(Half Time: 0-1)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (33 mins)
Cambridge United Scorers: Wanlss (83 mins)
Date: 7 April 2001
Attendance: 4,745

Reading: Whitehead, Newman, Viveash, Whitbread, Robinson, Igoe, Jones, Parkinson, McIntyre (Hunter), Butler, Cureton (Rougier(Forster)). Subs not used:  Caskey, Howie. 

Cambridge: Marshall, Cowan (Richardson), Joseph, Fleming, Duncan, Hanson, Ashbee (Prokas), Wanless, Taylor (Kitson), Youngs, Riza
Subs not used: Perez, Dreyer.

Bookings: Joseph, Richardson (Cambridge). Newman, Igoe, Cureton, Robinson(X2) (Reading).
Sent Off:
Referee: A Bates

Report by Neil Cole:
This was another disappointing performance from the Royals, as we dropped two points on the road for the second time in a week.  This was very similar to the Luton game, in that we failed to break down a side battling at the foot of the table, and paid the price as we came away with just a point to show for it.  Yet again the standard of refereeing was poor, and there can be no doubt that the second-half dismissal of Matt Robinson changed the course of today's game and prevented us from going on to win the match.  However, if only Reading had made the most of some of the chances that came our way in the first half, the win would already have been sewn up by the time Robinson was sent off.

There were several changes from the side that came away from Kenilworth Road with a 1-1 draw in midweek.  Graeme Murty was injured once more, Caskey was dropped to the bench, and James Harper was missing from the squad altogether.  The changes meant there were rare starts for Sammy Igoe and Keith Jones in midfield, while Ricky Newman took over from Murty at right-back.  It was great to see Igoe back in the side, and he was one of the few players today to give a give a really good performance over the ninety minutes.  Caskey should find it difficult to get his place back, as Igoe did more today than Caskey has done in the last month.

The team seemed to be much improved from the poor display at Luton, and went in at half-time a goal up.  However, in truth it should have been more, and if we had made our chances count in the first half the result would never have been in doubt.  The goal we did score was a gift, as a mistake by the Cambridge keeper left him out of position, and his poor clearance presented Cureton with an open goal.  It was the easiest of Cureton's 24 goals this year, as he rolled the ball inside the post to put the Royals 1-0 up.

Butler should have scored shortly before Cureton found the net, as a poor back-pass allowed the Reading striker through on goal.  Butler got round the keeper, but his shot lacked power and was stopped on the line by a Cambridge defender.  Other chances came and went, as first Igoe then Jones shot wide.

The first half had been encouraging, but as the second got underway it again became apparent that Pardew had sent the team out with the aim of protecting the one goal lead.  These tactics have to be questioned, as we should have been able to go on to win comfortably.  It is true that these tactics resulted in wins at Brentford, Oldham, Swansea, and Swindon.  However, with a squad as good as the one we have at the moment, we should be able to win these games without resorting to all-out defence in the second half.  If only we would show a bit more aggression, we may be able to start winning games by more than one goal, and results like today's would never happen.

Cambridge didn't seem to pose too great a threat, and we may have held out if it wasn't for the sending off of Matt Robinson.  The Reading left-back received two yellow cards, and both were questionable.  The first was for time wasting, an unnecessary booking that some refs will give and others ignore.  The second was for a clumsy challenge which the Cambridge player undoubtedly made the most of, but the referee decided it warranted another booking and Robinson was on his way.  With ten men, the defensive job became even harder, and it seemed inevitable that Cambridge would get an equaliser.  Pardew brought on Rougier for Cureton, to play as a lone striker as Martin Butler dropped back into midfield.

For the next twenty minutes it was constant Cambridge pressure, as the United players realised they had a great chance of getting back into the game.  They had one goal disallowed, as the linesman cut the Cambridge fans' celebrations short with the offside flag.  They then had a reasonable penalty appeal turned down, as a clear handball by substitute Barry Hunter wasn't spotted by the ref.  Phil Whitehead was called into action after that, as he made two good close range saves to keep Reading's lead alive.  The barrage of Cambridge pressure continued with another penalty appeal, this time for a shot that was fired straight against the arm of a Reading defender..

The goal finally came with seven minutes left, as a corner was headed in by Wanless to draw the scores level.  It was all Cambridge deserved for their pressure, and probably what Reading deserved for their over-negative tactics in the second half.

Unsurprisingly, we improved after the goal as Reading went on the attack again looking for a winner.  There was a bizarre incident involving Rougier, as the substitute was taken off after playing for just fifteen minutes.  Pardew clearly realised that Nicky Forster was better suited to the role of lone striker, so Rougier paid the price.  He wasn't impressed with the decision, taking off his shirt and walking straight down the tunnel.  Bringing on Forster almost proved to be a master-stroke, as the fit-again striker twice came close to scoring to give us the win.  First he squeezed a shot in from a tight angle, which the keeper fumbled on to the post before finally catching.  Then, Forster connected with an Igoe cross and put in a great downward header, which went just the wrong side of the post.

It was a frustrating end to a very frustrating game, as we left with just a point from a game that really should have been won.  Poor finishing and negative tactics cost us another two points in the promotion race, and has made our job of catching the others up even harder.  The pressure is now really on for Tuesday's game at Bournemouth, and a return to winning form is vital.

Post Match Opinions

I've seen it all now. Today I witnessed one of the worst pieces of management I have ever seen. Second half we're down to 10 men after some appalling refereeing but we're 1-0 up. Pardew brings on Rougier hopefully to keep the ball a bit better. Incredibly about 15 minutes later he takes him off again. They score 1-1. Mr Pardew has destroyed the confidence of a good player just like that, I was disgusted. I'm no great fan of Rougier but he didn't deserve to be treated like that. First half we should have buried them but couldn't score that second goal. Second half, once we were down to 10 men they came at us and we couldn't hold out. It absolutely pissed it down today so I was glad to be under the 3 square inches of roofing and even got to see a fight break out next to me.
-- Russ, Essex Royal.

A point gained or two points lost? The weather was terrible, though the pitch looked great and stood up well under the conditions. Reading played some good football in the first half. They passed the ball round sensibly and looked dangerous. Igoe had a splendid game and the much-maligned Jones played well. As ever, Parkinson worked his socks off and won every 50-50 ball and Whitehead made the difference between one point and none. Butler was heavily marked (and fouled consistently) throughout the game and, by his high standards, was slightly disappointing though he never stopped running and hassling. But for a goal-line clearance and an excellent save from the United keeper, the Royals should have gone in at half-time comfortably in the lead, at least 3-0 up. As it was John Beck obviously read the riot act to his hapless players at half-time. With a change of personnel Cambridge came out in the second half like storm troupers. Despite this, Reading defended comfortably.
It was the sending off of Robinson which made all the difference. The first booking was absurd and the second unlucky. His departure put Reading in defensive mode and it was not much of a surprise when Cambridge equalised. The last ten minutes were extremely tense though, as Neil Cole reports, the game could still have been won. The sending on and the taking off of Rougier looked to be rank bad man management. Pardew should either have put Forster on in the first place or instructed Rougier to run and run after every single ball that came forward, even if the causes were hopelessly lost. Rougier worked hard when it was sensible to do so and did not played at all badly in the 10 minutes or so he was on the pitch. When substituted he was obviously downcast and dejected, as anyone else would have been in his position, but there was no comforting words or consoling gestures from either Pardew or Mad Dog when he walked off the pitch straight to the shower room.
The management team are young and relatively inexperienced but if they are going to behave like Brian Clough they need to get their team to play in a similar fashion. The best form of defence is attack. Even with 10 men, Reading have more fire-power than most other teams in Division 2 (Millwall excepted) and must win at places like Cambridge if they are to gain automatic promotion. It was two points lost at Cambridge and two points lost at Luton. The Royals should be top of the table now. Bournemouth is a much more difficult fixture - but three point are not out of the question. Let's hope that Reading's first half performance at Cambridge can be repeated and sustained throughout the whole game and that we don't nervously fall back on defending once in the lead.

-- Chris, (Royal from Newmarket)

I wasn't at the Cambridge match but I was at Millwall. Don't be too disheartened by the scoreline. Millwall were adequate, but Rotheram were absolutely pathetic. Poor defending resulted in them being three nil down at half time. The fourth goal was a beauty by Claridge and then Rotheram just gave up. They looked like a team doomed to relegation not fighting for promotion. Long may their form continue, for if they carry on playing like that then we will go up! The main difference between watching Millwall and ourselves was that they play further up the pitch and therefore get more men into attacking positions rather than just leaving it to the front men!
-- Ken C

Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email opinion@royals.cx
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!

HNA? Home Page
Copyright Hob Nob Anyone? © 1994-2001
The Original Reading Football Club Internet Site