MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

Reading: Cureton (47 and 78 minutes)
Sheff Wed:
Sibon (18 minutes)
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 13,638

DIVISION ONE   13 Aug 02
Pos Team P Pts GD
10 Leicester 1 3 +2
11 READING 2 3 -2
12 Bradford 2 2 +0
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Hughes, Harper (Igoe 45), Watson (Parkinson 80), Salako, Butler (Henderson 70), Cureton. Subs not used: Ashdown, Rougier.
Sheff Wed:
Pressman, Bromby, Soltvedt (Crane 82), Burrows, Geary, Quinn (sent off 90), Armstrong, Donnelly (Haslam 64), Beswetherick, Sibon, Kuqi. Subs not used: Hamshaw, Evans, Maddix.
Reading: Murty. Sheff Wed: Crane, Quinn, Sibon.
Referee: L Cable (Woking)

This was Reading's first ever Division One game at the Madejski Stadium, and in the end it finished just right. This seemed like a typical Reading match at the Madejski and somehow didn't seem all that different to the games we've got used to over the past few seasons. The obvious reason for this was that Sheffield Wednesday were just not a patch on Derby. This was always going to be a game we were capable of winning in front of the home fans, and in the end the jinx of the Sky TV cameras couldn't stop the Royals from collecting the full three points. Not that it was easy. Reading started in fine form, went a goal behind, looked like they then might collapse, pulled level, went ahead, and then threatened to throw it all away as the visitors so nearly took a share of the points. This was a superbly entertaining game in the end despite periods of very dubious play from the Royals. Wednesday will be disappointed, but it was the right result - just.

After Saturday's trip to Derby the Royals reverted to a more regular 4-4-2 formation. in a clearly more positive attempt to win the game. With Cureton and Butler up front and Igoe missing from midfield we got off to an excellent start. For a while it looked like we weren't missing Igoe - how wrong those thoughts were proved to be after half time. The opening fifteen minutes was all Reading as we calmly stroked the ball around the field in clear control of the game. The approach was just right as Wednesday struggled to get any possession. We were working it forward well and things looked good. Our passing football should have produced the lead early on when the ball was crossed from the left and dropped to Butler in the middle. Butler should have buried it, but instead the ball went spinning over the crossbar.

Then on 18 minutes the game suddenly twisted around. Sheffield Wednesday managed their first attempt on goal moments before and then quickly followed it up by taking the lead. In a similar fashion to the three goals at Derby the ball was worked around the Reading area on the ground and we failed to cope with it. The ball was played into the Reading area from the left and Sibon of Wednesday was found to the right of centre well inside the box. He had plenty of time to shoot across Whitehead and leave the ball buried in the opposite bottom corner. 0-1. The Reading defence then seemed determined to collapse. The quick challenges and the ability to keep possesion went out of the window as the confidence seemed to drain out of Reading. Sheffield swarmed forward and we panicked. It could easily have been two when a poor back pass left Whitehead in all kinds of trouble and he so nearly failed to deal with the striker. Whitehead then seemed incapable of claiming any ball into the area as his game started to develop into a shocker. Twice the ball was crossed low across the face of the Reading goal. Twice Wednesday should have increased their lead but failed to connect with the ball at the far post. Reading survived until half time amid a whole series of misplaced passes and a strange inability to make a tackle.

The half time whistle was met with silence from the home fans. The away fans were quite rightly overjoyed with their side's transformation. The start of the second half saw an immediate transformation - perhaps generated by the introduction of little Sammy Igoe. Hughes had struggled out wide once again, but put back into the middle we was superb. Hughes was meant for playing in the centre of midfield and in that position he's pure quality. Igoe was meant to play out wide and in that position he'll continually cause First Division defences problems with his determined runs and ability to beat players. The midfield was so much improved after the break it was hard to imagine. Lets hope Pardew was paying attention. A couple of minutes after the break Reading were level. Igoe won the ball and set up Hughes on the Reading right. Hughes cut in and crossed low and Cureton drove it home from the edge of the box. A great strike and Reading's first Division One goal ever scored at the Madejski Stadium. A moment to savour.

The home part of the crowd of 13,638 was suddenly in full voice. It was a slightly disappointing attendance considering Reading's new status and this being the first home game of the new season, and the turn out was well below the club's rather optimistic estimations (probably due to the expensive cost of tickets nowdays). However, the noise generated was at last impressive as Reading looked to turn defeat into victory. Hughes, now having a blinder, went on a fantastic run through the middle of the park beating player after player and breaking into the Wednesday box. It looked like he might go all the way before nudging the ball to his left to Salako. Salako looked certain to score, but failed to shoot, and instead found himself brought to the floor by the last defender for what surely should have been a penalty. The penalty wasn't given and the game calmed down once again. The disappointing Martin Butler was replaced by Darius Henderson as Reading looked to cause more problems for Wednesday's defence.

Henderson's ability to occupy the defence might well have helped as Hughes again provided the low cross from the right on 78 minutes after skipping past the Wednesday full-back with apparent ease. The cross again was straight to Cureton's feet but this time a little closer in. Cureton doesn't miss those and duely dispatched it into the back of the net. The Reading fans went mental and Reading were 2-1 up with the game seemingly won. However there was still plenty of time for Reading to chuck it away - and we so nearly did. Wednesday went on the late hunt for a point and won a whole series of corners that were well placed into the middle of the Reading box. Thankfully Whitehead had returned to form and did well to collect corner after corner with clean catches. The pressure continued as the visitors had a goal disallowed for handball from a corner on the right, and we could breath again. Whitehead was then required to produce the save of the match when a powerful shot from the edge of the box took a mean deflection and Whitehead needed to change direction in his dive to push it wide. The second booking for Sheffield's Quinn helped finish his team off with the game in stoppage time, but the final whistle couldn't come soon enough. A 2-1 victory for the Royals. A second win against Coventry on Saturday may be slightly optimistic but it would give us the best start to the season we could have realistically expected.

nick newbury
Blimey, what a game! If you'd have offered me a 1-1 draw at half time I'd have chewed your arm off up to the shoulder yet alone take your hand off! For the first five minutes we played more football than we did in ninety at Derby and for a moment you could have thought you were watching Brazil! Well, Brazil fifth team perhaps, but boy did we look good for the start. I thought "here we go" how many we going to win by and then in typical style Wednesday scored a good goal and suddenly we were transformed into a shambolic team that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Unibond. How on earth we went in only 1-0 down I'll never know, but hey, it's a game of two halfs....Brian!
I'm not sure if Pardew threw a few tea cups at half time, doubt it, but the lads certainly came out fighting in the second half and got the all important early goal, and what a beauty it was too from Curo, after good work from Hughes who though not my favourite player did work his bollocks off and deserves praise. The second was another superb piece of finishing and just proves how he should start every game.
This was a massive result for Reading, first league win since March and a massive confidence boost in proving to all the players we can win in Division One. Have no doubt though,we still have to improve dramatically in many areas if we are to remain in this division. The defence is looking particularly shaky, and Ade William's although we all love him, should stop thinking he's Rio bloody Ferdinand, he's not, and the sooner he stops farting about at the back and getting rid of the ball the better. That apart , the lads done brilliant and showed great character to come back and go on to a sweet victory and three precious points.
Well done to the ref, who clearly does not come from the usual school of incompetent tossers like the one at Derby, and had a great game.
Bring on the Sky Blues, long way to go, but we're on our way... URZ!
stu, reading
Great game and great entertainment! Reading proved what we have been all been hoping for - They can compete at this level and when they pass and move there are few teams in this division better. Having said all of that we did look shaky in defence, especially on crosses and set pieces - on another day we would have been down and out before half time. Too many times Wednesday had free headers and Aidie Williams had a game he would rather forget. I thought Sheffield looked a tidy side and with Lloyd Owusu up front will win more games than they lose. My man of the Match was Martin Butler. Ok he didn't score but his link play and holding up of the ball was first class. Reading do not have another striker who can this as well as Butts. Now we need to build on this.
I caught the Sky highlights by nipping into North Stand after the game. It took a while to tell that they were showing both our goals - they looked so similar. Murty ball to Hughes making a decent run, Hughes whips in low cross, Curo at near post, bang, goal! Only difference was Igoe was involved in first & Shorey was for the second. Also in between the two goals Hughes made a great run through centre past half their team & laid off to Salako who was definitely hacked down in the area. At the time I can't say I could tell it was a foul from the East Stand, but with benefit of the replay there was no doubt. Also their disallowed goal was for a definite handball. Replay showed it clearly but damn good spot by ref. URZZZ!
ascot royal
Lots of positives from the match. Igoe and Cureton showed they should be starters against Coventry, and Butler does some great work too - where does Forster play that's the problem. We need a centre back as we have 2/3 slow ones in Adrians Wall when fit and then John Mackie is learning fast but I think he needs someone more solid next to him but Shorey is proving me wrong - he's looked great at left back in Div One - even against Derby he wasn't completely overrun. I feel sorry for Harper - he tries so hard but Hughes is better in the middle than on the right for some reason. Watson can be a bit pedestrian and those curvy passes to the wing look good but aren't the hardest part of the game - we need someone to get stuck in and when we are a goal up to anchor themselves in front of the back four - which Parky didn't really do when he came on. ONE BIG DISSAPOINTMENT - the crowd! Maybe Sky dropped it by a few. So lots to learn but what a great win and come on urrrrrs!
purley royal
I cursed at the start of the match when I realised Hughes was playing on the right instead of Igoe, he was played in this position so many times last season and it never worked out. In spite of our bright start, all of the constructive play seemed to be coming down the left as a result of Shorey bringing the ball up and working well with Solako, nothing was really happening on the right. Eventually Sheffield worked this out and found that by keeping up the pressure on our left flank they kept Shorey occupied and could dominate the midfield. Common sense prevailed at half time (along with a well deserved rollicking I presume) and it was like watching a different team, Igoe caused problems down the right, combining well with Murty and Hughes and both our goals came from this route. The sides balance was better and this in turn freed Shorey up to push up on the left flank again. It was a shakey end to the match, maybe the spectre of all those draws at the end of last season weighed on the teams mind, if so then hopefully this has now been exorcised. Overall an enjoyable game and a good result for the Royals. We still need a better central defence though, they won far too many balls around the box, particularly in the air, and our inability to get the ball clear will cost us dear if it isn't sorted out. Hopefully Pardew has taken note of the games most important learning point, Igoe on the right, Hughes in the middle!
ken c
A thoroughly entertaining match, and, in the end, a victory that was just about deserved. We started superbly. We controlled the game, passed the ball well, and in Salako and Shorey had the two best players on the park. What we failed to do during that period was to convert the domination into worthwhile goal scoring chances. When Sheffield Wednesday did score it was against the run of play. It was a good strike but it was the result of us giving the ball away and some poor defensive tackling. You could see the effect that the goal had on the two sides. Wednesday were now more confident and Reading's confidence seemed to be draining away from them. At half time there seemded to be only one winner. If Pardew took the blame for the substitution on Saturday then he must take the credit from last night. In the first half we had no width on the right and the introduction of Igoe changed that and gave us better balance. Both goals were from the right and Cureton showed, that when he is on striking form like tonight, he is worth his place in the team. Both goals were taken really well. Although Wednesday never looked out of it, we were the better side in the second half. They had a goal disallowed, we had a very good penalty shout turned down. There were concerns. Williams was very poor in the first half. Whitehead can have given no confdence to his back four. He must learn to dominate his box and help them when we are up against big forwards. I suspect that, in an ideal world Pardew would like to play Harper, Hughes and Watson. It would seem that that does not provide the right balance. I thought we looked a bit lightweight in terms of winning the ball and if Cureton is to play, then his partner must work that little bit harder and hold the ball up. Whilst Butler worked well, his control was not as it was a couple of years ago. Having said that, it was a terrific victory and very important in the context of giving confidence to the team. There were some very positive things to come out of the game as well. The combination down the left was excellent. We need to see both Shorey and Murty have a go at goal more. They are both very capable. Hughes did well and seems to be developing into a good player. He made positive runs and has the proverbial good engine. Mackie battled well, but he needs to make sure that the team has the right balance between playing out of trouble and using row Z! Can't wait for the next game! If the rest of the season is like tonight's we are in for some terrific matches.
Excellent report Graham, spot on. Almost a cup-tie, perhaps that's the way it will be this year. Igoe made so much difference it was incredible, not only does he create and torment he makes numerous saving tackles - perhaps because he's so close to the ground he can see the ball more clearly! Good to hear of our new goalkeeper as Whitehead really doesnt dominate his area as we need in this division, for every dangerous ball not collected there is an impressive 1st division striker waiting to put it away. We got away with it last year but if Weds finished near the bottom then we have a lot of pressure to face in the coming months. The other most glaringly obvious thing from the match was the urgency for a new top class, quick and composed central defender to go alongside the ever improving Mackie. Williams was slow of foot and mind, Vivash and Whitbread are both 1st division rejects and wont be able to keep up with the speed of play. And of course, well done Curo. I dont agree that Butler was ineffective albeit a little blunt, however how can Pards not start with the team on Saturday that started the 2nd half (apart from the new American giant)
london royal
Great result and great performance in parts. The balance of the side is great with Igoe out wide he must start every game with Curo. Great to see the ball played around well, but the lads need to learn when to play it and when to wrap a foot round it and launch it. Mackie looks better & better, think he must have watched a certain tony adams because unless i'm very much mistaken he looks very similar on the pitch Adie Williams looks a little slow at times and I'll be glad when Whitbread returns In essence it was a great result and the boys played well. With a little more improvement I'm sure we can shoot up the table and stay there. Come on URRRRRS
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