(HT: 3-0)
Reading Scorers: Cureton, Cureton, Caskey (pen), Cureton
Brentford Scorers: -
Date: 9 September 2000
Attendance: 10,222

Reading: Whitehead, Gurney (Haddow), Viveash, Hunter (Mackie), Newman, Parkinson (Smith), Caskey, Hodges, Butler, Cureton, Igoe.
Subs not used: Ashdown, McIntyre.

Brentford: Gottskalksson, Quinn, Marshall, Evans, Mahon, Scott, Rowlands (Folan), Ingimarsson, McCammon, Partridge (Pinamonte), Javary.
Subs not used: Smith, Williams.

Bookings: Caskey, Gurney, Parkinson, Smith (Reading); Javary, Mahon, Pinamonte, Rowlands (Brentford)

What a difference a few days make. On Tuesday night Reading were beaten by a third division side at the Madejski Stadium - Leyton Orient's 2-0 victory was the right result after a weak performance by the Royals, who wasted chances and made fatal mistakes at the back. Today against Brentford in the league it was like watching a totally different side. It took Reading a good 15 minutes to get into their stride, but once they did there was only one team in it - and it was a thoroughly deserved victory for the Royals, who could have won by even more than the eventual four goals. It's performances like this from Reading that keep the promotion dream well and truly alive - Reading fly up the table to fifth place after this result.

Jamie Cureton was amazing up front - however, his three goals only tell part of the story. If my memory is right his hat-trick was the first seen at the Madejski Stadium since he hit four past the Royals a couple of seasons ago for Bristol Rovers. Luckily Cureton is a Reading man now and, up front with Butler, it seems certain there's plenty more goals where today's come from. Cureton is the division's leading scorer and could well stay on the top of that table throughout the season if he continues to play like this. But it wasn't just an individual performance from Cureton that won the game for Reading in such style - it was a true team performance with everyone working together, and the home side looking superior to Brentford in every department. I'm convinced that Brentford were a very weak side - but the way Reading exposed it was a delight to watch.

For the first 15 minutes though it looked like it was going to be the same depressing performance from the Royals. Hunter shook off injury to make a start, but with Robinson missing Andy Gurney was switched to left back with Ricky Newman coming back into the right back position - so hardly a first choice defence. For ages all Reading could do was hoof the ball up the park while Brentford put Reading under a bit of pressure. Brentford could have taken an early lead after Gurney was beaten on the left and the ball whipped into the middle. Moments after that Whitehead needed to be alert to tip over a header on target from inside the box. Meanwhile the game was being held up every few seconds as the referee stopped play for fouls - and it seemed we weren't set for an afternoon's entertainment. How wrong I was!

After twenty minutes Reading won a corner on the left. The ball was played into the box, Parkinson went flying in, the ball came out to Hodges on the edge of the box and he played it back deep into the box. And there was Jamie Cureton in the centre of the box to hook the ball over the keeper and into the net. Yes! 1-0 to the Royals. When Reading take the lead there's always that fear we're going to sit back on it for the rest of the game. A couple of seasons ago this game might have ended up 1-1. But today our first goal signalled a near all out attack on the Brentford goal.

Attack quite often starts at the back, so it was re-assuring to see the whole defence get more and more confident to come forward and play a couple of decent balls to targets. Hunter set up Cureton with a long ball from the centre of defence to his feet, and Gurney was coming forward well even if a few balls went astray. Brentford came forward less and less as Reading pushed forward, but when they did both Newman and Gurney put in a couple of decent challenges and actually won the ball. We were also doing a great job of closing people down - perhaps we've learnt from recent mistakes of leaving the opposition unmarked all over the place? The whole defence deserves credit for their performance - but it might have been partly down to the lack of pace and creativity up front for Brentford who rarely threatened after their opening 15 minutes.

As Reading started winning possession in the Brentford half the chances started running freely. Hodges could have got on the score sheet after a long Caskey ball found him against just the keeper inside the area - but instead of having a go he directed the ball back with his head to Butler. Butler and Cureton started working really well together up front - helped out with plenty of support. Butler could have had one after being set up by Cureton, but took a bit too long on the ball. Moments later it worked the other way, with the ball being pumped into the box and Butler shielding the ball with his back to the keeper. Cureton legged it forward and just as Butler was pushed over by the keeper he chested the ball into Cureton's path. Cureton made no mistake to blast it home for his second - 2-0 to the Royals!

And then we looked unstoppable. Cureton could have had his hat-trick way inside the first half after being set up with a simple chance with a cross from the right. Cureton was once again in the right place at the right time but instead of prodding it into the net at the far post he sent it flying over the crossbar. Then on 45 minutes Butler was sent flying in the area for our second real penalty claim of the match. This time it was given, and the home fans went mental. Up stepped Caskey, and in true Caskey style drove the ball into the right of the net from the spot - with the last kick of the half. 3-0!

For a few moments after half time it looked like we might sit back on it - but then we came forward more looking for the fourth. The fourth eventually came with twenty minutes to go. The ball was played long into the Brentford half over the defence. Cureton, just inside the half, must have been just onside when it was played. For a moment he stopped his run to check for the flag, and then he was off.... and with the Brentford defence way behind he cut into the box from the right and slammed it in for his third of the game. 4-0! I can't remember the last time we stuck four in at home, but it feels good!

Barry Hunter and Andy Gurney were both substituted and received a standing ovation from the East Stand - something else in massive contrast to last Tuesday night - and Mackie and Haddow came on. Haddow got stuck in straight away with a couple of good runs forward - but also with a couple of great tackles at the back where Gurney had left off. Brentford has a late flurry looking for a consolation goal but just couldn't break through and only succeeded in getting a whole series of corners. Reading continued to look the most dangerous coming forward, and with chants of "we want five", we always looked capable of adding to the score.

A fantastic team performance, and the best result for years. The law of Reading FC says we'll probably be shit again on Tuesday night. But if we manage to play like this again against Oldham then I'm off to stick another twenty quid on Reading winning the championship. We are going up!


Following report by guest reporter, Neil Cole:

Absolutely inexplicable… it seems bizarre that pretty much the same team that was easily dumped out of the cup by Leyton Orient can produce a performance like this only four days later. The Royals took the field with most of us fearing the worst after a shocking display in midweek, yet they were able to show what they are capable of and easily beat a poor looking Brentford side.

Jamie Cureton was the hero today, as he scored three in match which could have easily have yielded more than its eventual four goals. To be fair, the scoreline flattered the Royals slightly, but with a superb attack against an absolutely dreadful defence this result was only to be expected.

The injury crisis which has struck the Royals since the start of the season, left Alan Pardew with very limited options available at the back. Barry Hunter was doubtful, but was able to take the field in the end with Adi Viveash in the middle. The only changes were at full back, where an injury to Matt Robinson picked up in midweek left us looking vulnerable at left back. Ricky Newman was able to resume the role of right back, where he had performed so well at Port Vale, so Andy Gurney switched flanks and started the game at left back.

Happily, the performance of the Reading attack took the pressure off the defence, and with all eyes on Jamie Cureton nobody noticed the weaknesses at the back. The Brentford defence was simply unable to cope with the pace and trickery of Cureton, and it was no surprise that he scored three in what could have easily been a rout. While Martin Butler didn’t have the best of games, his presence was enough to bewilder the Brentford back four, and the partnership with Cureton was more than enough to secure the points for the Royals.

The first two goals were nearly carbon copies of each other, as mistakes by the Brentford centre backs allowed Cureton to fire in from close range. Including his penalty for Bristol Rovers on the opening day, Cureton has already hit seven goals this season, and it is clear that any mistake by the opposing defence could easily result in another goal for Royals striker. While neither goal was an exceptional strike, it takes an exceptional player to find the positions from which it is possible to punish such defensive mistakes.

A 2-0 lead so early in a game is a rare luxury for Reading, but to their credit they kept going forward rather than sitting back. With a weak looking defence everyone knew two goals might not be enough, so it was a huge relief when we killed the game off with a third goal before half time. Another superb move involving Sammy Igoe down the right ended in what looked like an open goal for Martin Butler. Yet Butler dallied on the ball, and instead of striking it home he was brought down by a cynical challenge from a Brentford defender and the penalty was given. While many wanted Cureton to secure his hat-trick from the spot, the ball was rightly given to our penalty expert Darren Caskey, who fired home the Royals’ third of the afternoon.

A new record for the Madejski Stadium was created – we were three goals up at half-time! Yet surprisingly the atmosphere within the ground was poor at the start of the second half, with a lack of singing from both sets of fans. It took a fourth goal to stir the Royals into life, and this was duly delivered by Jamie Cureton as he completed his hat-trick. Everyone was looking for the offside flag as Cureton charged through, but it failed to appear and the hat-trick was complete as Cureton coolly placed it past the Bees’ keeper.

Despite the hunger from the Reading fans for a fifth goal, it was game over and both sides played out the rest of the game. The Royals had surprised everybody with this result, especially the Brentford fans who must have fancied their chances after the Leyton Orient debacle in midweek.

While it is hard to complain after such a result, the inconsistency of the Reading performances this season must be a worry to all Royals fans. It is clear that the talent is there and we should be one of the top three teams in the division at the very least this year. Yet performances like those at Leyton Orient and at Northampton are enough to suggest that we are not yet complete. Hopefully once the team has truly gelled we will not see results such as these again, and each game will follow the pattern of today’s trouncing of Brentford. It is only when we reach this level of consistency that we will genuinely be able to sing “we are going up”.

Post Match Opinions

This was the best atmosphere that I can remember at the Madstad - for a change there was a lot of noise. (I was in the East stand) Where did those white plastic clickey things (a modern substitute for the traditional wooden rattle) come from? Somebody get some more - quick!
I thought we were quite shakey in defence, especially early on, and untidy in that we gave away a lot of posession.
Still, 4-0 will soothe the nerves and breed some confidence; Brentford were poor, however. It must help our defence if our attacking/flair payers were on fire as they were on Saturday. The referee's indecision threatened to ruin an excellent game.
Man of the match? Cureton, obviously, but give a lot of credit to Igoe on the right wing.

-- "Rdmj"

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