(Half Time: 1-0)
Reading Scorers: -
Aston Villa Scorers: Dublin (45 mins).
Date: 10 October 2001
Attendance: 23,431

Reading: Whitehead, Shorey, Viveash, Williams, Whitbread (Robinson 81), Rougier (Cureton 81), Harper, Parkinson (Henderson 70), Neil Smith, Butler, Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Casper.

Aston Villa: Schmeichel, Delaney (Dublin 27), Alpay, Staunton, Wright, Hadji, Boateng, Hendrie, Kachloul, Angel (Balaban 87), Ginola. Subs not used: Enckelman, Barry, Cooke.
Boateng, Hadji, Wright (Aston Villa); Parkinson (Reading).
M D Messias (York)

Reading can hold their heads up high after an impressive display at Villa Park that saw them match the home side - apart from the single goal. Aston Villa's strong line-up suggested they were determined to progress to the fourth round of the competition, but they seemed to only do the minimum on the pitch against a Reading side that worked hard all night with no reward. Reading provided some excellent entertainment for the large travelling support, Aston Villa on the other hand didn't do much to keep their home fans entertained. It was almost as if they were letting Reading have their moment - but made sure that they weren't going to be beaten. After going a goal behind in the first half we did all we could in the second half to find an equaliser. If we had got the equaliser then you couldn't help think that Villa would have stepped up a gear to cruelly take the game away from Reading once more. Having said that, there's no doubt Reading played very very well tonight and deserved at least a goal.

With Murty out injured Reading played a defence of Shorey, Viveash, Williams and Whitbread - with Shorey coming straight into the side at left back and Whitbread playing on the right. The new look defence looked good, with Shorey having a very solid and confident game. In midfield Harper looked a lot better and did well throughout the match, while Rougier continues to disappoint. We all know that Forster has more pace than Rougier, but Rougier could really take a few lessons. Rougier won the odd corner and some throws but never really threatened to break through after looking incapable of passing a man, and incapable of getting a cross in. Man of the match Nicky Forster was a class apart from Rougier, and had an excellent second half. Every time Forster got the ball you felt as if the equaliser was coming as he stormed past men at pace, put the ball in, and even got the odd shot in. Against a second division defence he'd have got a few penalties, scored a few goals, and set a few up. Unfortunately this was against the Aston Villa defence and they could cope - but only just.

Forster had Reading's best chance of the first half after nearly creating a goal with his pace. Adrian Williams brought the ball out of defence excellently and passed a great ball through to Forster who ran onto it. Forster started off behind his marker, but soon outpaced him to collect the ball and run on goal. The resulting shot was just wide of the far post. A great effort, and the best of the half until Villa scored just before the break. Aston Villa had threatened from a couple of corners but had never got close to scoring until this one. The ball was played in from the left across goal and knocked immediately back in low when it was driven home from close range by Dublin. A quick goal, and the winning goal. At half time it seemed impossible to think Reading could come back from being a goal behind at Villa Park - however, we certainly gave it our best shot.

Villa had plenty of poor long range shots in the first half - and that's all they really had in the second half as Reading created the better chances. Villa were happy to play out time and take it easy, and a couple of their players were guilty of taking the piss a bit with their superior ball skills. Their moves always came to nothing know as they finished with a careless hoof, a shot straight at Whitehead, or a really poor shot that spun wide. Villa can clearly play great football, but tonight their shooting just wasn't there as they appeared to be lacking in serious concentration. They nearly added a second - but only after Whitehead slipped and recovered to pull off an excellent save with an outstreteched left hand.

Down the other end Reading were certainly concentrating on finding a break through and the equalising goal - and we never stopped looking for it, to our credit. Chances were few and far between against a solid defence looking to hang onto their single goal lead - but we could have scored. The best effort was from some good work by Harper down the left who crossed into the middle - Smith connected to put in a powerful header that needed an excellent save from Schmeichel to push it over the crossbar. Reading won a few corners but failed to penetrate deep into the box. Martin Butler did well to nip in front of Schmeichel to head the ball onwards - but there wasn't a Reading player in the middle to finish the job.

Reading went all out attack with Henderson and Cureton coming on - but it remained Forster who looked the most dangerous and exciting player on the pitch. He cut in time after time from the right and into the box, but his crosses just failed to find a player. The equaliser never came. We might not have scored, but it was still a massively improved performance from the Royals. If we play like this against Swindon on Saturday we'll beat them with ease. But we're so inconsistant... who knows what'll happen at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday?

Post Match Opinions

Just got in, 25 to 1....but well worth the trip!
We were excellent tonight. Fozzy ran them ragged and beat them down the line so many times that you just expected him to do it every time he got the ball in the end. Solid performances all over the pitch, and we were worth a draw for sure against a good looking Villa side. I thought Harper got well stuck in for a change. Darius again looked good even with the ball at his feet. Would still love to see Curo play more than 10 minutes. We created loads of chances but still could not get it in the net, but at least it wasn't because we looked totally clueless in front of goal. Were unlucky tonight, and I am now looking forward to the Swindon game.
Can we turn the corner? I hope so... goodnight!

-- Gary, Woking

A valiant 1-0 defeat to premiership Villa who once they went one up always looked comfortable. At times they lorded it over the Royals, especially Ginola, Angel and Hendrie.
Best Reading player: Nicky Forster.
Worst Reading player: Tony Rougier.
Best comment heard from a fellow Rs fan: "Harper could go on to become even better than Beckham" and he was being completely serious! Ah well...

--Telford Royal

The Royals can take a great deal of credit from this performance in terms of effort, commitment and determination.
They were never going to match Villa in terms of their basic skill but they turned in a performance which ensured that the vocal band of Royal supporters thoroughly warmed to. The result hinged on a few minutes action towards the end of the first half. I thought we had a strong appeal for a penalty, as did the Villa fan who was with me, but a couple of minutes later we had conceded after failing to deal with a corner. Dublin stuck it over the line and I thought that when he came on for Delaney that our problems started as he gave an exhibition in how to hold up play and bring your team mates into the game.
The game started well with the Royals adopting to play one man up front (Butler) with Rougier and Forster operating wide from deep. It was good to see Shorey given a start and I thought he had a good game. (I thought he might have done better for their goal, but he redeemed himself later with a great piece of defending.) Whitbread did a good job at right back and Viveash had a stormer along with Williams as most of Villa's threats came to nothing. I thought both wide men had good first halves, but whilst Forster continued in the same vein of form in the second half, Rougier disappeared. Butler, well he just is not himself at present. If a goal was to come for the Royals it had to come from Forster. He gave Wright a torrid time but when the ball did get into the box, we just did not attack it well enough. Where was the man running across the keeper? Where was the midfield man bursting a gut to link up with the strikers? The performance was good. A word too for Harper who again showed that he can do it. Perhaps consistency is a bit too much for the youngster, but tonight he looked good.
You did have the feeling that Villa had another gear to go to if they needed it. Had Reading scored in the last quarter they might have sneaked it. Deep down though you felt we weren't going to score. What does matter is that we get back to winning ways in the league. Forster was outstanding tonight and must start on Saturday. The logical one to start with him has to be Cureton as he is the best finisher and it is goals that we need. The difficulty is that nobody really knows what our best partnership is up front.
If they were all playing well, that would be wonderful, unfortunately the figures tell us that we have one of the best defences in the league and one of the worst attacks. Who would have thought that at the start of the season? Let's just go and give Swindon a stuffing!

-- Ken C

Went to the game and had a good time. Thought all the team played well but a fellow Royal who was with our party cynically suggested that Reading raised their game tonight in the hope of being spotted by scouts for bigger clubs. Is there something wrong with Martin Butler. He just doesn't seem the same player as last year. I think Butler needs to work out his gremlins in the reserves and make Forster and Cureton the 1st choice starting strikers. I agree with Graham, if they play with the committment and passion they showed last night and against West Ham, we will beat Swindon and anyone else in this division. Saturday will tell.
-- Paul C

The dream is over, Villa toyed with the Royals last night don't be fooled.
Always looking comfortable to defend a 1-0 lead - perhaps we could learn something there. Outstanding Royals player was Forster whose pace was always a threat, it's a shame that he does not appreciate other around him or look up when trying to cross. Worst was Rougier, what was he doing on the pitch, takes on one too many defenders and runs out of space. When defending he's a loose cannon, fellow defenders don't know what he's doing and the opposition take full advantage. Whitehead continues the aimless long punts up the field, is unable to communicate with his team mates. Harper probably had his best game in recent weeks, but is no substitute for Caskey. Does Pardew know what the best team / formation / tactics are? No, I don't think so.
Pardew MUST GO now, before it's too late.

-- Rob S

We had the Spirit and Tenacity...they had David Ginola!
We were always second best in terms of overall quality in this contest but never outclassed or overawed - indeed Schmeichel probably had as much to do as Phil Whitehead and it looked extremely possible that we could actually snatch an equaliser during periods of the second half. When we attacked with purpose we caused them problems and Fozzy's marauding raids down the right were a joy to watch. A good performance and great away support really lifting the team in the second 45. However, we came away with nothing so this game can only count for something if we build on the performance and use it as a springboard to greater things in the league. I believe we can and we will - starting on Saturday...

-- Steve Morris

We got narrowly beaten by a Premier League team, who were playing at home. Rob S says Pardew must go. Muppet. What would that achieve?
The distraction is over. We can now concentrate on league performances. Once again the players have proved they match real quality. The real test is to prove that ability by beating dross. Swindon would be an excellent start. Let's forget the negativity of recent performances and get behind the team. This is THE derby game of the season, made tastier by the league positions. This is what counts. This is our bread & butter. Be realistic, we are not in trouble. With consistency we can shoot up this table. On Saturday we should applaud the boys for again showing their worth against quality opposition then get behind them while they get stuck in to Swindon. Make no mistake, Swindon will be up for this. They have turned their season around and will fancy their chances at the Mad Stad.

-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

My Villla supporting friend said before the game, I don't care what happens, just not one - nil Dublin. It was, but also wasn't. Reading were excellent and so were the fans. I was forced to sit in the Holt end to watch the game so I was really able to appreciate the noise, well done lads! However I would like make three points:
1. In the first half Rougier was superb, the premiership defenders were visably scared of him, Delaney and Hadji could not contain him.
2. Reading could have had three penalties (push, trip, handball)
3. Finally why when we looked so good along the ground did Pards bring on Henderson only for us to hoof it to him and loose possession? These aside it was 5 well spent (yes 5 pounds!)

-- GrffthsG

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