(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: Harper (63 minutes)
Cambridge United Scorers: -
Date: 18 September 2001
Attendance: 8,348

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Whitbread, Robinson, Harper, Parkinson, A Smith (N Smith 74), Igoe, Butler (Henderson 67), Forster (Rougier 87). Subs not used: Ashdown, Cureton.

Cambrdige United: Perez, Fleming, Walling, Duncan, Angus, Prokas, Ashbee, Cowan (Revell 45), Youngs, One (Kandol 72), Kitson. Subs not used: Marshall, Tann, McAnespie.
Alex Smith (Reading); Ashbee, Prokas, Walling (Cambridge).
L Cable (Woking)

By the end of the season victories like this will be completely forgotten. It was a truly forgettable match, but three vital points for the Royals that gets us back on track after two straight league defeats. We were crap against Cardiff City, worse against Stoke City, and improved tonight. Not massively improved, but improved enough to grind out a straight forward victory over a Cambridge United side that clearly aren't going to be doing much this season. Cambridge came for a draw tonight, but seemed to settle for a narrow defeat - they never looked like taking anything from the game. Reading had most of the play and possession and nearly all the chances but the game could never really be blamed for producing any real excitement.

Cambridge seemed to be keen on time wasting right from their start with their keeper taking ages after every goal kick. It meant the game never really got flowing - but when it did it was Reading that went on the attack. The only change from Saturday was the inclusion of Nicky Forster in the starting eleven - and it was the Butler and Forster partnership that provided most of our chances to take a first half lead. It took at least twenty minutes before a low Reading crowd were given the first goal-mouth action - Forster set up Butler on the right, and the United keeper who looked a bit dodgy did well to save. Moments later it worked in reverse with Butler crossing from the right to Forster in the middle. Forster turned well but failed to solidly connect giving the keeper the chance to save. The partnership looked most likely to produce goals during the first half with another effort nearly finding the target after Butler provided Forster with the ball close in - Forster's shot was saved at close range. The only other decent attempt of the first half saw Igoe drive one in that flew just over the crossbar.

The second half saw Cambridge come out and have their best period of the match. With Reading failing to take the lead they had a half hearted attempt to sneak a goal themselves, but failed to really break through the Reading defence despite a period of possession. Murty and Robinson didn't have their best games - but they had very little to do against a weak United attack. Cambridge were happy to defend - but their game plan was ruined with about 25 minutes to go when a Reading attack saw the away goalkeeper fail to hold the ball. Forster appeared to foul their keeper who dropped the ball and stayed on the ground allowing Harper to put the ball in the far side of the net from the left side of goal. Cambridge United didn't seem to complain too much - perhaps they couldn't be bothered to. Well taken by Harper though and 1-0 to the Royals. It was no suprise when it was the only goal of the match.

Interestingly Henderson was prefered to Cureton when Butler was replaced with about twenty minutes to go. Henderson worked hard again and picked out all kinds of balls in the air by sticking his head on them. Another promising showing from the lanky youngster. Meanwhile Cureton remained on the bench. Alex Smith was disappointing again with too many balls played wrong. His highlight of the game was going straight through a United player to earn a deserved yellow card. Smith was replaced by the other Smith - Neil Smith - who has been working hard behind the scenes to earn a recall to the first team squad. Neil Smith looked good when he came off the bench - determined to battle for a place. Competition for places can only be a good thing as the season progresses.

Nothing to get excited about, and little to report on.
But three lovely league points!

Following report from John Wells:
A predictably small crowd went home happy with the result if not the performance. Reading could and should have hammered this poor Cambridge side that had little to offer. The closest they came to scoring was an Adie Williams header that nearly ended up in his own net. The goal, when it eventually came, was the result of a goalmouth scramble in which Perez collided with Forster and failed to gather the ball. When it fell to Harper, he tucked his chance away cleanly. Game over.

This was a typical performance of a side that had just lost two successive games. Plenty of effort and energy but the finishing was wayward and passes were overhit or delayed too long. Perez saved well from Butler just after 20 minutes and again from Forster when Butler played a good ball through the centre of the Cambridge defence. Igoe was busy as usual in midfield and fired in a decent long range effort which just dipped over the bar.

After the goal several opportunities came and went, notably a good break by Forster from the half-way line when he outpaced the Cambridge defence and closed in on goal, wisely ignoring Alex Smith who had hurtled into an offside position and demanded the ball. Unfortunately his shot was stifled by a superbly timed tackle. Forster caused problems throughout with his pace and direct style. Surprisingly Reading are finding goals hard to come by this season and I don't think Pardew has made his mind up yet about the best combination up front. Henderson is clearly growing in confidence and improving. He is certainly competitive and gets on the end of most balls delivered in the air but not first choice. Rougier, I suppose will score again eventually but looks out of place as a central striker. I can only assume Pardew felt that it was not Cureton's sort of game. He is clearly the best finisher in the squad and must play even if it is only as sub.

Neil Smith came on - presumably to give him a bit a run out before he fills in for Parky when his suspension comes into effect. He looks as if he can do the job required. I'm sure Pardew will soon be tempted to throw Shorey in for a full game especially if Robinson continues to play the way he did this evening. He looked weak defensively and contributed little going forward.

None of the teams in the top half of the table seem to be emerging as strong favourites yet. The Royals are very much in the hunt this season and I still feel the squad has strength in depth and therefore better equipped than most clubs to sustain their challenge for an automatic promotion spot. Wycombe will provide a sterner test on Saturday. Lets hope for a better performance - but another scrappy one nil win will do for now!

Post Match Opinions

The match report sums it up pretty well - a bog standard performance against a weak opposition who were intent on spoiling the game from the first minute. Still it's the three points that counts and after two successive defeats it will hopefully lift us for the next run of matches which are all 'win-able', points on the board are vital at this stage of the season. What is worrying is our inability to carve out and take decent chances as I'm sure Cambridge aren't the only team who will come to the Madjeski looking to defend for a draw! For long periods last night I wasn't convinced we would hit the back of the net and it was only after Forster had bundled their keeper out of the way did we manage to score. Although I felt we were lucky that the goal was allowed to stand their keepers persistent time wasting probably didn't endear him to the ref and therefore he got what he deserved! Once again the 'fair-weather' nature of some of the Royals following was exposed - where were the 10,000 other Royals 'fans' who witnessed the West Ham match last week? The more we get behind the team the more our chances of playing 'glamour' opposition on a more regular basis!
-- Chieveley Royal

Your reporters did well to find as much as they did to write about. I agree in all respects and jumping on to my hobbyhorse I would like to amplify something John said about the 'rooster' (another name for a cock up?). Last night Smith spent too much time covering at full back so that Robinson could literally stand up field while his team-mates failed to pass to his overlap. Against the poorest side so far by a country mile he looked out of place. I am sure he is a nice guy but he must have got something on the management to be so impervious to de-selection. Mad Dog spent more time coaching the ball girl than he did telling Robinson where he should be. Bring on the youngster, bring on Casper, bring on Viveash, but make a change! Incidently the only other newsworthy event from last night was that Kingsley was the first player in a Reading shirt to score and that he was also guilty of keeping the ball in play in one of his lying down moments even though the ref gaves us a corner.
-- Roger, Wargrave Royal

Hi 40 years of following the Royals and I have seen few worse games. Forster and Butler are not a good pairing with Forster to blame for so many missed chances and failing to bring in both Igoe and Murty when both were often clear on the wing. The team seemed to get sucked into Cambridge's up and under style, often with all the outfield players together in a hundle in the centre of the pitch. Rougier again failed to impress again, he is our worst first team sqaud player (non-player?). When teams see Butler and Cureton in the line-up they must cringe with so many goals last year. Cureton on the bench getting splinters in his rear end makes me cringe, because I am paying good money to see the best striker we have had for years idle. If Pardew messes about with him like he did last year then the play-offs are the best we are going to achieve. So, its Jamie to the rescue against Wycombe.
-- Dave West

It does seem churlish to have a go after picking up three points last night but what a load of crap that was! I couldn't help but think this is our punishment for not having won that poxy game in Cardiff in May.
What on earth has happened to the team and the way we were playing at the start on the season, like at QPR! After that game I rather naively predicted we would finish champions, well judged on last nights performance against a team in the bottom three and the diabolical display at Stoke , we'll be lucky to make the play offs . I'm sure we do have the players, we certainly have the squad so it must be the coaching staff.

You could see the confidence draining away by the minute last night with the inevitable hoofing returning to our game. Only Nicky Forster performed last night with Sammy Igoe again trying his best but as for the rest, they should all look at the game on video and cringe at their inability to pass a ball, run off the ball and take a bloody decent corner!
I can't believe we've got Wycombe at home on Saturday and people are saying Wycombe will be a tough game, won't be easy............Wycombe! ........blinking High Wycombe! We should be slaughtering the likes of Wycombe at home. If this team is to get out of this division they have to start playing like champions, dominating games, putting teams under constant pressure , winning home games with ease not scrapping three points with a goal that should never have been allowed following a blatant foul on their keeper , and with the definite Cambridge penalty for hand ball in the first half being turned down its refreshing to get some luck in the ref department. Get it sorted Pardew and Allen, before it's too late, Cureton and Butler scored 60 goals between them last season, play them with Forster and we'll score goals and wins games, add a bit of passing, bring back Ade Viveash get a decent right back and a midfield play maker and you'll have cracked it....... simple!

-- Nick Newbury

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