MATCH REPORT: 2004/2005 Season

16 April 2005: LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
READING 1 NOTTINGHAM FOREST 0
goals
Reading: Harper (74 mins).
Nottm F: -
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 17,905

CHAMPIONSHIP 16 Apr 2005
Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Derby 42 70 +12
6 READING 43 70 +12
7 West Ham 42 66 +9
teams
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Keown, Sonko, Harper, Brooker (Ferdinand 66), Sidwell, Newman (Little 51), Kitson (Hughes 85), Forster. Subs Not Used: Ingimarsson, Young.
Nottm F: Gerrard, Louis-Jean, Perch, Morgan, Taylor, Melville, Gardner, Evans, Powell (Harris 75), Commons (Doyle 72), Dobie (Bopp 85). Subs Not Used: Doig, Hjelde.
bookings
Reading: Sidwell.
Nottm F: Gerrard, Gardner. Sent Off: Gerrard (71 mins).
Referee: S Tanner (S Gloucestershire).
report

Reading took a huge step towards securing a play-off spot this afternoon, beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium while West Ham could only draw at home to Millwall. With Sheffield United only managing to pick up a single point from their two games during the week, Reading moved four points clear in sixth place. Sheffield United seem destined to miss out on that vital top six finish, leaving West Ham the key side to watch over the last few weeks of the season. Alan Pardew's side have a game in hand over the Royals but that would still see them behind on points even if they picked up a win. The Hammers also have three away games from their last four - and their only home game is against league leaders Sunderland. Reading still have to pick up some points to secure a play-off finish but must now be firm favourites for a fifth or sixth placed finish.

The Royals had Harper to thank for his winning goal with just over a quarter of an hour to go this afternoon, shortly after the visitors were reduced to ten men when their keeper was sent off. Reading's super sub Les Ferdinand once again impressed and played a big part in the turn around. The key moment came when Ferdinand put the keeper under pressure and forced him to handle the ball outside his area, picking up a red card. Reading had had much the better of the game but had been frustrated after a goalless first half. The Royals had some good chances to go ahead with Kitson and Forster both narrowly failing to get on the end of crosses. Murty was getting forward well and had a couple of shots saved by the Forest keeper. Down the other end Forest managed to hit the crossbar and put one just wide but Reading were defending well despite Ingimarsson being left on the bench in favour of Keown, who had a very solid game. After the break the chances were few and far between as Forest packed their defence and the sending off may have been a crucial moment to see Reading pick up their third consecutive win.

Following report from John Wells:
This was far from an inspiring victory, but it was nevertheless another solid performance and three more vital points as the Royals promotion challenge continues to gather momentum. It was a scrappy game with Forest guilty of dishing out some crude challenges at times. The crucial goal came sixteen minutes from the end of normal time when a blatant handball in the area by Taylor of Forest was remarkably ignored by the referee. It was such an obvious penalty everyone seemed to hesitate expecting a whistle. Fortunately Harper played on and poked the ball into the net as appeals for a spot kick quickly turned into goal celebrations. Justice was done!

It was an edgy performance from both teams but Reading were clearly the most likely winners. Forest could only muster a couple of goal attempts in the first half. Dobie shot narrowly wide from just outside the box after six minutes and an Evans free kick skimmed the top of the Reading crossbar just before half time. In between Reading were dominant and came close to scoring when Sidwell ran onto a good through ball and sent his shot wide of the far post from a difficult angle, and when Kitson's downward header was well saved by Gerrard. Although Murty and Harper were finding it difficult to get decent crosses over, Shorey and Forster were causing problems for Forest down the left. It has been a common failing this season that Reading have failed to attack the ball on crosses and the same problem surfaced again today. Shorey whipped in a superb cross but Kitson was slow to react and Forster simply watched from just inside the area. It was worrying given that it was an obvious ball to anticipate. Soon after Fozzy got behind the defence and fired in a low cross which Harper almost reached at the far post, but where were the forwards?

The second half was far more eventful. Forster cut inside and saw his firmly struck shot well saved. Minutes later Forest nearly caught Reading out with a quick counter attack which culminated in and awful shot into the high into the stands. Hahnemann sportingly put the ball out of play to allow a Forest player to receive treatment. Forest initially tried to throw the ball out for a goal kick which was bad enough, but then the referee ordered the throw to be retaken. This time the Forest player managed to throw the ball out of play for a Reading throw down by the corner flag! Expletives are applicable! Newmnan was literally elbowed out of the game and had to come off with blood oozing from a head wound. The referee seemed to think that was O.K. Little came into the right of midfield and Harper moved into a central midfield role. Aware of the importance of a victory, Coppell again forced the issue by replacing Brooker with Ferdinand and boldly played with three up front.

The turning point in the game came four minutes later. Gerrard, having been booked in the first half was sent off when his momentum carried him out of the area and he handled the ball. He had to go, but a straight red card seemed unwarranted. Soon after Reading took the lead. Not taking any chances Coppell then brought Hughes on for Kitson and reverted to 4-4-2. Kitson came was probably pleased to take a break from being hacked from behind by the Forest back four. Ferdinand had a good header saved near the end but Reading secured a vital win without too much trouble in the end.

I can't help feeling sorry for Ingimarsson who has been superb for most of the season and finds himself on the bench. Again Coppell is absolutely right in his selection. He is clearly a more accomplished footballer than Sonko but he simply would not compliment Keown in the same way. Keown justified his selection with a typically assured performance that comes from years of playing at a much higher level. He has the attitude of a winner which will hopefully rub off on his colleagues during the rest of the season.


FANS' POST MATCH OPINION

Wasn't pretty, the football was very poor but three points it is and nine points out of the last nine. This was a game we had to win and with Sheff Utd slipping up and West Ham drawing it was a wonderful opportunity to cement our play off chance. I don't think there were any nerves from the players today, they are to come, but we didn't play with any confidence and created very little. Keown did ok though I do feel Ingimasson is very unlucky to be dropped. If we keep winning yet not playing to our full potential then the omens are good. Our crossing continues to be pathetic but the work rate from the lads can't be faulted and that's what we must have in these last games. I think we need five points now from the last three games, it'll probably go to the Wigan game, so a win at Cardiff next week would be brilliant. Forster and Kitson have yet to click and play like they can, what could be a better time to start then next week against those taffs... UURRZZ.
Nick Newbury

I've thought for a while, that one day soon we'd give some team a real drubbing. Well today was not that day. Forest defended well, but had little to offer and in truth we should have finished them off sooner than we did. They were prepared to let us have the ball and we failed to move it quickly enough or with any real subtlety to open them up. True we did have some good balls into the box notably from Shorey and Sidwell. Murty got forward well, but still needs to improve that final ball. Keown brought some calm to the defence and surprisingly better distribution. The turning point came when their keeper was sent off having been booked earlier for dissent. The subsequent free kick produced a scramble and Harper knocked it in. He had looked better when moving into a central position - he is still one of our better passers of the ball. It would be churlish not to mention others. I thought Sidwell had a good game and Sir Les continues to make a difference when he came on. The only one who looked out of sorts was Kitson - yet again. As for player of the season, this is a tough one. Despite Kitson's goals I think it has to be Marcus or Ivar a tough one - a bit like our next games but we have given ourselves a real chance.
Ken C

It was a great result at the weekend and that could really improve our play off push. I think if we stay injury free and have the luck that the other results stay on our side I think we will finish at least sixth as we certainly do not want to have to win all of our games to get in the play offs. I think three points at Ninian Park would really boost the teams morale and who knows the play off place could be secured there and then. After a poor Christmas run of results we have really got ourselves back on track and I feel the two signings (Les Ferdinand and Martin Keown) have boosted the players morale as we may of had our hopes down but with help from the two veterans and Steve Coppell we have got through a tough period of games and look like we have a great chance to make the play offs.
Jonathan Woods

This wasn't a pretty game by any standards and one that could very easily have become the usual slip-up against lower opposition that Reading have specialised in this season. Thankfully, Reading got the break they needed to get the essential win (made even more important by the teams below us failing to win over the weekend). Credit must go to Harper for not stopping whilst all around him (including most of the crowd!) were concentrating on baying for a penalty. I think the time has come for Coppell to decide between Newman and Harper in the middle. Harper has done well in the last 3 games, but doesn't look comfortable on the right and the team lacks width and balance with him there. Newman offers more steel and experience, but lacks Harper's creativity. Now Harper seems to have found some form again Coppell needs to decide whether he wants Newman's qualities or Harper's in the middle because seeing Harper on the right has proved he can't play both of them without leaving Sidwell on the bench. It was good to see both the old men continuing to have a positive influence on the team's promotion push, rather than just occupy the treatment table. Cardiff will be a real test but is one the team really needs 3 points from. COME ON...
Caversham Royal

It was exactly the sort of game I would expect from a team facing relegation. Itís very difficult to break down a team that played five at the back at times. But overall, we were well worth the three points. The most positive thing about the game in my opinion was Coppellís decision to play Keown from the start. He may be in the twilight of his career but I think he has another season in him. He played like he used to for Arsenal. He absolutely ran the game and I think Sonko benefited from his presence. He kept the defence together, his distribution was superb and he stopped us playing the long game too often. He even stopped Coppell from bringing Hughes on too early. With regard to the goal, I see that many fans thought the referee ignored the handball. However, if you watched the referee, he actually signalled that he was playing the advantage. It was probably the only thing he got right all afternoon. Anyway, another three points in the bag and the play offs are looking a little bit more secure. We have that cushion over West Ham and hopefully we can confirm our place in the end of season lottery. Come on you Rís
Stuart W

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