(Half Time: 0-1)
Reading Scorers: Parkinson (33 mins), Forster (75 mins)
Date: 11 August 2001
Attendance: 5,613

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Whitbread, Robinson, Williams, Parkinson, Hughes (Gamble 85), Harper, A Smith, Butler (Henderson 82), Forster (Igoe 82). Subs not used:  Viveash, Ashdown. 

Blackpool: Barnes, Parkinson, Jaszczun, O'Kane, Hughes, Reid (Collins 75), Wellens (Bullock 62), Simpson (MacKenzie 62), Hills, J Murphy, Ormerod
Subs not used:
Clarkson, Pullen.

Bookings: Parkinson, Whitbread, Murty, Gamble(Reading).
G Laws

Report by Neil Cole:
Reading got off to the start they wanted on Saturday, with a solid performance that earned them their first three points of the season. It was almost as if Cardiff had never happened, as the players showed the determination that had taken them so close to automatic promotion last season. The fans did their part, as a packed Reading allocation tried to put Cardiff out of their minds with chants of “we are going up”. Although about nine months premature, there is an air of optimism around the club and the fans, and a firm belief that we can definitely go one better this year.

The build-up to this season opener was far from ideal, with injury doubts concerning all of our strikers, as well as new signing Andy Hughes. In the end it was only Cureton who missed out, as Butler and Forster were passed fit enough to start together up front. Although it has been well over a year since these two started together, it didn’t show as both strikers put in superb hard-working displays and combined well. Hughes was also in the starting eleven, and had a great debut for the Royals. His enthusiasm, strength and pace will surely make him a big favourite with the Reading fans, and his name was being sung well before the end of his very first game.

At the back, only two of three Adie’s were given starts, as Viveash had to be content with the bench. Whitbread and Williams justified their selection with a near-faultless display, with Williams in particular showing he was a class above the Blackpool strikers. The only real weakness apparent in the Reading side was at full-back, where Murty was often hesitant, and Robinson was caught out of position too often.

Reading were the better side for most of the match, with Blackpool’s only real spell of pressure coming mid-way through the second half. By that time, Reading had a one goal lead thanks to some hesitant goalkeeping and a Phil Parkinson header. It seemed for a while that Blackpool could get back in the game, as two great chances were blazed over the bar, and a goal was disallowed for offside. However, Reading finished the game off with a second goal on 75 minutes, after great work by Nicky Forster. He chased down a Blackpool defender, won the ball and went racing through toward goal. The finish was perfect, as the keeper was beaten and the ball rolled into the far corner of the net.

Alan Pardew used all three subs, and he showed he wasn’t joking about bringing the youngsters into the first team squad this year. Joe Gamble and Darius Henderson were both given rare chances to impress, while Sammy Igoe was also introduced. Gamble looked very nervous and made a couple of very poor touches, but Henderson looked greatly improved from his last appearance and held the ball up well. He only had one chance, as a deflected shot was scrambled away by the Blackpool keeper.

The most encouraging thing about this game was the clear difference in class between the two sides. Although Blackpool will probably struggle this season, it was great to see Reading beat them with ease and confidence. Next week’s game at home to Huddersfield will be a much tougher task, and will give us a better idea of just how good this year’s Reading side really is.

Report by Alex Craven:
Fantastic to hear so many Royals fans in such fine singing fettle. The game got off to fast start, with both teams creating half chances early on. Reading seemed to have scored when the ball was worked with speed down the right wing to Forster, who pulled the ball back across the box. Butler slid in, but somehow the keeper recovered to save at his feet. Blackpool then created a great chance of their own, when the two Adie's both left a seemingly easy ball, allowing the big striker Murphy a clear run on goal. Whitehead committed early, but Murphy chose to square the ball rather than shoot. Fortunately for Reading, Rooster was just able to scramble the ball clear before Ormerod could reach it. The deadlock was broken by Reading from a set-piece, of all things. Hesitation by Blackpool's keeper meant Parky was able to ram home a free header. There was no further scoring, so the half finished 1-0 to the Rs.

Reading came out looking fired up, and pushing for more goals. Hughes was working hard down the right wing, taking on the full back every time, and winning several corners in the process. Reading's second came from some determined work by Nicky Forster. He chased down a loose ball which it seemed the full-back would easily put into touch. Putting the defender under pressure, however, Forster slid in to block the clearance. The ball bounced off his shin and back towards the net. Forster was the first to react, sprinting onto the ball and into the box with three other hoops in support, and only one defender to cover. However, there was no hesitation from Forster, who was determined to chalk up his first of the season. Fozzy closed on the keeper and clinically slotted the ball under his body to double the scoreline. 

After a few quick changes, the Royals finished the match with five in midfield and just Henderson pressuring up front. A half clearance from a corner which was played back to Darius's feet gave him the chance to force a diving save from the keeper, but this was the closest the Royals could go to extending their lead. Tempers began to fray, and nerves to jangle as it was announced that there would be 6 minutes of extra time. It was no surprise, therefore, that Reading quickly earned three yellow cards (in addition to one for Parky earlier). Murty was booked for taking time on a throw, and Gamble for a late tackle, I think. Whitbread was lucky to stay on the pitch; a Seasider had started a mazy run from 35 yards out, and but was competently stopped with a blatant hip-check by Whitbread . As this was on the edge of the box, a red card could easily have been produced.

All in all, a good game. I was a little disheartened by the regularity with which we pumped the ball forwards. Harper did not come into the game enough to play the ball through the middle, but Hughes and Smith both impressed me. Some more willingness by the defence to get the ball wide and forwards along the deck would see great results, I believe. Both wide players showed good pace and control, a willingness to take people on and determined defending. Parky was masterful in the centre. Butler just carried on from where he left off last season. It was great to see Fozzy looking like his old self again, but I doubt he will have appreciated the amount of high balls being played towards them today. We looked good, but there is room for improvement. We shouldn't have given a team of Blackpool's calibre the kind of space they had in the box today, our defence at times looked nervous (Mr Murty stand up), and communication broke down at a couple of key times. Nevertheless, a good start to the season.

Post Match Opinions
This game turned out to be an easier victory than I thought before the game. At times it was not very pretty but these games are all about winning the battle which is what we achieved. I thought the new boys did well and have injected more pace & steel into our midfield. (didn't miss Caskey) I'm still not convinced that Murty is a full back at times he looks out of sorts and he is also prone to injury. With Gurney leaving to join the scum we also lack cover in this position. Lets not get carried away with this win its one game out of 46 but a good start and lets follow it up with a win at Home to Huddersfield. Spoke to Blackpool fan after the game and he was well impressed with the noise our fans made, lets keep it up. Spent the night in Blackpool, christ what a great place for a night out!
-- Bob Newbury
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