MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

Reading: -
Norwich City:
Mulryne (86 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: -

DIVISION ONE 12 Apr 2004
Pos Team P Pts GD
9 C Palace 41 63 +7
10 READING 42 63 -3
11 Cardiff 41 59 +11
Reading: Ashdown, Murty, Hughes (Gordon 77 mins), Williams, Ingimarsson, Brooker (Goater 45 mins), Sidwell, Harper, Salako, Forster, Kitson. Subs not used: Young, Morgan, Owusu.
Norwich City: Green, Edworthy, Drury, Mackay, Fleming, Cooper (Brennan 89 mins), Holt, Francis, McVeigh (Mulryne 82), Huckerby, Svensson (Roberts 85 mins). Subs not used: Crichton, McKenzie.
Reading: Ingimarsson.
Norwich City:
Referee: N S Barry (Scunthorpe)

Nobody could accuse referee Neale Barry of failing to keep up with play. With four minutes to go, and not for the first time in the match, he managed to get directly involved in the game. Unfortunately on this occasion it proved fatal for Reading and virtually ended their outside chance of reaching the play-offs. It was poor anticipation which resulted in the man in black deflecting Dean Gordon's clearance into the path of Mulryne who took full advantage of the situation lifting the ball over Ashdown. It was very hard on the Royals who had outplayed City in the first half and at least matched them in the second.

Both sides adopted a 4-4-2 formation but Norwich started cautiously and apart from Huckerby shaving the post, Reading looked more likely to take the lead. Kitson was again impressive in all aspects of his game although in the first half he was partnered with Forster for the first time. Reading's best opening of the half was created by an excellent through ball from Forster which presented Sidwell with a clear sight of goal, and although Green had to drop smartly to his right to save, the shot was not stuck with the power or accuracy that we normally expect from him. Norwich were showing plenty of good passing and movement up front but could not penetrate a determined Reading defence.

The second half began with Reading bringing on Goater for Brooker. In the reshuffled forward line Forster played wide on the left and Salako switched to the right. Norwich gradually began to look like league leaders and put Reading under more pressure than they had in the first half. They looked particularly dangerous on the break when they ran at the Reading back four from midfield. Ashdown was called into action but again looked confident and decisive especially when coming out to claim the ball, either in the air, or on the ground, as he did to deny Francis after sixty-three minutes. He also came to the rescue with a fine block after Hughes had caused confusion by staying back and playing several City forwards onside when everyone else had pushed up. Hughes was replaced by Gordon a few minutes later after being caught by a very late challenge. Once again playing out of position his distribution had been erratic but he had defended well most of the time.

The tempo of the game had picked up considerably in the second half and a goal looked imminent. I was just beginning to wonder if Reading might break and score the decivive goal when Mr Barry set up the Norwich winner. His public apology for the error did nothing to console me or thousands of other disgruntled Reading fans. As for the play-offs - I have not really felt sure we going to make it since that awful run at Christmas. However I feel far from despondent. Tonight we gave the probable champions a run for their money. Reading have on the whole been playing well recently and I believe Coppell has assembled a better squad than the one that started the season. A couple of shrewd signings in the summer and we will be serious contenders for promotion next season.
John Wells


Norwich were clearly the best side to visit the Mad Stad this season. They were better organised than the rest & their defence was solid. I thought we had the edge in the first half and played even better than we did against West Ham. It's fantastic to see our home form improve so much.
However, the obvious talking point was that tosser Neale Barry. His incompetence did to us what Norwich had failed to do all game, open us up for the decisive goal. superbly taken, but it should never have reached the player.
Barry's positioning was dubious all night. I can't recall ever seeing a ref position himself in the "D" or the box for a corner. Referee's are taught to place themselves at the opposite side to where the ball is being played from, e.g. so that the players are between the Ref and the Assistant Referee. Because of his positioning, both sides had him to consider when attacking and defending corners. We couldn't use the kick that sets up an oncoming Sidwell to blast from the edge of the box, and it made life difficult for defenders to clear.
His persistence in hogging the middle of the pitch meant both midfields had to play around him, and I couldn't believe it in the first half in front of the North Stand when he stuck out a leg to kick the ball away from Hughes who had to scramble to regain the ball following an excellent piece of defending. For a "top flight" Ref I was serious unimpressed. I have to say I've been under whelmed the whole season with the crap that's been running the lines and most Ref's. The obvious exception was the Div 3 ref we had for the West Ham game. He let the game flow beautifully & rarely got anything wrong.
I can't help but feel cheated by last night. It was another superb home performance with controlled, composed play by the team. It's a real shame we only have 4 games left. We are improving all the time, but there aren't enough games left for us to make it now. Whatever happens, I'll be at all 4 remaining games. URZ!
Thatcham Royal

Sorry Steve but we are NOT a team who deserve to be in the playoffs.The statistics speak for themselves and we clearly do not have goal scoring talent this year and it is this attribute that wins football matches! Our finest moment was to defeat West Ham and this was a classic example of a team highlly motivated and determined to win and we won the game in every department and made West Ham look a very lack lustre average squad.Why could this attitude not be applied in the following games and of such significance over the Easter period? Sadly I continue to hold the view that we no longer have management motivation and conviction to succeed at this level.I hope that I will be proved wrong in the longer term but it will simply not do to say" the players all played well".They need to not only play well but with the heart and conviction to win that West Ham could simply not handle.Mr.Pardew considered we played "above our game".We did not play above our game Alan, we played to our full potential! How will we approach the final four games? - hopefully with the spirit and committment that confronted West Ham.
Terry, Isle of Wight.

To say that Saturday was a travesty of justice would not be an overstatement. Reading played with an athleticism that looked Premiership standard and a flowing passing game that more than matched the Norwich City team. There were plenty of attempts on goal from both teams, which was a marked difference from other games I have seen. The team was weakened by the introduction of Shaun Goater who was less than athletic when not in possession (a distinct weakness in his game). Dave Kitson's first touch was majestic and he was by far the most creative player on the park. Nigel Worthington and Norwich were rattled and would have gone home with a point if it were not for the Mr Barry the referee. Mr Barry was often too close to the play - at half time I said to my mate Steve "I have never seen a referee hit by the ball so much, interfering with play as this guy". Call me prophetic but very close to the end Mr Barry handed Norwich promotion to the Premiership by some crazed positioning that caused him to be hit AGAIN by the ball and this time the ricocheting ball fell to a Norwich City player. Both teams were excellent. Mr Barry - back to school!
Pastor Andy Phillips

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