MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

10 February 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Chadwick (13 mins), Salako (88 mins).
Wallace (10 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 11,030

DIVISION ONE  10 Feb 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
4 Notts F 31 51 +17
5 READING 30 49 +6
6 Norwich 30 46 +13
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Williams, Brown, Chadwick (Tyson 77), Salako, Sidwell (Hughes 83), Newman, Harper (Henderson 67), Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Mackie.
Brown, Nosworthy, Edge, Hope, Johnson, James, Hessenthaler (Perpetuini 83), Smith, Southall, Sidibe (Ipoua 73), Wallace. Subs not used: Rose, Spiller, Knowles.
Reading: None.
Brown, Southall.
Ref: Paul Rejer (Worcestershire)

With the chasing pack continuing to gain ground on the play-off positions this was a vital home victory for the Royals to pull them back into fifth place in the table and four points above the dotted line. If we are going to somehow make the play-offs this season then this is exactly the kind of victory that will take us there. We deserved the win tonight for working hard throughout the game - but especially in the second half when we kept playing it around and looking for the breakthrough that eventually came with John Salako's all important winner just three minutes before the end of normal time.

New loan signing Luke Chadwick made his debut for the Royals tonight and looked a touch a class within the opening five minutes with some real skill on the ball to weave in and out of his Gillingham marker. His inclusion in the starting eleven in place of the slightly out-of-form Andy Hughes made plenty of sense. Otherwise it was the same winning team that put five past Burnley away from home last weekend. Tyson started on the bench after his successful England Under-20 debut during the week - he was to come off the bench later in the second half and make a big contribution to the game by providing the cross that saw Salako score the winner - with a bit of help from some shoddy Gillingham defending. Other than that disaster for the visitors in the dying minutes, they had a good game and perhaps would feel unlucky they didn't take a point. The visitors deserved plenty of credit for attempting to win the game and forced the game into a lively second half encounter with some end to end football. There were the odd periods of hoofing and patches of the first half might not have been entertainment of the highest quality for the TV cameras but it was Reading that stepped it up in the second half and won the game around.

It was Reading that got off to the better start in the first half too with some excellent passing around of the ball as they looked just like a team challenging for promotion to the Premiership. With a seriously attacking midfield we looked good going forward until we got exposed when Gillingham came forward themselves. However the quick neat passing started to wear off as Gillingham just about enjoyed the best of the first half. The visitors took the lead on ten minutes with a well worked free-kick after winning it just outside the left side of the box. After a bit of mucking about it was chipped into the box and headed home in the middle of the area with the Reading defence well behind. It looked massively offside but the linesmans flag stayed down instantly earning him plenty of abuse from the East and North stands. It turned out he didn't deserve it - a quick dash down to the concourse at half time and a look at the TV showed that Wallace had been offside but ran on-side when the ball was played before leaving the Reading defence behind to head home. A correct decision that saw the Royals 0-1 down.

Gillingham's lead was short lived and it was a moment of glory for Reading debutant Luke Chadwick. The Manchester United midfielder did it all right as he ran into the area looking for the ball. Nicky Forster did well in the far right corner before beating his man and laying the ball across to Chadwick just inside the right side of the area. Chadwick collected the ball and shot. Just as the ball left his boot a defender slid in to make contact with the ball and the ball rose over the keeper and into the back of the net. It was certainly helped on its way but it was Chadwick's goal after just thirteen minutes of wearing a hooped shirt. 1-1. Reading seemed to spend the rest of the first half running in circles as the game seemed to break down from the Reading view point. We looked a little stretched at the back as Gillingham came forward and we needed Hahnemann to be in excellent form to keep the scores level at 1-1. Hahnemann saved one shot with a swift reaction with his leg to push it wide and saved another with a excellent dive. Nicky Shorey was on hand to head off the line as Gillingham enjoyed the upper hand. It was Gillingham that finished the first half on top before Reading took a better grip on the game in the second half.

Just after the break there were signs of Reading's intent to win the game. Salako nearly headed Reading into the lead after the break with an excellently worked move across the pitch. Salako did well to get in the right place to receive the cross and his header needed to be tipped over the crossbar. Pardew introduced Darius Henderson up front to give Reading a little more power and shortly afterwards he won a penalty after going down in the area from a challenge from the Gillingham goalkeeper. To be honest I hadn't seen the penalty as the players just seemed to colide when the ball was knocked it but I certainly wasn't complaining as Sidwell stepped up to take the spot kick. You'd really have to favour the striker in this kind of situation - but once again we wasted the penalty. It's a mystery how we can't seem to hit the back of the net from the penalty spot. This time it was hit low and to the keeper's left but lacked the power to see it home and instead the keeper was down well to make the save and hold the ball.

Reading continued to look dangerous as time started to tick away. The introduction of England Under-20 Nathan Tyson gave Reading yet more options up front. Tyson looked useful right away and provided a cross that saw Nicky Forster force a saw out of the visitor's goalkeeper when the ball was pushed over the bar. Moments later Tyson was involved again as Reading grabbed the winner. Tyson crossed the ball from the left and it was helped on it's way with a knock-on off the head of a defender. Salako was there at the far post and the ball hit a defender on the way in to the back of the net. A soft goal for Gillingham to conceed - but they all count. 2-1 to Reading just in time. There was still a nervous feeling with four minutes of stoppage time to play and Gillingham always looking dangerous when they came forward but Reading looked good for the win - which they collected a few mintues later.

Following report by John Wells

Although it was not a classic in terms football, tonight's game was full of incident and hugely entertaining. All the goals had an element of luck about them and Gillingham will claim they were unlucky not to get a point. Reading fans will probably see it slightly differently. No matter how you see it Reading snatched a victory at the end through sheer persistence.

Reading started strongly and it was very much against the run of play (and the laws of the game) that Gillingham took the lead. Following a clever free kick Gillingham scored a goal that clearly should have been disallowed for offside. No problem for a Reading side that was in the mood to compete for everything and the equaliser followed shortly afterwards. Chadwick turned the Gillingham defence inside out and drove in a shot which was deflected over the 'keeper by the outstretched leg of a Gillingham defender.

Reading had more of the play for next twenty minutes but only a header from Brown which flew just over to show for their effort. Gillingham always looked dangerous on the break and in the last ten minutes of the half created two or three good chances and probably should have taken the lead. Hahnemann made one extremely good improvised save with his feet to keep the scores level at the break.

The second half was as open as the first with Reading pushing forward land looking vulnerable as Gillingham broke out of defence swiftly. The visitor's combination of direct running from midfield and the movement of their forwards created havoc in the Royals defence. A draw was looking increasingly more likely as the game progressed.

On sixty -five minutes Pardew (or was it Dillon?) changed the formation to 4-4-2 bringing on Henderson for Harper. On seventy minutes the referee, who had a poor game, gave Reading a penalty when Henderdson appeared to be held by the 'keeper. Sidwell stepped up and hit the spot kick tamely and it was easily saved. From that point Sidwell's head went down and he was ultimately replaced by Hughes. His confidence was clearly shaken and I hope he forgets all about the miss immediately. He is clearly going to be a real asset to the club. Chadwick was replaced by Tyson presumably due to being short of match fitness. He oozed class and I am delighted we have got him at Reading for a month.

With six minutes left the Gillingham 'keeper pulled off a superb save from Forster. The finale came when Forster flicked on a cross and Salako reacted quickly to get his foot to the ball and again a slight deflection took the ball into the net.

This was a great result against a strong Gillingham side. The next few weeks are going to be exciting with some difficult games ahead. Reading competed well tonight and there were some very promising one touch sequences of passing, a concept which someone needs to introduce to Nicky Forster. I think we are in with a very good chance of making the play-offs.

nick newbury
This game of football never ceases to amaze, having been outplayed for most of the game, the chance to shine in front of millions on Sky (joke), following the high of scoring five at Burnley, missing a penalty, playing dreadfully only Reading yet again come up trumps and send their loyal fans home with a huge grin on their faces after somehow managing to win this big game. How we did it I'm not really sure yet did it we did and there we find ourselves at the lofty height of fifth in the league with a game in hand on most. Amazing! I don't think many could disagree that Gillingham were by far the better team on the night and created a bagful of chances which at the end of the day have to be converted. If the Gills had put half their chances away it could have been such a different story but 2-1 to the Royals it is that goes into the papers tomorrow. I thought Chadders did very well on his debut and apart from passing to where he'd normally find Beckam and Scholes he found the likes of Newman and quickly realised he may as well do it all himself. Great signing and should do us nothing but good while he's with us. The rest were generally very poor and although they huffed and puffed the final result was often very poor and predictable. Poor Fossie does try his hardest but is becoming very easy to defend against while he's all on his todd up front, and he's become so greedy he should be far fatter than he is! Saw Pardew after game on Sky lauding his team and saying the rest of the season we'll be going all out for the win with a nothing to lose who gives a stuff attitude! Bloody marvellous I say, let's hope he stick's to his word, how about starting on Saturday with two up front AP! Well done URZZZ!
thatcham royal
Alan Pardew's promise that we are due an entertaining home performance will have to go unfulfilled again. I can't say this was a great game for Sky viewers, but that was mainly down to Gillingham marking our players well, and breaking up our game. Had we put that much pressure on Gillingham when they had the ball it might have been a different story. Still another three points (after all isn't that what counts?) in a season where our league position exceeds all my expectations. I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying this season. After 4 years of total dross, poor teams, dire stiffling tactics from visiting teams and total desperation to get out of that crappy 2nd Division, it's a massive relief to just go simply to watch a game of Football and not fret over the implications if we don't win. I mention this because I cannot understand why recently so many "fans" think the best way to support our team is to boo substitutions, heckle individuals and hurl non stop abuse towards the pitch & bench. I'll never understand how this is supposed to motivate the team. If you want something to complain about, start "supporting" one of the bottom teams.
Reading lacked a bit of flair tonight and failed to really get going. Gillingham produced exactly what you'd expect from stalwart Division 1 side - a good mix of players and capable of doing a lot better but bad approach play let them down. The first half must have been abysmal for the TV viewers. Reading's defence seemed to have their minds (and feet) elsewhere for Gillingham's opener though I could guess you could argue we were trying to play the offside trap?! Chadwick is clearly in a different class and created space for himself almost every time he got the ball - but the problem with playing 4-5-1 is that our wingers (Chadwick included) tend to get sucked in to the centre as our central players push up to support Fozzy. I spent most of the match cursing Newman who really wasn't having a good day until the final 15mins of the game and I hope Sidwell doesn't become another Hughes! Meanwhile I was impressed by Gillingham's attacking play - slick and fluid - some of the best moves I've seen from an away team. The second half slightly better and the greasy pitch helping to make the challenges that bit more spectacular. We came out with a bit more of an idea about what to do with the ball - but it soon descended in to the boring formulaic passing and going nowhere. The Gills had ample chance to bury us at times but Hahnemann had a good game... doesn't Ipoua remind you of Rougier?!! All in all not the greatest match I'd ever seen - with the team we fielded we should have buried them but perhaps the midfield needs to settle a bit. Interesting months ahead.
ken c
Average performance but great result. The introduiction of Chadwick added some quality to the right hand side where we have suffered from inconsistency all year. Hughes doesn't really seem to like it out there, and Igoe can be brilliant, but he can also disappear for long times. We started well, but fell behind to a well workdr free kick which was clearly onside, but at the time looked very dubious. What we did was to come back quickly and though there was an element of good fortune to both our goals, I thought that we just about deserved it. We went through patches when we just gave the ball away too cheaply and were probably guilty of trying to hit too many wonder passes with the inevitable result. If Gillingham were marginally better in the first half then we were definitely better in the second. I was happy that we were level at half time and I thought we did better in the second though Gillingham still had theior chances. In truth had we put the penalty away, it would have been more comortable than it was but credit to Sidwell for being prepared to take it. Who has the next one? Why not let Brown just smash it? The introduction of Henderson added to our game. He won the penalty and put in the best cross of the game which I thoughty was going to produce a goal for Forster till the keeper pulled off a tremendous save. Yes there was an element of luck about the winner. Tyson's cross took a deflection as did Solako's cross, but he was in the right place at the right time. We were all relieved to see it go in!
mr angry
I thought that the game last night was excellent; two committed sides going out for the win, with Hessentaller controlling the middle for Gillingham, who are far better than their position in the League implies. However, their were many positives for the Royals last night, not least the 3 points! The way the team played with confidence even after going a goal down, and how they didn't let their heads drop after the penalty miss. The debut of Chadwick, and how he linked with Sidwell on a number of occasions; a partnership that could potentially end up taking us into the play-offs. Brown and Williams, despite the excellence of the Gillingham #29, marshalling the defence so that we only conceded a single goal. More good performances from individuals, rather than poor ones. Murty's unbelievable tackle in the first half; the fantastic move involving Tyson, Henderson and Fozzy that took a genuinely World class save to prevent a goal in the second. We are now 5th, 4 points clear of Wolves in 7th, and with only Coventry of our rivals playing this weekend, an opportunity to extend that gap further after Saturday. 16 games to go - we can do this!
caversham royal
Good 3 points, but a tad fortunate. Good debut from Chadwick, hope there's more of the same to come. Both Henderson and Tyson did well when they came on, and this was especially pleasing as they are Reading youngsters who've come up through the ranks. It was refreshing to hear Salako's honesty on the radio afterwards about his performance saying he'd rate it as a 6, as he started brightly, but then faded for periods. But credit to him for popping up to score, and his performances recently have been far better than the dross he was churning out before finally being dropped. In his interview he came across as someone who is aware his form has dipped majorly of late, and is prepared to do something about it. Can't see Forster admitting on air what a greedy liability he's turning into though, but as I said last time Pardew will never drop his 'golden boy', however many blind alleys he runs into. Sidwell was again much improved on his debut, and I hope his penalty miss doesn't get to him. There were still a few too many passes going astray, but no lack of effort on the player's part which is a vast improvement on the Leicester game. Our defence, though, continues to pendulum from looking solid to creaking and backing off when faced with a bit of directness and pace, which the Gills had plenty of tonight. I will continue harping on about playing 2 up front...... If the manager thinks we can throw caution to the wind and go for wins, wins and more wins, then start Henderson, pull Cureton out of the hole he got lobbed into last night (to join Watson and Igoe), and send Forster off somewhere to learn that football is actually a team sport. Still, a win is a win and I'd prefer to be saying the above about a team in 5th, than a team in Stoke or Brighton's positions. The team still deserve enormous credit for being where they are at this stage. COME ON.....
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