MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

9 November 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Rougier (82 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 8,511

DIVISION ONE  9 Nov 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Notts Forest 17 30 +14
6 READING 17 29 +7
7 Sheff Utd 18 29 +3
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Upson (Mackie 64), Williams, Shorey, Watson (Butler 78), Harper, Newman, Hughes, Salako (Rougier 73), Forster. Subs not used: Cureton, Ashdown.
Brown, Nosworthy, Ashby, Hope, Perpetuini, Hessenthaler (Ipoua 80), Smith, Saunders, James, King (Tommy Johnson 70), Sidibe. Subs not used: Bartram, Leon Johnson, Spiller.
Reading: Newman. Gillingham: Nosworthy, Perpetuini.
Referee: P Walton (Winwick)

It's hard not to get excited about this season when Reading continue to churn out some excellent First Division results. We were all expecting a mid-table season at best, and we were happy enough to see the Royals feature in the top half of the table earlier this season. However, this latest victory takes us into the play-off positions - something we would have never thought imaginable at this stage of the season. Although, of course, it wouldn't be feasible to consider an attempt at promotion to Division One, our current position puts us in an excellent position to achieve the second best season ever in our club's history. A finish in the top half of the table would do exactly that, with our previous best two seasons being our runners up position in the 1994/1995 season, and our 13th placed season in the 1986/1987 season. With our current form and results we are already looking good for a top half finish.

If there was anything to cast a shadow over this superb victory is was the substitution of Matthew Upson during the second half of the game. Upson has performed wonders at Reading since his arrival on loan from Arsenal and had another excellent game for Reading in the centre of defence. With Upson in the team the defence has become unbeatable with the rest of the defence seemingly raising their game to Upson's premiership standard. We can only hope that Upson regains his fitness for next Saturday's trip to Sheffield United. Reading's recent success can be put down to Alan Pardew's 4-5-1 formation that he's put in place - and it was no suprise to keep to this winning formation for the trip to Gillingham with an nearly unchanged side. With Rougier fit again Pardew found no place for Nathan Tyson in the line-up and gave Salako his place back in the starting eleven.

Despite Reading's eventual win it was the home side that got off to the better start as they appeared to have Reading sussed out and created a series of good chances in the opening fifteen minutes. Hahnemann was required to make a couple of good saves and the home side really should have gone ahead on another occassion when their attacker had an open goal but somehow put the ball wide after a gap opened up when Williams failed to correctly clear the ball. Reading's formation has meant a virtually unbeatable defence and a superior midfield while producing perhaps slightly less chances up front. The same pattern continued at Gillingham with Nicky Forster again being relied on up front as the sole striker. Although Forster wasn't quite as effective as he had been against Millwall at the Madejski, he had another excellent game up front - keeping the Gillingham defence occupied despite the lack of support up front.

After the initial scares Reading were content to keep the ball played further forward to ease the danger, and as such our passing game wasn't quite at it's best as we pumped the ball forward. Forster was a bit overwhelmed purely by numbers as long balls failed to find him as their target. As Gillingham failed to make the most of a bit of possession Reading got more and more into the game as the half continued. After Gillingham could have taken the lead it was Reading's turn as they should have gone ahead before the break with a series of chances in the last fifteen minutes of the half. Forster had probably the best chance after a Salako cross gave him a header from close range. Had Forster put the ball anywhere else it would have found the net - but instead it found the goal keeper who pushed it over the bar. Forster turned provider moments later when he did well to twist past his man and cross to Hughes who put in a decent shot. As Reading stepped up the pressure and finished the half clearly on top Salako nearly scored with an excellent strike from reasonable distance.

The half time break probably came at a good time for the home side who came out looking more composed as the second half got underway. Nicky Shorey put in a good cross that was nearly turned in by a Gillingham defender, but then Reading started to look second best to a physically strong Gillingham side as we came under a bit of pressure from extended Gillingham possession. Thankfully the home side seemed a bit short of ideas up front as the Reading defence held strong. John Mackie replaced the injured Matthew Upson and did well to fit into the defence.

Again Reading started to play the ball around a bit more and generated a few chances up front. The introduction of Rougier and Butler with time running short shifted the balance of the team and instantly made us into a more attacking side that looked more likely to find the net. Rougier looked sharp when he came on with some good pace and ability to win free-kicks as Gillingham struggled to contain him. Butler took a man off Forster who found himself with a bit more space to create opportunities. With the emphasis now put on the front line the goal eventually game. Hughes did all the hard work and played the ball out wide to Forster who put in a low cross for Rougier who had the simple job of side footing the ball home. Rougier gratefully accepted the chance for his fifth Reading career goal and put Reading 1-0 up and on their way to victory. This latest victory makes it six wins from eight games, and three straight victories without conceeding a goal. Gillingham may have been suffering from poor recent form but they led this Division at the start of the season and remain a reasonable First Division side. It all adds up to another excellent away result for the Royals.

nick newbury
Flipping heck! What joy it will be when sat on the bog tomorrow morning studying the league table and seeing us, yes Reading FC in the play offs zone, with a blinking game in hand too! Who on earth would have thought the next two games Sheff Utd and Watford would be massive games in the top six with unthinkable ramifications on the coming season and beyond. I'm a great believer in the key to life being confidence in what ever you do in life. Before I get accused of being off my tree, it's so good to see us playing with such confidence. Everybody connected with the club are oozing confidence at the moment , long may it continue . Gillingham looked like a classic banana skin , a game where truth be known we'd all have settled for a point. But to go there and win combined with the tremendous run we are on really is dream stuff. Pardew must surely be a candidate for manager of the month at this rate and though we hope he does not win it due to the curse that follows the winners, the man does deserve all the adulation coining his way at the moment. Pardew out!?! Wot a laugh... credit where it's due!
caversham royal
Another good result away from home. Our away form was RFC's real weakness for so long, and one thing I can certainly say about Pardew is that he's turned that on it's head since he took charge and now picking up decent results on their travels isn't the unlikely thing it used to be under Quinn/Gooding, Bullivant, and Burns. I was pleased to see that Mackie seemed to fill in pretty well when Upson went off, as when he goes back we'll probably be reverting to the Williams/Mackie combination in defence. And Rougier scoring? I knew I should have had a crack at the lottery this week, as I'd have won millions with that sort of good luck doing the rounds... Most satisfying is that the Gills are my father's team and he's gutted we beat them. Ah well, such is life. So satisfying too that Reading are 6th, and Brighton, who I remember crowing that they went as champions and not us, are bottom with only 7 points. Ha! Sheffield and Asaba next... COME ON!
chris maskell
I wasn't at the match but I and my daughter listened to it on the radio whilst we were decorating. The commentary described another strong performance from a Reading side bristling with confidence. Every member of the team is playing consistently well, I believe the arrival of Upson has helped in no small measure. It really is good to hear and see Reading playing skilful, thoughtful football. Last season I could rarely bring myself to listen to their games on the radio for fear of them losing out in the final minutes to a late goal from a dodgy piece of defending. Even at home, as games moved into the final 15 minutes I would find myself starting to get anxious as I knew there would be some frantic defending to be done. Not now though, the team are playing with such control and authority it is a real pleasure to listen to and watch them play. Rougier's rasping tap in was no more than they deserved.
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