(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: McIntyre (69 mins)
Wigan Athletic Scorers: -
Date: 9 March 2001
Attendance: 12,307

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

Wigan Athletic: Carroll, Balmer, Bradshaw, (McGibbon), De Zeeuw, Brannan, McMillan, Sheridan, Bidstrup, Liddell, Ashcroft, Roberts, McCulloch, Green. Subs not used: Stillie, Nicholls.

Bookings: Parkinson (Reading); McCulloch, Roberts, Sheridan (Wigan).
Referee: M Fletcher (Warley)

The Reading promotion charge continues, as a tenth game unbeaten moves the Royals back up to third in the league and sees another promotion rival leave the Madejski Stadium empty handed. The Sky cameras were there to see it, and it’s fair to say the game was disappointing from their point of view. However that didn’t bother the twelve thousand Reading fans who turned out, and saw a second half Jimmy McIntyre goal earn the Royals another three points.

Reading probably deserved the win, on the strength of their second half performance. The first 45 minutes was dominated by Wigan who tried to take advantage of Reading’s inability to string two passes together. However the Royals came out for the second half looking a different side, mainly thanks to a brave half-time substitution by Alan Pardew. The service to Jamie Cureton had been awful, so Pardew replaced him with Anthony Rougier, whose strength and pace helped turn the game around.

In Rougier and James Harper we now have two of the most exciting players in the division, and they were both superb in the second half. Harper had returned to the side at the expense of Ricky Newman, having missed the draw at Wycombe through illness. Other than that, it was the same side that had rescued a point at Adams Park, with Igoe remaining on the bench and Darren Caskey keeping his place on the right of midfield.

It’s hard to tell what was wrong with the team in the first half, but they managed to go the whole 45 minutes without creating a decent chance. The only attempts on goal came from a weak long range effort by James Harper, and a Caskey free-kick that the Wigan keeper had no problems saving. A well worked corner close to half-time almost created an opening, as Jim McIntyre was found unmarked at the far post. He opted to head back across goal though, and nobody was able to get the final touch that was needed to score.

Wigan on the other hand, had numerous attempts on goal as they desperately tried to end their goal drought. They hadn’t scored from open play in five matches, and their caretaker manager had obviously told them to shoot on sight in an attempt to improve things. However, often they took this too far and the Latics were shooting from all over the place instead of looking to pass their way through the Reading defence. The closest they came to scoring was early in the game, when a handball was missed by the referee and the ball broke to Roberts, who shot wide from close range. Later in the half Sheridan shot narrowly over, but this was the closest any of their long range efforts came to the goal.

Fortunately the second half was much improved from a Reading point of view, and the Royals fans finally began to find their voice. Anthony Rougier made an obvious difference to the side, and just three minutes into the half he made a great run down the left. His superb cross found the head of Martin Butler, but the header was put wide. Shortly afterwards Rougier was put through on goal himself by a superb Caskey pass, but he could only shoot tamely at the keeper.

Wigan then had a spell were it looked like they might snatch the opener, which included a goal disallowed for offside, and a strong penalty appeal turned down by the referee. The Reading defence coped with the threat admirably though, as Whitbread and Viveash combined superbly in the heart of defence once again.

Reading finally broke the deadlock on seventy minutes, as James Harper found some space on the right after turning his marker well. His cross was low and quick across the face of the goal, and Jim McIntyre was there at the far post to sidefoot in from a narrow angle. The goal was reward for Pardew’s tactical change, which had switched the game into Reading’s favour. In the second half Reading looked like a side that could challenge for the title, and was a welcome sight after the very poor first period.

The Royals could have built on the lead, as Harper forced a great save out of the keeper after he had been put through by Butler. Jim McIntyre should have got his second right at the end, after being given a clear run at goal with all the Wigan players in the Reading half looking for an equaliser. However, McIntyre ran out of legs and tried to set up Butler instead, but the chance was wasted.

Wigan failed to create much in the second half, and promotion is going to be a struggle for them unless they find a scoring touch somewhere. Although Reading aren’t scoring freely at the moment either, we’re still winning plenty of games and the pressure is now really on Millwall and Rotherham. Neither of them can afford slip-ups, with Reading in such great form. The players now get some time to relax a bit before the Wrexham game next Saturday, and it’s all they deserve after winning seven points inside a week.

Report by Neil Cole.

Post Match Opinions

This was the first game I had been able to make for some time and from low down in a packed East stand I was very impressed by the Royals' determination not to fold in the face of some very competent play from tough and well-organised opponents. With better finishing, Wigan could have been 3 up at the break, but for the most part the chances were long range and to me suggested the Royals were shutting down the openings despite being driven back much of the time. Probably the most notable feature of the first 45 was Roy Carroll's kicking from the Wigan goal - he always seemed to get 10 extra yards, putting the Reading defence under pressure several times, but eventually I realised Wigan had few other attacking options despite their territorial advantage and neat passing.
The second half was a different story with Rougier immediately causing chaos in the right side of the Wigan defence. Straight off, Reading seemed to make half chances and although he wasn't involved in the move which brought the goal, I would say his presence combining with Harper's speed had disconcerted Wigan so much they had already lost some of their shape by the time the goal went in. Harper himself looked very useful throughout and his run for the cross which made the goal looked Premier league standard to me. On the downside, Wigan exposed Reading once or twice with tidy passes to their left winger but fortunately he didn't find the killer cross. Another ref might have given a penalty for one or other of a couple of challenges but they looked (just) legal to me.
The game wasn't helped by some rather fussy refereeing and in any case was not a great advert for open attacking football, but the way it developed was absolutely predictable given its importance to both clubs, and I have no complaints about the way Reading stuck to their guns and ground out the result they had to get. The lads certainly deserved the support of the gratifyingly noisy crowd and their standing ovation at the end. Just a shame Millwall and Rotherham spoilt the party by winning on Saturday, but at least the other results were in our favour and it really does look like a three horse race now. If I were a Wigan player, on the other hand, I would wonder at only 50 or so fans making it to the game given their high league position - OK it was an evening game, but it was Friday after all.

-- Richard, Newbury Royal

Dreadful in the first half, magnificent in the second! The first 45 minutes saw Reading fail to string any passes together. The midfield played too deep and offered no support to the front men. Without service, Butler and Cureton just could not get into the game. We were lucky that Wigan could not score. The back four did well but we could have had no complaints had we gone in at half time at least a goal down. Wigan dominated by playing wide and passing to each other, all we did was to hoof it up in the air. Credit to the manager. He took off his leading scorer to bring on someone who was stronger and offered a different option. Rougier responded well and had a superb half. It was like watching a different team in the second half. Better passing and a gradual domination which lead to the goal. A bit of class from Harper turning the defender one way then another, a good cross into the box, and there was Jimmy Mac, who had made up a lot of ground, to squeeze the ball home. After that it was comfortable, and although Wigan had a goal disallowed for offside, they did not look a threat. So the run continues. It needs to keep on continuing. We want an automatic spot. We were a long way from that a few weeks ago. We have to keep winning to keep the pressure on the top two, who still have to play each other!
-- Ken C

A brilliant result over a very strong Wigan side. I was absolutely delighted that we came in at 0-0 at half-time. Wigan seemed to have 90% of the possession. Every time we got the ball we gave it straight back to them. That said they didnít create too many clear chances but we could have been down at this point. The second half was like watching a different game with the Rs well on top and it could have been two or three by the end. Why couldnít we have changed our tactics a bit earlier, rather than wait until half-time?
Itís going to be a major surprise if we donít go up automatically. We have shot up from 6th or 7th to be firmly in the play-offs and it looks tobe two out of three for automtic promotion. Brilliant. Pardew has now got a very strong squad and with Forster and Williams to come back things are looking even better. Originally I wasnít sure about Pardewís appointment but I have had to eat my words. All his signings have been excellent business for the club. Harper looks like he could be one of the best players to wear the hoops. He has also got the best out of the existing players Ė Jimmy MacIntyre being a good example. Well done Jim.
Can I take this opportunity of thanking everybody that gives up their time to contribute to this web site. It is an absolute lifeline to exiled Royals like myself. Thanks guys.

-- Ian, Ferndown, Dorset

As an RFC exiled supporter in Scotland, TV apperances are my only opportunity to wartch the R's. What a dire 1st half...thankfully Wigan shots were truly awful. Much better 2nd half and major credit has to go to Pardew, who so often seems to have brought about a 2nd half improvement, and Rougier who changed the game. Harper looks a good signing and should be able to stand out in this league...and next year in Division 1 he will be vital!
-- Tom, Edinburgh

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