Report by John Wells:
"This one has got nil - nil written all over it" someone sitting behind me muttered just before kick-off. Within a minute he was eating his words as Reading took the lead with a delightfully simple but well executed move and finish. Kitson slipped the ball wide to Brooker and ran on into the box to await his pinpoint cross and glance it into the net. Reading never looked back from that point adding two further goals by half time. Kitson added the second when he convincingly struck his penalty low into the net after Forster had been tripped as he ran onto a good ball from Shorey. Soon after Sidwell was clipped as he surged into the area and took a couple of steps before he decided to tumble. For a moment I thought he was going to be booked for diving but the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot for a second time. Kitson completed his hat trick with an even more powerfully driven penalty. It was almost too easy for Reading.
For most of the first half Reading looked as if they could score whenever they wanted. Forster forced Banks to make a couple of good saves and was just wide with another effort. It was not to be his day and it was clear that he was going for goal whenever he got the ball, much to the frustration of his unmarked team mates on one or two occasions. Brooker was tormenting his full back, Sidwell turned in the box and fired a shot at Banks, and Ingimarsson went close with header form Harper's corner. It was one way traffic.
Gillingham continued to allow Reading time and space to create attacking situations and they took full advantage. Forster worked himself into a good position and drove his shot into the side netting. Minutes later he came even closer when he wriggled away from a couple of defenders but slid the ball just wide of the post. A minute later Shorey whipped in a good cross which Fozzy got underneath and half-volleyed high into the stand. It was clearly not going to be his day. Having looked completely out of it, Gillingham broke quickly down the right and Byfield easily finished a good cross from close range. The was now a hint of a very unlikely comeback.
Kitson, having an outstanding game, almost killed the game when he completely outwitted two Gills defenders on the half way line and ran on to smash a great long range shot against the underside of the bar. Harper forced Banks to make another good save with a powerful strike from outside the area. Goater came on for Forster for the last twenty five minutes and also forced a save from Banks. The game was not over by any means, and we were spared a very tense ending when Agyemang thumped a shot against Hahmnemann's right hand post. Gillingham began to show a bit of urgency for a while but as the minutes ticked away they gradually wilted and Reading finished the game comfortably.
In spite of winning convincingly at home twice in a week, and going second in the table, I keep picking up rumblings of discontent from some Royals fans about the quality of the play. There is just no pleasing some people.
Personally I'm delighted with the performances this week overall. We even had a dash of comedy provided by an agitated Andy Hughes leaping to his feet and ranting at Murty after he lashed out at the ball and landed on his backside. Success, goals, great defending and humour - what more could you ask for?
Report by Matt Williams:
After a defeat at Pride Park last Saturday Reading showed great bouncebackability to carve out a win against Preston on Tuesday night. They continued this winning streak on Saturday thanks to an excellent first half performance, with 3 goals in just 28 minutes from Dave Kitson. Reading dominated throughout and should have won by more, but were happy to sit back in the second half and stroke the ball around, and much to the crowds delight - were playing the ball on the floor.
Reading are making a habit of scoring early goals at the Mad Stad this season, and the opening goal on Saturday was as early as they come, with Kitson nodding a Brooker cross into the net after just 58 seconds. It was a prefect start for the Royals, and set Kitson on his way to score his first hat-trick for the club. Gillingham who came back brightly from 2 down against Coventry in the week, seemed to lack an answer to the goal and Reading continued to press, with Harper and Sidwell getting into the game and pulling the strings in midfield. Again the defensive pairing of Williams and Ingimarrson were solid and kept Byfield, Agyemang and Roberts at bay, allowing the full backs to press forward and link up nicely with wingers, getting balls into the box on several occasions.
15 minutes after the first goal had gone in, Forster made a darting run into the box only to be brought down by Cox and up stepped Kitson again to fire the ball into the back of the net. The Reading faithful breathed a huge sigh of relief when the ginger ninja sent the keeper the wrong way - Reading aren't really renowned for scoring penalties, but it seems in Kitson who had already scored from the spot this season against Rotherham, we have found someone who hits them hard yet precisely from the spot. Kitson had the chance to show off his penalty taking abilities again just before the half hour mark, as the Royals ran rampant with some terrific movement. This time it was Sidwell who was brought down, and the ref pointed to the spot much to the annoyance of the Gillingham fans. Kitson again gave the keeper no chance, claiming his hat-trick and putting the Royals on course for victory.
The second half started much like the first, Forster and Kitson both went close, Forster with a low shot that screwed just inches wide of the left hand post, and Kitson with a thunderous effort that rattled the cross bar after a great run from the half way line. Reading then duly obliged to follow the ritual of letting Darren Byfield score against them, but this was no more than a consolation goal, and even when Gillingham hit the post they never looked much of a threat. Reading deserved the points and apart from a short cameo at the top on the first day of the season, climbed to their highest league position ever.
Returning home to the HobNob message boards after the game it was a welcome sign to see more positive posts, but something that was a surprised to see was a thread questioning what Williams brings to the team. I thought Williams was again extremely solid, even provoking people around me to award him man of the match. I wouldn't go as far as giving him this accolade, but his inspiration and strength was certainly a real benefit. As for my man of the match, well I see it being between 4 candidates. James Harper seemed to have a new wave of confidence and went looking for the ball, putting in a strong performance in the heart of the midfield. Dave Kitson of course deserves to be a candidate. His all round play is exceptional and is happy to track back and make the block tackles. Of course, 3 well-taken goals always helps as well! Steve Sidwell also came very close to being my man of the match, his vision was superb, spreading the ball wide with pinpoint accuracy, and he was happy to run with the ball and look to make things happen. But overall I think the best player of the pitch was Paul Brooker. Many people questioned why we signed him in the summer after not exactly setting the world alight on his loan spell last season, but Brooker has showed great bouncebackability to prove these people wrong, and has been the key in setting up more than a few goals on the last couple of games. He always looked positive when he got hold of the ball, and really ran at the defenders, and was able to cross well with either foot. He looks to be working well with Shorey down the left hand side and caused problems all day. Many people may argue with this choice as man of the match, but not because it is a controversial one, but because the whole team played so well any one of them could be it. The Royals were positive, creative and skilful, and will go in to the game against Watford on Tuesday night on a real high.