendance: 5,162

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Viveash, Shorey, Hughes, Harper, Watson (N.Smith 78), Salako, Butler, Cureton (Henderson 84). Subs not used: Forster, Ashdown, A.Smith.

Northampton Town: Welch, Burgess, Sampson, Hope, Spedding, Marsh (Gabbiadini 65), Hunt, Frain, Hargreaves, Forrester, McGregor (Hunter 86). Subs not used: Sollitt, Asamoah, Dempsey.
Sampson (Northampton).
P Rejer (Leamington Spa).

Well into stoppage time Neil Smith intercepted a loose pass on the halfway line and slid a perfectly weighted pass forward presenting Martin Butler with his third clear cut chance of the afternoon. This time he made no mistake slipping the ball calmly past the keeper. It made the three points that Reading fully deserved completely safe and will go a long way to restoring the confidence of the out of form striker.

Having not kept up with the news for the past couple of days I was slightly surprised to see Kevin Watson and John Salako trot out in Reading's colours. What a difference they made! The side was further strengthened by the inclusion of Nicky Storey at left back. From the opening minutes Reading took control of this game with an assurance that seemed to make the outcome inevitable.

The influence of Kevin Dillon was also evident from the start. Reading played the sort of passing game that all their fans have been longing for. Passes were exchanged crisply all over the field. The ball was being played in to Cureton and Butler on the floor, who consequently looked far more effective. On one occasion Shorey illustrated his confidence by holding the ball and directed Cureton to move in position to receive the pass and then delivered it accurately to his feet. Kevin Watson steadied the midfield with his presence. He won the ball cleanly and used it effectively. He was strong in the tackle and his touch was great. Salako oozed class throughout. He made it all look so easy. He controlled the ball and laid it off accurately under pressure. He tormented the Northampton defence with his runs down the left and through the centre of midfield.

Although Reading dominated the first half, chances were few and the game developed into a stalemate. The second half burst into life with Northampton producing two good strikes on goal in the opening minutes. When Reading deservedly took the lead they were helped by an appalling decision by the referee's assistant. There were two Reading players clearly in offside positions when the ball was played through to Salako. The former England international cut into the area and slid a perfect ball across the six yard box. Cureton calmly pushed the ball back across the goal and into the net. Football of the highest quality.

Northampton threw everything at Reading in the closing stages looking for the equaliser they didn't deserve. The defence had some nervous moments but generally held firm. Murty in particular deserves an mention for a brave header in front of his own goal which prevented a certain goal. He received a nasty blow to the head for his trouble but had clearly kept his eye on the ball. A fine example of his character and commitment.

So the roller coaster season continues. This was another fine away performance, but this season's home form has been letting us down. It may be tempting fate but this team had a look of promotion candidates. They certainly looked as if they belonged in a higher division than their opponents today. I'd settle for the same again on Tuesday at home and on this showing we have every reason to feel optimistic.
Report by John Wells

Post Match Opinions

In many ways this game could be the turning point of the season. There have obviously been some dramatic behind the scenes moves. We may never learn the real truth behind them. Mad Dog has gone. He has been accused of bullying, but what he did do for the fans was to bring a new energy to the support and he was instrumental in improving the atmosphere at the ground. If the players no longer responded to him then a change was needed. It should be said that should happen only if we have not got a band of prima donnas who winge when things don't go right for them!
What about Pardew? I believe that, at present he deserves a great deal of credit. We all know that he is learning the job. He did well last year and we should not forget that. OK he is not the best with the media, and I suspect he misses the guiding hand of Maurice Evans. But look what he did today. I firmly believe that the form of our strikers last year made us look a better team than we were. Their form this year has shown, that without them, we are average. They are an integral part of the team. If at the start of the season you had been asked who would be our star players, you would not have come up with Whitehead and Murty. Yet that is what has happened. The strikers have let us down in terms of form. This has exposed our midfield. The defence has been reliable, if not good. This week Pardew delivered by bringing in two extra people in midfield. Both did well today. Solako was outstanding. He showed the value of being able to control the football and pass it consistently to a member of the same team. He may be the answer to the left side of midfield, if he is available, and, if we can afford him.
We started well today.
Northampton scarcely had a touch in the opening exchanges but we did not convert. Butler and Cureton both might have (not should have) scored in the first half. Williams was excellent at the back. Solako excited. I was disappointed that we went in at half time without scoring. In midfield we showed more coherence. Harper was full of energy, Hughes had good opportunities but did not deliver in the way that he had at Notts County. Cureton was, perhaps a little greedy and Butler was not quite there. The opening goal was crucial. It came after a decisive run by Solako who left Cureton with a simple tap in. The Cobblers put on the pressure as the game wore on and had too much of the ball, but rarely threatened. Murty made up for a rare error with a dramatic clearance off the line reminiscent of the game at home to Bournemouth last year. We needed a second. We had numerous opportunities. Cureton and Butler both could and should have scored. Smith delivered the pass and Butler duly finished. Perhaps now his goal scoring will take off and with it our season.
We, as fans, have expected a great deal this year. We have put pressure on all concerned. There have been too many negative comments. A team does not play well when the fans get on its back. It is too easy to criticise and for many the easy way out. We have seen performances which have been unacceptable, Cardiff, Swindon and Stoke. We are there to support the team. We have the opportunity to be positive this week in the games that we have. Yes we need to win them. Patience and positive support are much more powerful forces than cynicism and booing. Let's all work to make today's result the turning point of the season!

-- Ken C

The first half was entirely forgettable and the mid-afternoon sun made the experience very soporific. Both sets of fans were very quiet and it could have been mistaken for a county cricket match with polite applause and pleasant chit-chat etc.. I was half expecting the stewards to come around offering prawn sandwiches and Earl Grey tea at half time. The second half was a lot better with Reading attacking the away end. Cureton finished easily after a surging run from Salako for the first. Then Butler finished them off with his first goal from open play after a lot of pressure from the Cobblers towards the end. Martin Allen? Martin who?
--Telford Royal

Here we go again, another impressive away win. What will follow? A one all home draw with Wrexham probably!
Reading are increasingly becoming like unsuitable girlfriends of my youth. You think you love them, then they let you down. Your friends and relatives tell you to stop seeing them as they only hurt you and make you unhappy. You finally build up the courage to stop seeing them, then they flirt with you, and inevitably and patheticly you go back for more punishment.
If we beat Wrexham, we go fourth, it's hard to beleive really after some of the shite I have seen this year, but it just shows that everything is still up for grabs. Allen going is a result, but that also means Pardew has played his last card. If our home form doesn't improve against Wrexham and Bristol City we all know where the buck stops!
I will go to the game on Tuesday, so please perform Reading, I can't face to be told "I told you so" again. This time I might have to end our relationship for good... well at least until we beat Peterborough away!

-- Bob Lethaby

Didn't go to the game on saturday. Spent time working out how this season compares with last. (V.SAD)
I've been to most games this season and have been very dissapointed with performances let alone results.
However, Every cloud has a silver lining, etc...
If we beat Wrexham and Brsitol City this week we will have the same points after 18 games that we had after 18 games last season!
Shocking but true.
Going to Wrexham tomorrow and depending on performance will consider City.
What I cannot stand again though is watching another teams fans pack the away end, beat us, sing their hearts out and make our day miserable and generally have a fantastic away day at our expense. England on the telly/England at Twickenham against the 'Orrible Aussies/ or The Mad Stad?
I hope my head rules on saturday and not my heart!

-- Crowthorne Royal
NB - Great uplifting note from Ken C, we need more like you!

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