MATCH REPORT: 2005/2006 Season

13 September 2005: LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
Reading:Doyle (26 mins), Lita (68 mins), Sonko (87 mins).
Crystal Palace: Johnson (29 mins), Morrison (47 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 17,562

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 Sheff Utd 8 21 +10
2 READING 8 17 +11
3 Watford 8 17 +8
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Makin, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Little, Gunnarsson, Harper, Convey (Hunt 88), Lita, Doyle. Subs Not Used: Stack, Oster, Obinna, Baradji.
Crystal Palace: Kiraly, Boyce, Borrowdale, Ward, Fitz Hall, Watson, Riihilahti (Andrews 88), Hughes, Soares, Johnson (Macken 37), Morrison. Subs Not Used: Speroni, Butterfield, Popovic.
Reading: Gunnarsson, Lita.
Crystal Palace: Fitz Hall, Soares, Morrison.
Referee: B Curson (Leicestershire).

This was a pulsating game of football that swung both ways before eventually ending up as a deserved victory for the better side. Reading always expected this to be one of the more difficult games of the season and they were to be proved right against a dangerous Palace side. Fortunately, Reading's attitude was spot on this evening as they battled from a goal down to end up with the full three points on a night packed with drama. This was, for certain, one of the most entertaining games seen at the Madejski for a long time and it was made even better by Sonko's dramatic late winner for the Royals.

Reading were good at Coventry, and an unchanged side from the visit to the Ricoh Arena carried on where they left off on Saturday. Both sides were immediately playing some excellent passing football and it was clear from the start it was going to be a special game. Reading enjoyed the better of the early chances, although Palace looked dangerous every time they attempted to break. Doyle was everywhere once again, and could have put Reading a goal up early on when a rare direct kick from Hahnemann flew over the top and evaded every player until it dropped to Doyle. Doyle's first touch, a shot from the right, saw the baggy-trousered keeper need to make a save with his feet to put the ball out. From there Reading had other chances, with Little, having a blinding game, working himself into a shooting position before unselfishly passing the ball onwards. Leroy Lita looked like he might shoot with a good chance but swung at the ball and entirely missed it, much to the amusement of the travelling fans.

Reading took the lead when Doyle went on a run deep inside the visitors' half. He went round one player before seemingly coming to a dead end on the edge of the box, crowded out by three Palace defenders. Somehow he found the gap and fired a low shot into the bottom right corner of the net to put Reading a goal up. Reading's lead was short lived as Palace immediately went on the counter attack. The ball came to Johnson who tore into the area from the right leaving Sonko behind, and approaching goal on a very tight angle. Somehow he managed to find the net with an impressive strike that Hahnemann would have expected to be favourite to save, and Palace were back level. Palace were continually looking for the tricky Johnson who was the target of every Palace forward ball, but apart from the goal he was being reasonably well contained with some fair challenges. However, it was relief for Reading when Johnson was forced to limp off injured with nearly ten minutes of the first half remaining. Rather than end Palace's game it actually seemed to improve their performance as they concentrated on a passing team game rather than direct balls to a single player. As a result, Palace ended the first half and started the second with their best period of play.

Shortly after the break Palace took the lead with their first meaningful attack of the half. A long through from the right was flicked on inside the area and buried at the far post - a well worked goal clearly praticed on the training pitch. The Palace keeper had certainly been the busier of the two during the first half, but the second half saw Hahnemann need to produce a couple of excellent saves to keep Reading in touch at 1-2 down. Reading gradually took control of the game again showing absolute determination to get back in the fixture. Leroy Lita was having a difficult game and kept running into trouble to lose the ball - so much so that the fans were starting to think it was time he was replaced. However, Lita is out there for one reason only - to score goals. With just over twenty minutes left he showed why he's a million pound player with a moment of brilliance. After his first half complete miss of the ball this was even more special as he made it 2-2 with a spectacular overhead scissor kick, and followed it up with a booking for his celebration.

Reading began to dominate the game as they looked for the winner and the chance appeared to come when Doyle burst into the area and was duely taken down for a penalty kick. Lita, despite his penalty miss on Saturday, immediately grabbed the ball much to Doyle's annoyance. His penalty wasn't any better than Saturday's and was saved. The rebound bounced back to him and he was unable to make it count. Luck appeared to be on Reading's side for once as a re-take was ordered. Lita and Doyle made up with each other and this time Little stepped in to save the argument. Little's kick lacked power and was held by the keeper as he dived to his left to save, and Reading looked to have thrown away an excellent chance to win the game. Once again Reading's heads might have dropped but the battling attitude shone through. With just a few minutes left man-of-the-match Doyle again raced down the left to be taken down for another free-kick. Little floated over the cross that found Sonko deep in the area. Sonko's finish was conclusive, a huge arching header that must have almost gone right out the back of the net. If ever there was no doubt about where the ball was heading, this was it. The winning goal, 3-2 to the Royals, and the Madejski Stadium went mental. An excellent night.

Following report from John Wells:
A memorable night at the Madejski Stadium was rounded off perfectly for Royals fans when Sonko rose to head the winner from a Convey free kick to complete a brilliant comeback. This game had all the ingredients of a great match. Two very good teams, full of confidence, determined to win, and committed to playing direct attacking football. There was little to choose between the teams tonight and I suspect there will little between them at the end of the season. The five bookings and the sending off of Palace manger Dowie was more to do with passion than malice, and I doubt if anyone in the ground failed to be caught up in the drama and the passion of a game in which the lead changed hands three times.

From the kick off the passing was sharp and incisive from both teams. Little saw a lot of the ball in the opening twenty minutes and caused havoc with his twisting runs at the Palace defence. When Reading attacked there were players throughout the team willing to take players on. Convey, Lita, Doyle and Harper were giving Palace a testing time. The game briefly subsided into a quiet spell on twenty minutes then burst into life again when Doyle picked up the ball just inside the Palace half and went on a run which culminated in a firm left foot strike into the bottom corner of the net. The lead lasted two minutes when Andy Johnson, who was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty, scored from a very tight angle with a venomous shot. Hahnemann was caught by surprise but he should never be beaten at the near post from that angle. Shortly after the England striker pulled up injured and had to go off. It was a crucial loss for Palace and the fans and the team were subdued for some time as they came to terms with the loss of their most potent weapon.

Dowie claimed his side had the better of the first half. I disagree. However Palace could have easily been three - one up within ten minute s of the restart. The defence slept while Morrison nipped in to flick the ball past Hahnemnan. The 'keeper responded with a good save soon after to keep the game in the balance. Then Reading found another gear and more goals looked on the cards, although I was not sure which end they would go in! Lita produced a moment of brilliance when he smashed an overhead kick past a stunned Kiraly to level the scores and set up the finale. Doyle, who for me was the man of the match, was tripped as he surged into the box and Reading were handed the opportunity to regain the lead. Lita's tame penalty was saved but the linesman spotted something and the kick had to be re-taken. Having missed two in two in four days Lita handed the responsibility over to Little who made a similar hash of it and Kiraly saved well. It was the sort of blow that can dishearten a team, but not this Reading side. Dowie was sent off after an angry exchange with the Reading bench and then Sonko delivered the killer blow. Doyle's persistence won him a free kick down by the corner flag. Convey floated over an inviting cross and Sonko met the ball cleanly with his head giving Kiraly no chance. Euphoria for Royals fans!

It is time to start believing. We have a manager who has built a good squad and knows what he is doing. We have a squad full of talented individuals who are playing as team, and more importantly they believe they can beat anyone in this division. The spirit of this team is epitomised by Doyle who plays with confidence, skill and passion, but above all he looks like he is enjoys playing. We have not always been able to say that of our players in recent years.


Has to be the most nail-biting, brilliant, exciting game of sport I've seen since... since... YESTERDAY! But seriously - brilliant effort from the Royals, deserved to be two or three up rather than coming from 1-2 behind. But excellent spirit - excellent skills - excellent teamwork.
Crowthorne Seb

Absolutely brilliant. This must have been one of the best that we have seen at the Mad Stad. Two teams playing good attractive football with us deservedly coming out on top. The game started at a good pace and continued. It was a pulsating affair. As we missed one or two chances, I began to wonder if we would pay, but then Doyle went on a run beat three men and slotted with his left foot into the corner. It was a terrific goal and he had another superb match. The lead was short-lived however as Johnson hit a sharp shot which beat Marcus at the near post. It was a powerful shot, but whether Marcus should have saved it or not is open to question. He is allowed the odd mistake though - if it was one! So the teams went in level. I thought that we just shaved the first half but Palace had shown that they are a good outfit. Most of the Reading players had a good half with only Lita being out of sorts. The second half started in exactly the wrong way. A long throw resulted in Palace taking the lead and I wondered how we would react. The answer was soon apparent as we pressed forward. In truth Palace had one or two chances but they failed to use them. We had more of the ball and the wide men were terrific. When Lita got the ball at a narrow angle with his back to goal, I just wondered what was going to happen. The answer was a powerful overhead kick that hit the back of the net. The ground erupted. He was delighted and promptly got booked for taking his shirt off! Could we, would we get the winner. Palace helped us by tripping Doyle but penalties have never been our forte and so it proved again. The final goal, when it came was a delight. We have seen Sonko miss a few already. With his heading ability he should be getting a minimum of six goals a season. Tonight he started and it gave us the points we deserved. We would not have won this last season. What we saw was a team which believed in itself and what it was doing. The movement was terrific as was the willingness of people to take the opposition on. Little ,Lita, Convey and Doyle were all willing runners. Convey is becoming a very intelligent footballer as he shows in how rarely gives the ball away. The central midfield were excellent again. It would be wrong to single out any individual in what was a wonderful team effort,but special praise must go to Doyle who has filled Kitson's boots very well. If you weren't there last night you missed a thriller.
Ken C

What a game, what a flipping game! This really was a special night, we've had many exciting games in the past, but none surely had the quality of football as this one. This was two teams going hammer and tongs flat out playing some quite unbelievable football, I've certainly seen no better game this season in any league anywhere. The pace of the game was quite breathtaking with chances being created at both ends right from the start, though without doubt it was Reading creating most. It was a brilliant team performance from every Reading player playing at the top of their game, but as usual a few went to that extra level. Little and Harper surely had their best game ever in a Reading shirt, Doyle gets better every game and looks a great find, Lita still raw and lots to learn but what an exciting prospect, Gunnarsson following up from a great debut at Coventry had another blinder and looks well worthy of a regular place and the great Sonko, the man who must have a head shaped like a fifty pence piece but finally found the goal with a blinder of a heading the final minutes. Before that Lita's bicycle goal was bloody unbelievable, what a goal, what a moment. I think Sonko should take penalties from now on, even if the keeper got to it, odds are he'd end up in back of the net following a shot so powerful, human hands couldn't stop it. Palace deserve great credit for coming to attack and playing so great football too, they will be up their in the shake up at the end of the season no doubt. I've not been Coppell greatest fan in the past and have had a go at his passion, he certainly had passion last night, I've never seen him so animated jumping up and down screaming at the players, great stuff keep it up mate. This is now Coppell's team, playing as he wants it, it really followed on from Coventry where I thought we played really well too but were unlucky to draw. If, if, if we can recreate that performance last night and play like that every game, mark my words we will be champions. Look what we have up front compared to Sheff Utd who lead the league, with respect Neil Shipperly is a journey man pro and nothing as exciting as our forwards. We have pace and pace cannot be defended against, teams are really going to fear us if we carry on like this. Yet again we have started the season well, yet again we have seen what the team are capable of, and yet again we think here we go. Crewe is the perfect game after last night as it typifies this league, every game a battle every game every team can win. I've decided last night was the best game I've ever seen at the Madejski and rates in the top five games of all time I've ever seen Reading. A absolute classic, 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, missed penalties, late winner who could ask for more. Keep it up lads, well played indeed and let's have some more Saturday please... UUUUF'ING RRRRRZZZZZZ!
Nick Newbury

This was one of the best games I've seen in quite a while and the icing on the cake was of course that Reading pinched the win at the end. I've been very pleased to see how well Gunnarson, Doyle and Makin have fitted in during the last couple of games. In fact Doyle has been outstanding up front and the midfield looks much more solid and organised with Gunnarson in it. Reading showed in this game that they can compete with one of the best this division has to offer and played some excellent football throughout. Now they must keep it up and avoid any slip-ups against Crewe on Saturday. COME ON...
Caversham Royal

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