(Half Time: 0-2)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (34 mins), McIntyre (37 mins)
Hereford Scorers: Williams
Date: 9 January 2001
Attendance: 1,693

Reading: Howie, Gray, Viveash, Hunter, Murty, Jones, Caskey, Igoe (Gurney), Cureton (Henderson), McIntyre, Rougier. Subs not used: Whitehead, Mackie, Haddow.

Hereford: Cooksey, Gardiner, Wright, Wall, Sturgess, Rodgerson, Snape, Robinson, McIndoe, Williams, Elmes (Giddins). Subs not used: Quiggin, Baker, Hanson, Moran.

Bookings: Gray, Hunter
Referee: P Rejer (Leamington Spa)

Reading progressed to Round Three of the LDV Trophy, but it wasn't easy as Conference side Hereford United gave the Royals a close game at Edgar Street. Two first half goals should have been enough to make it a comfortable night for the Royals, but in the second half they threatened a York-style collapse as Hereford got into the game and were much the better side.

Alan Pardew put out a strong side, resisting the calls to put some of the younger squad members into the first team. Stuart Gray played left-back instead of the injured Matt Robinson, with Graeme Murty starting on the right after his impressive performance against Millwall. Adi Viveash returned to the side after suspension, partnering Hunter at centre-back. The midfield saw Caskey play in the middle for once, alongside Keith Jones, Sammy Igoe and Jim McIntyre. Martin Butler was rested, as Rougier came in to partner Jamie Cureton up front. In goal, Scott Howie was given his first start of the season as Whitehead was rested.

It was close to a first choice starting eleven, and as expected the Royals dominated the first half. Hereford are having a successful season in the Conference, but they struggled to cope with the lively Reading attack. Jim McIntyre justified his recall with a good performance, and must surely be considered for a start at Stoke on Saturday. Most of Reading's attacks came from out wide, with McIntyre and Igoe both getting involved and creating chances.

The first goal came after half an hour, as Jamie Cureton hit an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area, after a move down the right involving Murty and Igoe. Cureton's finishing hasn't been great in recent games, but he couldn't have hit this one sweeter as he fired the Royals into the lead. The second goal came almost immediately afterwards, again following a cross from the right. Tony Rougier beat the Hereford left-back, cut in and crossed the ball for Jim McIntyre, who had a simple finish from a couple of yards out.

Rougier had a good game, and didn't stop running for the whole ninety minutes. He has attracted some criticism recently, with the inevitable comparisons to Mass Sarr. However, today his commitment could not be doubted, and some of his skill was a joy to watch. We still haven't seen Rougier in his ideal position, as again he looked a little lost at times playing up front today.

Half-time came with Reading in a very comfortable position. Once again though, we failed to keep up the pressure, and allowed Hereford to get back into it. Our increasingly fragile defence could have done with a confidence building clean sheet today, but that went out the window as Adi Viveash gifted Hereford a chance to get back in the game. Viveash played a back-pass, without first looking where keeper Scott Howie was. With Howie some way out of his goal, he had no chance to get to the ball as a Hereford player intercepted the pass. He squared the ball, providing a team-mate with an open goal.

Viveash's mistake could have been costly, as after the goal Hereford dominated the game and the Reading defence looked increasingly shaky. There seems to be little or no communication between the centre-backs, and with a different goalie today the problem was made even worse. This is an area that Pardew and the coaching staff really need to look at, as the defensive mistakes are becoming too common and could ultimately cost us promotion.

Youth striker Darius Henderson was given 30 minutes to try and impress, replacing Cureton. However, he and Rougier were given no service from the midfield at all in the second half. Keith Jones looked out of his league playing against a Conference side, while Caskey and Igoe were largely anonymous in the second half. Rougier resorted to doing it himself, and nearly scored Reading's third after another skilful run that only lacked a quality finish.

Hereford continued to push for an equaliser, but the Reading defence managed to hold out without making any more stupid errors. The Royals deserved the win, but in typical Reading style they made hard work of it. The final whistle was a great relief, and the 100 or so Reading fans could celebrate the fourth away win of the season.

This game was of little significance, with such a big game at Stoke coming up on Saturday. However, it's nice to have a successful break from the league, and now we're only four games from a trip to Cardiff!

Report by Neil Cole

Post Match Opinions

It must have been difficult for the players last night, although a strong squad on paper, that combination has not really played together as a team and at times last night it showed. Howie was doing plenty of shouting in the first half but seemed quieter in the second half - maybe the home crowd were too noisy for him. That said, I saw their goal as one of those accidents that always tend to lift a trailing side. It made a change for the crowd to be so close to the action. It was nice to hear what was being said between the players (and officials - my daughter particularly liked the way Barry Hunter told the linesman off and then gave him a broad grin) but I was glad we held on as the thought of extra time and penalties.... It was too cold!
I guess Neil was being sarcastic about Keith Jones being out of his league, he always looks as if his knees are about to buckle. Maybe he's just out of his age group? I thought Murty, Gray and McIntyre tried hard to impress but one or two of the "first teamers" seemed to be less enthusiastic.
Overall I would say an adequate display if a little disappointing in quality, a bit like the lunar eclipse happening above the far stand.

-- Eddie - Salop Royal

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