COLCHESTER UNITED 2 READING 0 (Half Time: 2-0)
Colchester Scorers: Rapley (8 mins), McGleish (26 mins).
5 October 2001
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Whitbread, Robinson (Henderson 77), Parkinson, Harper (Forster 63), Jones (Igoe 59), Butler, Cureton, A Smith. Subs not used: Ashdown, Viveash.
United: Woodman, Duguid, Gregory, R Johnson, Clark, G Johnson (Keith
76), Bowry, Izzet (Stockwell 81), Pinault, McGleish, Rapley. Subs not
used: Brown, White, Morgan.
Last season Reading travelled to Layer Road needing a victory to keep the automatic promotion dream alive. We lost on that day to condemn ourselves to eventual failure in the play-off finals. This season we don't seem to have progressed from that disappointment. This latest league defeat makes our good start to the season a distant memory, and as we approach a quarter of the way through the season we're only just clinging to the top half of the table. This was a meeting of two out of form mid-table sides at Layer Road, and it was never expected to produce a decent showing of football. The only suprise in the end was probably just how easily Colchester United took the three points. The home side were the only side likely to win the match after they took a 2-0 lead within the opening twenty-six minutes. For the rest of the match Colchester did very little, but Reading were unable to make their possession count and we just couldn't bounce back from the early goals.
Phil Parkinson made a welcome return for the Royals after serving his three game suspension, but he was unable to inject his determination into a side that got off to a poor start and could never recover. Parky's inclusion in the starting eleven saw Sammy Igoe included on the substitutes bench as the Royals fielded four midfielders and the previously potent strikeforce of Butler and Cureton up front. Last season that pairing alone was worth at least a goal or two. The two players are completely out of form this season and aren't being assisted in their quest to find the net by a continual lack of supply. It seems we might just need a couple of goals to bring it all to life - and Cureton came so close to getting on the score sheet towards the end of the first half.
Colchester United ended their run of three staight defeats by exposing a very poor Reading defence in the opening third of the match. Reading went a goal down after just eight minutes after conceeding a free-kick on the edge of the area. Whitehead made the initial save but the rebound was put away to give the home side an early lead. More shocking defending from Reading almost gifted Colchester a second goal just minutes later when Robinson set them up, luckily Whitehead was alert to make the save. Mid-way through the first half Colchester sealed the points with a second goal after the ball was headed into the back of the net from a high cross.
Reading had their best spell towards the end of the first half when a goal might have got us back in the game. As we mounted our first period of real pressure we won a whole series of corners that saw the home defence get into some problems. Jamie Cureton came the closest with a couple of efforts that failed to find the target. From one corner he did well to pick up the ball and volley just over the crossbar. Robinson, perhaps trying to make amends for a poor defensive game, came forward well, and almost scored from a long range effort that flew over the crossbar. As we continued to get the ball into the Colchester box we came close on a couple occassions when we just failed to connect with a loose ball in the area. Perhaps a sharper Butler or Cureton would have done better on another day.
Our bright end to the first half wasn't followed up with enough attacking football in the second half. We had a lot more of the ball as Colchester were content to play out time and collect the three points, but in reality there wasn't too much to get excited about for either set of fans in a small attendance of less than four thousand. We never really got into the game like we might have done, and Pardew was forced to bring on Forster, Igoe and Henderson in three seperate substitutions to try and add something to our attacking game. But even with Forster, Cureton and Butler all on the pitch we couldn't find the net as any balls eventually played through were just too long or too short. In the end we were restricted to long shots which showed just how desperate we've become.
Colchester were another average side to take points off the Royals and highlight Reading's current inability to score goals and keep them out. This was another poor showing from a Reading side who simply don't look like a promotion winning side. The Reading fans are showing signs of turning against the current management team, but Pardew certainly still has time to get the season on course. The league cup might well be a waste of time, but a good showing at Aston Villa, followed by a home victory over Swindon Town and this defeat will be quickly forgotten and Pardew's popularity will be back. On the other hand two straight defeats from now will leave Pardew with a huge mountain to climb.
Following report by John Wells
With the M25 jammed in both directions and the centre of London clogged with the usual Friday night traffic I found myself driving along the A12 during the first half. I picked up from the radio that Colchester had taken an early lead. Arriving during the half time interval I was updated by a depressed Royals fan sipping his tea at the back of the stand. " Two-nil down. Two crap goals. We're kicking this way this half." I hadn't sat through what he had, so with foolish optimism I settled down to watch a great come back. No such luck.
Clearly I saw the better half of the game from a Reading point of view. Selection seemed to make sense. We have been unable to get a grip in midfield in recent games and Jones has been playing well. The midfield looked more secure defensively without Igoe. Pardew had either succumbed to public opinion or finally decided that the Cureton Butler combination was the best option.
Reading certainly pressed forward looking for goals, and by the end Pardew had all four of his strikers on the field. I was close enough to the pitch to see the determination and ultimately frustration on the faces of the players. They are desperate to do well. Perhaps too desperate. There were plenty of opportunities not only to pull back the deficit but to win the game. Sadly the closest the Royals came to putting the ball in the net was a Cureton effort near the end that smacked against the bar. It was probably too late then anyway.
Forster and Murty as usual posed a threat going past defenders with ease but when their good work provided openings the opportunities were squandered. I think Pardew was right to identify Cureton and Butler as his best option but this game highlighted their flaws. Butler is a great competitor and gets in good positions but his technique has always been a little weak. Tonight he shot tamely at the keeper on one occasion, and twice mis-cued embarrassingly from close range. Cureton on the other hand strikes the ball well and has superb touch but doesn't get in where the boots are flying. He is certainly the most reliable finisher but he is easily muscled out of it and doesn't really pressurise defenders. There is a coaching job to be done there, but they are still young and they are surely worth the investment of time and effort.
It is hard to be objective when you desperately want and expect your team to do well, and listening to people around me snarling their criticism of Pardew and Allen I could understand how they felt. However I feel this season is only just beginning to take shape and it much too early to crucify the management. Reading have dropped points against sides that will not be anywhere near promotion this season. Colchester being the latest; but in slipping into mid table still only find themselves five points behind the leaders. In the next month Bristol City and Brentford visit the Madejski Stadium, and there is a crucial game away to Oldham. The way the team performs in those games and where we stand after them will give us a much better indication of what lies a head.
The fans can give the team a lift and they need that support now. Nobody performs
better through receiving abuse. We can still go up - but if we don't - I hope
we don't have to play Colchester on a Friday evening again!
Post Match Opinions
The situation we find ourselves in right now is becoming unacceptable.
I think that's about it. We must change it now, or kiss goodbye to
any promotion chance this year. Pardew and Allen had their chance last
year, and this, and have quite frankly screwed up. Madejski deserves better,
and there will be someone out there that can deliver. Christmas is too
late to change it. How depressing!
I didn't think we deserved to lose, but the worrying thing was that
we didn't look better than a team which cost less to assemble than our
subs bench! The best bit of skill was from Forster, with about 10 mins
to go. He turned his marker on the half-way line, and was away like a
train to the bye line, squared to the near post, where Butler somehow
put it the wrong side, when it would have been easier to net it! To be
fair the team never stopped trying, and if that had gone in, and the later
effort which hit the bar, as they easily might,we would be saying that
character got them through.
Bury, Bournemouth and Colchester and just one lucky point to show
for our efforts. These our hardly giants of the division but we have been
very much second best in each match. Something is clearly wrong as I believe
we have by far the strongest squad in the division and we are under achieving
in a big way. There is a clear lack of confidence and I'm afraid to say
the current management seem incapable of changing the situation. I hope
I'm wrong, but I fear we're in for a long hard season.
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