MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

11 January 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Forster (9 mins), Butler (19 mins).
Sheffield Wednesday:
Quinn (52 mins), Sibon (69 mins), Johnston (71 mins).
Half Time: 0-2
Attendance: 17,715

DIVISION ONE  11 Jan 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Coventy 28 42 +4
7 READING 26 42 +4
8 Wolves 27 41 +15
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey (Henderson 81), Mackie, Brown, Igoe, Harper, Tyson (Salako 64), Newman (Hughes 87), Butler, Forster. Subs not used: Viveash, , Cureton.
Sheffield Wednesday
: Pressman, Crane (Maddix 45), Westwood, Geary, Monk, Soltvedt, Quinn, Green (Knight 83), Johnston, Sibon (Di Piedi 86), Kuqi. Subs not used: Evans, Haslam.
Reading: Mackie.
Sheffield Wednesday
: Geary.
Referee: Andy Penn (West Midlands)

If ever there was a game of two halves, this was it. Reading appeared to have the game won at the half time break after dominating the opening 45 minutes - but rather than finish the job off after the break they sat back and let Sheffield Wednesday come right back into it. Our second half display effectively saw us hand the three points back to Wedenesday thanks to a lack of concentration. Clearly the team thought they had done the job at half time and didn't need to continue in that manner in the second half - but there are no easy wins in this division, as this game showed when the home side came out with exactly the right spirit to fight and turn the game on its head.

If Reading had taken more of the massive number of chances created in the first half then perhaps our first half performance would have been enough - we went in 2-0 up at the break but it should have been a whole load more. Pardew critics will point to the missing Jamie Cureton as the reason we lost the game. Perhaps with him on the pitch we would have stuck away more of the chances and sealed the victory with a first half Cureton hat-trick? With Forster fully fit Cureton found himself dropped to the bench - and he remained there for the full ninety minutes despite Reading going full out attack towards the end of the game in a weak attempt to claw back a point. However, the front line combination of Butler and Forster looked impressive during the first half with both players grabbing a goal each. If that had been repeated in the second half no-one would have stood up and questioned Pardew's decision to leave Cureton out of the action.

Right from the start Reading looked like the team that were going to win the game, giving a demonstration of why they're so many places above Wednesday in the table. It took just nine minutes for Reading to go ahead. A Murty cross from the right saw the home defence frozen and confused and saw Forster have plenty of time to head the ball home to make it 1-0. Straight away it was nearly two as Reading kept the pressure up. Sammy Igoe was having another fantastic game for Reading and set up an excellent chance after winning the ball in midfield and pushing it forward to Forster. Forster took it past the keeper who nearly conceeded a penalty and crossed to Butler. Butler looked favourite to put it into the back of the net but was denied as the Wednesday defender came in just in time to block the shot with the goalkeeper stranded. Butler made up for missing that chance by putting the ball into the back of the net ten minutes later. Another piece of shocking Wednesday defending saw a loose ball played back giving Butler a chance to run onto it with the defence nowhere to be seen. This time he finished in style putting the ball under the keeper and just inside the post to put Reading 2-0 up.

Two goals up away from home with just twenty minutes on the clock and it all looked very good. Reading oozed confidence as they stroked the ball around and looked to increase the lead. Sheffield Wednesday were confused and disorganised and managed just a few long range shots that were easy for Hahnemann after a couple of breaks. With Igoe working hard to keep winning possession and lay the ball off Reading continued to dominate the game. Tyson was also working hard with slightly less success against his marker - but he managed a couple of good attempts on goal. Tyson had one shot well saved and followed it up with other powerful shot that saw the keeper push it out for a rebound chance that so nearly found Butler and Igoe - one of those ones that Cureton would have been there in the right place at the right time to blast it home. Butler had another effort which found the keeper rather than the net and Nicky Forster had another header saved as Reading were prevented from moving further ahead.

Wednesday came out a different side for the second half. They'd clearly taken the criticism of their home fans and the manager and were determined to do something about it. Reading on the other hand didn't expect a fight back and emerged with just ten players on the pitch. Hahnemann eventually appeared but it was an indication that Reading were taking the wrong approach to the game. Hahnemann ended up having one of his worst halves ever in goal with Reading as he conceeded the three goals that would see the three points going the other direction.

Just seven minutes after the break Wednesday scored from their first real chance of the game. The ball was pushed through the Reading defence and put past Hahnemann from close range. All of a sudden the game had a different feel about it. The home fans started getting behind their team for the first time and Reading started to look uncomfortable as Wednesday went on the hunt for the equaliser - which came on 69 minutes to undo all the good work of the first half. It was a very long range effort that must have caught Hahnemann off guard as it trickled into the bottom of the net with Hahnemann failing to make a save when he surely should have done. Just a couple of minutes later and Wednesday completed the job with an excellent shot that sailed over Hahnemann and into the roof of the net. 2-3 and it was all over for Reading who had their chance to win the game but had thrown it away.

With time running out Pardew stuck on Henderson and Hughes to make Reading's formation more attacking. Shorey and Newman made way as Reading appeared to be playing five players up front. There was no place for Cureton as Reading desperately attempted to find the equaliser from somewhere. We forced a couple of corners but didn't look as dangerous as during the first half. In the dying minutes it was nearly 2-4 as Mackie conceeded a free-kick that was driven against the top of the crossbar. And just after that came Reading's final chance when Butler was played through - but his shot was wide of the target and it was all over for Reading.

northern royal
This was a strange, bizarre match. Pardew looked thoroughly sickened at the end, and I could understand why. A score of 3-2 suggests an exciting match, but this would be misleading.
For the first 45 minutes things went routinely and according to the form book. Igoe was irrepressible (even after being kitted out with a distinctive bandage for a head wound), the Wednesday forwards appeared to be dysfunctional with the leggy Sebon getting increasingly ratty with the quality of the service into the Reading box, and when Wednesday did get forward their attacks were marshalled in fine style by a well drilled and hard-working Reading defence. There was barely a semblance of a threat to the Reading goal throughout the first half, and in that respect it was all very easy. Meanwhile Reading looked assured in midfield, and the attack looked potent. Apart from the two goals Reading were creating numerous chances with Pressman being forced into fine saves when goals looked certain on two occasions. For most of the half, the game resembled a stroll in the park for a Reading side that were being barely tested, and the game had the air of a practice kick around.
At half-time a score of 2-0 did not flatter a Royals side who could, and probably should, have gone in with a lead of twice that at least. Reading emerged for the second half minus Hahnemann, prompting the chant of the afternoon - "Where's our goalie gone?", (to the tune of, 'Where's your mama gone'), and a further chant that we didn't need a keeper to beat them anyway. Ho, hum. The half started with Wednesday pressing forward having plainly been given a rocket at the interval from Chris Turner.
Reading meanwhile reacted with an air of lethargy. I turned to my wife and said that I felt the main thing was to hold out for the first ten minutes of the half, and then a third goal would kill off the match. Then Wednesday's first potent move of the match ended with some good interplay, and with the ball being smashed into the net for what looked like an unexpectantly excellent goal for them - it was hard to be totally sure because most of the action in this game took part in the end of the ground furthest from the Reading supporters. 2-1 then, but no need for any sense of panic, and Reading went close to extending their lead when a punched clearance from his goal-line by Pressman met the flailing head of Martin Butler some eight yards out, only for his snap effort to drift agonisingly wide of the right-hand post. However the balance of play had shifted away from Reading, and Pards tried to redress this by the introduction of Salako to add some more width to the left hand side. Before he could make any meaningful contributions though, Reading found themselves 3-2 behind following two quick goals.
It was hard to tell how much Hahnemann was at fault for the equaliser from Sebon, but it seemed to take a long while to find its way into the right-hand corner and was hit from considerable range. The goal that proved to be the winner was smartly taken, with the ball being lobbed over the advancing keeper, who had been exposed by a static back line. With 30 minutes left (including the three minutes added by the fourth official), the situation looked redeemable, but as Reading pushed forward in search of an equaliser we were always going to be in danger of being exposed at the back for a soft fourth, and it was only now that Wednesday really began to look dangerous. Reading huffed and puffed amid a flurry of late substitutions by both sides, but chances to carve open a decidedly dodgy Owls defence went begging, and the chances that did come our way came to nothing.
As I stated at the outset, a strange game. Wednesday, having created nothing of note in the first 45 minutes, scored with their first real chances of the game. Reading missed a golden chance to re-establish ourselves in the top six in a position of strength from a position of totally dominating the game, and we are left to ponder why. To draw positives out of the game, Reading created more than enough chances to have won this game comfortably. Igoe was busy and inventive, Brown had an excellent first half, and Butler's goal may yet prove to be a turning point for his (and hopefully, our) season. Tyson was busy until substituted, and Harper looked as pumped up and involved as ever.
Regardless of this result, I remain optimistic about the rest of the campaign, and a play-off place is not beyond us. The only thing that was a concern (apart from the Wednesday goals!) was the way that the Reading midfield became an irrelevance after the interval, being largely bypassed despite the hard-working Igoe and the introduction of Hughes late on. It is strange that a 3-2 scoreline could have come from a match that was so flat for such long periods, and Reading can consider themselves hard done by.
Come on URZZZ!
nick newbury
Absolutely pathetic! Half time and we should have been 6-0 up, but 2-0 was great, so they swan out for the second half and think this will be a doddle just knock it about a bit, easy peasy. My arse! They should all get a rocket up the arse as far as I concerned. One of the greatest shows of complacency you'll ever see. They are supposed to be professionals yet they act and perform like total amateurs at times. It is so frustrating, there can't be many teams like Reading who want to drive a man to drink. I just hope Pardew chucked a few cups of tea after the game and held a few of the worst culprits up by the throat against the changing room wall, starting with Yanky Doodle Dandy! Will we learn yet another lesson that every game has to be won and fought for at any level, and players have to put it in for 90 minutes not just 45? Doubt it. I'm well pissed off and feel quite humiliated, still perhaps we'll win the FA Cup!
When will Pardew learn? Your best side is the side that regularly wins. Butler is rarely in a winning side and despite winning man of the month in December neither is Harper. Both should be sent as far away from the first team as possible. Harper is a typical example of someone who flatters to deceive. He came in at the back end of our winning run and then continued through our worst run. It doesn't matter how good it looks as though you are playing - if you are not helping the team to win you must go. For gods sake Pardew wake up and smell the coffee.
What was Watson doing commentating on 107FM? We were at our best with Watson and Newman in the middle of midfield. Put 2 wide players with them (Igoe and Solako / Tyson) with Hughes darting through the middle. Forster up front and if we need to change it we bring on Henderson and Cureton. Its not difficult to look back at when we have played our best and choose the team accordingly. I think we have the players to do well and that we are in our position despite Pardew not because of Pardew. Wake up now while we can still have an interesting season. Get rid of Harper and Butler straight away before we lose any chance of getting some decent results.
tilehurst royal
This just goes to show that Curo`s on his way, when you need goals and you leave a player of his ability on the bench the writing is on the wall. Why do we persist with Butler, he is only a second division player, as is Darius Henderson and Rougier.Andy Hughes was every bit as good as Tonge according to Pardew, I don`t hear of many people wanting to sign him for £5 let alone £5million. Let some of the international youngsters we have play, they will want it alot more than our first team. Good luck Curo wherever you go, I will look out for your name on the scoresheet every week, your face certainly doesn`t fit here with our management.
ron girdler
Sadly I was unable to get to the Sheff Wed game due to personal business but as a regular supporter for 56 years I am among others I'm sure confused over the Jamie Cureton business. I thought I read in the local press that Curo was going to get an extended run in the team but once again Saturday he was dropped. Am I alone in thinking Curo is a luxury we must use regardless of his work rate.
Being and elder supporter so to speak I obviously remember the Jimmy Greaves and Gary Linekar era's. Were these two players blessed with the so called work rate senario, I think not. Why then does Pards not use Curo as a luxury item. Curo's scoring record is second to none and although I wasn't at Sheff Wed on listening to the game on the radio I'm sure he would have converted more chances than the other strikers on the day. I appreciate Butler is a very hard worker but can anyone explain to me why he never wins any headers? The answer is simple, his timing is pathetic and he always jumps too eartly, why isn't this addressed on the training ground?
However apart from this grouse I support Pards wholeheartedly.
caversham royal
This was a poor one. To let a two goal lead slip would be poor enough, but to do so against a team so short on confidence at the wrong end of the table....dear me. Perhaps we should've been 3 or 4 up instead of 2 by half time, it still doesn't explain the 2nd half capitulation. Much has been said, and was said on the radio afterwards about Cureton. It's pretty obvious, for whatever reason, Pardew favours Forster. Not only did re-instating him as soon as he was fit send out clear signals, but not using Cureton from the bench when it was obvious Reading needed a goal speaks volumes as well. To my mind, Cureton was playing ok but was still dropped the instant Forster was fit whilst others, such as Mr Salako for example, have to play poorly for months before they finally get demoted to the bench.I would rather see Cureton sold and the club make some money out of the situation than have this persist and see him go for nothing at the end of the season. Cureton constantly says that he wants regular first team footy, well it's pretty clear he won't get it at Reading. Therefore, he should be allowed to go elsewhere, and the club can use the money to invest in someone who will fit into the manager's plans. This would mean Reading loses it's best finisher which is sad, but I can't see any other conclusion to the scenario. Oh well, I hope for better things during our upcoming 'Walsall week'. COME ON.....
Two goals away from home should be enough to win. We must sort out our defence and stop them running around like headless chickens pumping the ball aimlessly any where - did they learn nothing from Upson in the time he spent with us. They need to learn how to distribute a ball, not keep thumping it up field. The centre of midfield is about as ineffective as I have ever seen them play. When will Harper learn to stop flapping about in Midfield and learn to distribute a killer ball - which is what we paid good money for him to do. He can't tackle, just keeps backing off and off, running around looking busy but actually doing very little - did any one show him, Newman and our defence the video of Southampton slaughtering Tottenham - great entertainment and a lesson on how to play football. Has no one told the players that the best form of defence is attack, but if we can't hold onto the ball for more than two passes, what hope do we have. Forster worked hard again today, but looked a little tired after 70 minutes . There are enough places in the team for all our strikers and Cureton should have been on that pitch at some point today. He is our best player with natural ability and with the chances on offer today I feel we might have been in a different position. Our family can't afford to travel away from home very often and it is a great disappointment having to freeze our butts off watching that second half pile of rubbish. What I can say on a positive note is that the pies and tea are a dam site better than what is served at our ground and the modern, clean and cheap transport system leaves ours standing out in the cold.
This was the most bizarre match I have ever watched Reading play away. Travelling up to Sheffield, was a groan, but it all looked to be worth its wait, when Forster immediately headed home his 7th goal of the season. The defending by Wednesday was like many around me said “non-existent”. Forster could look left and right, before heading it in. He was given so much space; he could have brought the ball down before slotting home. Wednesday was playing like a Division 3 outfit, and it wasn’t long before Butler popped up to convert his goal. Like many, I believed it would be the confidence booster. But yet again like so many games before, he got the chances, he just either fluffed it completely or hit it harmlessly skywards. Reading looked easy winners, and in the concourse at half time, no one would have put money on Wednesday doing the unthinkable. Most would have put their houses on Reading grabbing more and the general mood was that of a side challenging for a place in the Premiership. There was even rounds of “We are Going Up” and “Watch Out Man United”.
The second half was a completely different story though. As the two teams out, I recognised that the big yank fella in green was missing. It took 3 minutes after the two teams ran out for Hahnemann to join us. If I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have wanted him too. Reading looked complacent. They sat back, took the foot of the pedal and decided to play the defend/midfield game. Then Wednesday got their break. To be quite honest, I can’t moan about their first goal. It was well struck and Hahnemann would have always struggled to get it, even at his size. Reading then sloppily defended again, and when Hahnemann went for a walkies (I don’t know what he was doing, and I have watched it about 6 times), Sheffield Wednesday grabbed their second. Wednesday so far this season haven’t grabbed three in a match, but everyone expected that to change. After Mackie let through the Wednesday player, Hahnemann once again stood miles out of his goal, and it left Wednesday to grab their third. Reading did threaten late on in the game, but with Henderson up front; it looked like the same old story was happening. This was 3 points dropped for the Royals… maybe Pardew should consider dropping some of his players for the cup game against Walsall if we want to keep up our fading promotion dream
crowthorne royal
I couldn't go to the game on Sat as I was away on a 30th birthday weekend in Suffolk. My saturday evening and Sunday were tarnished somewhat because, in the words of Kylie, 'I just couldn't get this out of my head!'. Right, In my opinion there are very few teams that would be naiive enough to surrender a 2 goal lead to a team that is 23rd in the league AND got mullered in the FA Cup by an average side from Kent in the week. Confidence must have been at a very low ebb for them at the beginning of the 2nd half. This is the time when you need nouse, ability, skill and dare I say it THE BEST DEFENSIVE RECORD IN THE DIVISION! I took heart from this when I heard we were 2-0 up at the break only to be cruelly proved wrong by the Royals.
I'm not going to go hell for leather in to Pardew as I think the players have a lot to answer for, however 2 points on the man. His comments after the game about 'We haven't had a shouting match because we are still in a good position' is typical lily livered 'modern management'. This is the same type of management practised by Glenn Hoddle, (anyone remember Soton being 3-0 up at Tranmere when he was the manager, or an abject performance last week against Soton this time) Man-management is about using different styles in different situations. When a team has capitulated like we did people have to be reminded of what they get paid for, not told 'We are still in a good position'. We could have been fourth if we had some guts!
Secondly on Pards, I don't blame him for dropping Curo. He favours the shape of our side with Fozzie in it and in fairness when Fozzie plays well he frightens the life out of the opposition and makes them play deeper thus allowing us to dominate games and USUALLY not concede many. What I do take issue with though is the fact he used Andy Hughes on 87 minutes (3 minutes.. waste of time anyway) instead of in his words 'The best finisher in the divsion' (like we saw against Derby). ABSOLUTE MADNESS and it categorically shows that Pards has allowed his personal feelings on a player to sway his judgement. He keeps on getting it wrong with Curo. How many of us have already imagined the scenario of Jamie coming back and making Pards pay in an important match?
In summary a lot to be critical and get upset about, but..... we have to again put this in to perspective. We are 7th in Div 1 and let's face it if we were 9th it would be above most of our expectations this season. We went on an unbelievable run when Upson was with us and our expectations became great. We will probably finish around 9th or 10th and have a mediocre second half to the season, after all we have now lost 4 out of 5, scored 4 goals and conceded 10. We are second from bottom in the form table and it's going to take a lot to get us back in to winning form. Let's beat Walsall on Tuesday, muller Wimbledon (a very average side) and then who knows in the Cup. I do believe that's where our fond memories could be this year rather than a now seemingly unrealistic play-off place. Keep the faith and come on URZ!
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