MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

Reading: Kitson (10 mins)
Lunt (39 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 14,729

DIVISION ONE 17 Apr 2004
Pos Team P Pts GD
9 C Palace 42 64 +7
10 READING 43 64 -3
11 Cardiff 43 62 +10
Reading: Ashdown, Murty, Williams, Ingimarsson, Newman, Brooker (Forster 77), Harper, Sidwell, Salako, Kitson, Owusu (Morgan 67). Subs not used: Goater, Savage, Young.
Crewe: Williams, Wright, Moses, Foster, McCready (Walker 89), Vaughan, Brammer (Hignett 80), Sorvel, Lunt, Ashton (Symes 85), Steve Jones. Subs not used: Bankole, Higdon.
Reading: -
Referee: P S Danson (Leicester)

Reading's play-off challenge continued to falter this afternoon in spite of a spirited second half attempt to secure the victory which would have revived their hopes. The atmosphere was flat from the kick-off and Reading seemed to be prepared to allow Crewe to dictate the pace of the game with their careful, neat and patient football. It was a match between a team which believed they were safe from relegation and a team which were not convinced they could make the play-offs.

Reading took an early lead when Kitson nodded home a Salako cross with the bemused Crewe defence waiting for an offside flag. Crewe almost equalised six minutes later when a neat passing move culminated in a rasping shot which was well saved by Ashdown. Crewe were passing the ball well and their midfield players and forwards were adept at dropping off their markers and finding space to work the ball through midfield. Reading threatened to add to their lead when Murty sent in a teasing cross that was nicked away from Kitson as he prepared to attack the ball at the far post. Ashton then found space for a shot but it was hit tamely at Ashdown. The equaliser came in the thirty-ninth minute when Sidwell was caught napping by the elusive Lunt and in trying to make amends, clumsily flattened the Crewe midfielder just outside the box. Lunt proceeded to curl the resulting free kick over the wall and just inside the near post. There was nothing Ashdown could have done about it. Towards half time Reading almost fell apart. They conceded possession and passed the ball carelessly and Ashdown was forced to make another good block.

Reading and the crowd came to life for the second half. Harper and Sidwell began driving forward with greater purpose and the tempo of the game generally increased. Salako managed to get a header on target but it was comfortably gathered by Williams. On sixty minutes Kitson found the back of the net with a header from a Murty cross only for Referee Danson to disallow it for a foul on a defender. I couldn't really see what happened, but Adie Williams was adamant in his post match radio interview that the goal should have stood.

Owusu had charged around and won the ball up front but had done nothing with it all afternoon so it was no surprise when he was replaced by Morgan after sixty-six minutes. Morgan's impact was immediate. Although given offside, his first touch was a vicious dipping volley brilliantly tipped over by Williams. Every time he got the ball you felt something was going to happen. Twice he wriggled through the middle of the Crewe defence. On the first occasion the ball ran away from him, and then later he forced a save from Williams. Salako continuously rained in crosses from the right after Forster was brought on for Brooker, but Crewe coped well in the aerial bombardment. Crewe should have won the game when Lunt, who had posed problems all afternoon hit a shot which Ashdown could not hold, and somehow three Crewe forwards could not finish it off in the resulting scramble. Had they scored it would have been a grave injustice. The only flicker of hope came in stoppage time when Williams dropped a cross but Reading could not take advantage and the ball was bundled away to safety. By them many Reading fans had drifted away which I found a bit puzzling. (I can't understand how supporters can turn their back on the game, as several did today, and walk out as their team prepares to take a corner, with a chance of a place in play-offs for the Premiership still at stake. Perhaps they had been promised something really nice for their tea!)

Ashdown, in my opinion has done enough recently to make him first choice 'keeper and Morgan once again clearly demonstrated he a far better option to pair with Kitson than Owusu in every aspect of his game. Apart from having great touch and an eye for goal, he is very difficult to knock off the ball, and he provides that spark that excites the crowd and frightens opposing defences. I hope Coppell offers him at least a longer loan period. I also hope Harper and Sidwell play together next season because I believe they will continue to develop and mature under Coppell and will enable Reading to match or better most sides in midfield in this division. With Millwall pushing for a play-off place, next week's match at the Den will not be for the faint-hearted, but surely a top six finish is now only a mathematical possibility for the Royals.
John Wells


We huffed and we puffed and we had a go but we weren't good enough on the day the beat a Crewe side who played some good football and had created some good chances. Well played Jamie Ashdown who had a great game, I think he's better than Yankee Doodle and should keep the goalies number one shirt. The rest were very average and sadly that's where we've ended up, a very average side in a very average division. It may be very difficult to get out of it, but when you think the football you see the likes of the Gooners playing is only one league away, it must frighten most of our players to death. I'm not sure where we're going as a club. The new stadium honeymoon is over, the infrastructure is there, but the consistent performances on the pitch are not. Guess it's just best to put this season behind us due to various circumstances that have put the club under great strain after such a bright start. We've done well to finish in the top ten. It's next year that matters now and there is only one way and one way only to get promotion, money. It's not a nice fact but it's the only way. Norwich have invested in quality players and its got them up, may not be good enough to stay there, but at least they have a chance to try. Reading FC's policy of brick by brick and build for the future is both very frustrating for the fans and quite naive in this day and age. We've got everything, stadium, academy, training ground, fan base, location to attract good players, but, what we haven't got is indeed quality players..... at the moment. Sorry JM, but it's in your hands. Roll on next season..... URZ
Nick Newbury

Reading played this game like we were languishing in mid-table with nothing to play for rather than the must-win encounter it actually was. Although there was an improvement on their lethargic approach in the 2nd half, it was never going to be enough. A lot more consistency will be needed next season & these sort of half-hearted efforts eradicated. A slim bit of hope remains, but I reckon this spelled the end of any play-off chances this season. Perhaps someone should've told the players Alan Pardew was in charge of Crewe for the day, then they might have played with the same passion as they did in our last winning home performance. They need to show that sort of commitment week in week out, not just when the ex-boss is in town.
Caversham Royal

We simply have no threatening strike force. Take a good look at the goals scored. We are lucky to be in the top ten! Sorry Mr.Coppell you are not for us. We need a motivator of the highest order and a manager with the clear vision on acquiring premiership potential in all departments. Don't expect John Madejski to simply make more money available, he has more than supported the manager. We have carried many players this year financially and who when fit are not play off potential. In my view it is a new start next year with a new fully committed policy of motivation and drive. If every game could be approached like the West Ham home game we would have achieved automatic promotion. Goals win games and as Steve Coppell quite rightly acknowledged after the Crew game we lacked the killer punch. Players that do not show this attribute should be shown the door!
Terry, Isle of Wight.

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