MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

19 October 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Forster (28 mins, 40 mins, 69 mins).
Ipswich Town:
Ambrose (61 mins)
Half Time: 2-0
Attendance: 19,524

DIVISION ONE  19 Oct 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
9 Rotherham 14 20 +5
10 READING 13 20 +4
11 Gillingham 14 19 -2
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Williams, Upson, Watson, Harper (Cureton 87), Newman, Salako, Rougier (Igoe 68), Forster (Butler 87).
Subs not used: Mackie, Ashdown.
Ipswich Town:
Marshall, Ambrose, Clapham, Hreidarsson, Makin, McGreal, Venus (George 80), Holland, Magilton (Wright 69), Counago (sent off 67), Bent (Armstrong 45).
Subs not used Gaardsoe, Pullen,
Reading: Watson. Ipswich Town: Clapham. Sent off: Counago.
Referee: B Curson (Leicester)

This was Reading's first home win on a Saturday since February of this year - way back in Division Two. And this win shows just how far we've come since then. After struggling to scrape promotion from Division Two last season we've established a very healthy mid-table position in Division One. Reading are eight points clear of the relegation zone - and just four points out of the play-offs after this impressive win. This win was a very, very enjoyable one - beating expensive ex-Premiership opposition with some ease and a two goal margin. It was a superbly entertaining afternoon at the Madejski Stadium in front of a huge crowd of nearly 20,000 - by far Reading's biggest attendance of the season so far. Reading's 3-1 win cemented tenth place in the table for the Royals and made it four straight games unbeaten in the league.

Reading had Nicky Forster to thank for three goals that earnt the victory, and had Alan Pardew to thank for another excellently managed performance. As the game kicked off it was easy to feel more than a bit nervous about playing just a single striker up front in the shape of Nicky Forster. The inclusion of Harper was a suprise with Igoe left out on the bench. Playing at home with Cureton and Butler both on the bench seemed madness - but very quickly it clearly wasn't. It wasn't clear where Rougier was playing to begin with as he popped up on both wings and also managed to feature in defence - he was clearly given instructions to cause as much danger as possible - and that's exactly what he did during Reading's best spell - the opening 45 minutes. Rougier put the ball in the net in the first few minutes after taking the ball into the area on the left. The goal was ruled out after Forster had got involved in the move from an offside position. Rougier continued to cause all kinds of problems for a weak Ipswich defence from the right. A couple of times he cut in and could have put Reading ahead with some great balls into the middle. Forster had an effort saved from close range - any where else on the target and it would have seen Reading take an even earlier lead.

During a relatively even first half Reading went ahead just before the half hour when Forster put his head on a free kick at the far post to make it 1-0. It was an excellently taken goal - and must have been something worked out in training. Forster doubled the lead five minutes before the break with a fantastic goal from well outside the area wide on the right. His shot from distance flew across the face of the goal, beat the keeper, and powered into the far side of the net. Down the other end Marcus Hahnemann, back in goal for Reading, made a string of excellent saves to keep Reading ahead.

Ipswich pulled one back in the second half from a excellently taken free-kick, just outside the area on the right that flew into the net giving Hahnemann no chance at all. The goal threatened to bring Ipswich back into the game - they were just a goal behind with plenty of time remaining. It looked set to be a nervous end to the game until the 67th minute when Ipswich needlessly killed off their potential challenge when they were rightly reduced to ten men when Counago appeared to punch Adrian Williams. The rest of the game belonged to Reading who looked by far the better side, taking full advantage of the extra man. Forster wrapped up his hat-trick, and the win for Reading, with twenty minutes left to play when his pace cleared the defence and he broke into the area to score from the right. The goal had a hint of offside about it - and it wasn't the first time the linesman had failed to raise his flag. However it was all evened out later in the game when Reading looked to have broken through a couple of times and appeared to wrongly given offside.

Rougier's impressive pace and ability to pass players was so nearly matched by James Harper who was determined to put in a good performance to try and win a place in the side. Harper played hard all game long, while Rougier faded out during the second half before he limped off injured. Harper couldn't quite match Rougier's skill after taking the ball a bit too far on more than one occassion - however, he couldn't be faulted for effort and had an excellent game in the Reading midfield. Murty and Watson were two of the weakest players for Reading in the first half but both players improved dramatically in the second half as Reading took a grip on the game looking to play out time by keeping hold of the ball. Perhaps a sign of Reading's strength across the squad was indicated by the appearance of Butler and Cureton off the bench with three minutes to go. A lot of sides would love to be able to play these two together every game - but we were happy to keep them on the bench and win the game without their services. This was an excellent victory.

Following report from John Wells:

In a match which fully tested the Royals credentials as a First Division team Nicky Forster emerged as the hero with a superb hat-trick in a resounding victory. It was by no means a one man show. The whole team were worthy of praise for an outstanding team performance. The defence looked solid and the midfield never lost their grip on the game. The sending off of Counago came at a crucial time but in my opinion did little to influence the outcome of the game.

Reading signalled their intent in the first minute when Rougier found the net but unfortunately from an offside position. The Ipswich approach play was slick. They passed and moved fluently picking out their front pair of Bent and Counago with precise passes in to their feet. But Reading were playing some good stuff too and were generally on top through a willingness to work hard defensively and showing composure on the ball. The 4-5-1 formation with Forster up front worked well with Rougier a threat down the right and Harper filling in very effectively for Hughes in the attacking central midfield role. Newman and Watson were again providing good protection for the back four helping to stifle some promising moves from Ipswich.

Reading put the visitors under pressure for most of the half. Upson had a shot deflected wide, and when Rougier fooled the entire defence by turning sharply and getting to the line before firing in a good cross, Shorey really should have opened the scoring but his shot lacked power and Marshall made an easy save. Forster produced a shot on the turn which cleared the bar shortly before he rose to nod the ball over the Ipswich 'keeper from a free kick to give the Royals a deserved lead. Within a minute Hahnemann was forced to tip the ball over as Ipswich reminded us of the quality of their play. Five minute before the break Williams sent a ball down the right for Forster to chase. It is the sort of ball he thrives on. Outpacing the Ipswich defence he hit the ball with great power and accuracy to send it swerving wide of Marshall and inside the far post from well outside the area. The cries of "Forster for England" were perhaps a little optimistic but it was a certainly a strike of which any international player would have been proud.

Ipswich took off Bent at half time and brought on Armstrong but that didn't seem to make much difference. With half an hour left Ipswich won a free kick outside the area. The referee moved the wall back a good 12 yards and Ambrose smashed a great shot in off the bar. Ipswich had not really looked likely to score up to that point but the goal gave them and their subdued fans a lift. But not for long. Counago and Williams had been winding each other up all afternoon and in the end Adie clearly got the better of his opponent. An "off the ball" incident left Williams on the floor and the referee pulled out his red card. Two minutes later Harper put Forster through. Ipswich thought he was offside, but there was central defender playing him on, and with another superb strike just inside the far post Forster completed his hat-trick and killed off the game. Reading kept the ball well and could have added more goals. Harper hit another good through ball but the three Reading players running onto it were ludicrously given offside. Then Cureton, on for last couple of minutes, headed tamely at Marshall from close range. By then it didn't matter any more.

So what next? With performances like this anything is possible. There were superb individual performances today throughout the team notably Murty, Upson and Williams, but I was particularly pleased to see Harper get a full game. He has good touch and is very strong on the ball. He rarely gave it away and was always trying to get involved. No doubt he will be back on the bench when Hughes is fit again which is a pity because he really would develop into a better player if he was given a decent run in the team. It also has to be said that the work of Pardew and Dillon is paying off. Their tactics were spot on today, and the team looked extremely fit and full of running. Just one point Alan - do you really think Hughes is our best player? (BBC teletext quote). I suppose everyone is allowed one error of judgement now and again.

nick newbury
After a week of suffering from the life threatening Majorcan Malaria, this was just what the doctor ordered. No tonic on earth could be as good as this display and end result from the mighty Reading FC against so called big team Ipswich FC. Of all the games I've seen this season this performance was the best by far. It was so encouraging to see the Royals play with such confidence and flair. This was what Saturday football was all about, excitement, incidents, great goals, few pints, good laugh, great result and celebrations. Every player today could not be faulted, a tremendous team effort with outstanding performances from Harper, Williams, Upson and of course the mighty Forster. When you look at who we had on the bench; Butler, Ginger Cureton, Igoe and Mackie it really does make you realise how far this club has come. Make no mistake Reading played Ipswich off the park today, sure they may have been managerless and the sending off (what a cracking punch!) may have gone in our favour, but we could have had six yet alone three goals. What a goal Fossie's second was, blinking amazing, and credit must go to the Ipswich goal from the free kick. Even Becks would have been proud of that. So a great day all round, amazed we never went up the league a few points but now worries, I reckon we're half way to safety with twenty points. Now, I do know I've often been certified a bit mental at times with certain predictions, but don't say it too loud, but if, if, if, we keep playing like this, we just might, might, have a little sniff at those play offs. More chance of going the other direction I know, but wouldn't it be great fun to have the remote possibility of making those at the end of the season. You never know, funny ol' game!
ken c
The only thing missing this season has been a really good home performance. Yesterday we got one. A terrific crowd, quality opposition would normally cause Reading to falter. Despite missing Hughes, so far the star of the season, we showed that when we put our chances away we are a match for anyone. The star of the show was undoubtedly Forster with his hattrick, but you would be hard pushed to find anyone on the pitch who did not have a good game. Personally I thought Williams was brilliant, how he has improved from the indecisive person we saw at the start of the campaign. The start saw a brave team selection from the manager. He kept faith with Shorey, brought Harper in for Hughes and operated with Roug wide on the right. It was understandable that Ashdown returned to the bench. His daywill come. It was almost the perfect start as Roug drove the ball into thenet only for it to be ruled off, rightly, for offside. Ipswich looked neatand tidy, but another piece of Roug magic left the Ipswich defence for dead and his ball back was smashed goalwards. I'm not sure who hit it but they were unlucky as they hit the keeper, anywhere else it would have hit the back of the net. The first goal was a rarity, a header from set piece. I assume that the time taken over the delivery was all part of a cunning plan, but Forster rose to meet the ball and that was one nil. Credit to Ipswich in that they kept playing their football, but we like itwhen teams come at us, because we know that we can get in behind them. Onesuch ball gave Forster a hint of a chance. He took it early, and if he meant it and he must have done, then it was a terrific goal. The key was then holding out to half time, and we did. The defence played well, Upson is a class act and the full backs did what they do week in week out. In goal Hahneman pulled off a couple of crucial saves.
The second half saw Ipswich have more of the possession. The goal that they scored was an absolutely perfect free kick curled into the top corner. The game was set for a fascinating climax. The fact that it did not come was down to one of the Ipswich players pressing the self destruct button. I have to say that I didn't see the incident, but as he trooped off so did Ipswich's chances. Forster was able to grab his hattrick with another good through ball, this time from Harper and we were all able to go home happy. Today showed just how far we have come. You just had to look at the bench to see the strength of the squad when we have only a few players out injured or suspended. We can now play in a variety of formations dependent on the opposition. I agree with Pardew that we still lack someone to open teams up consistently, but we do have pace. Harper showed that he can be a substitute for Hughes and he had a good game today. I'm not sure that you could play both of them. Some have been quick to criticize the manager this year - personally I think he has done a terrific job along with the rest of his staff.
dave hunt
OK, hands up those who felt a gloomy sense of foreboding when Ambrose scored with that unstoppable free kick. After all here is a team where just two players (Marcus Bent and Hermann Hreidarsson) cost Ipswich £7.5M, a side you feel are way underperforming at the moment and who had beaten Leicester 6-1. Our home record was rocky and with finally an excellent attendance how often have we let ourselves down? And then Pablo Counago goes and thumps/pushes Adie to the ground and the whole match swings back again to Reading control and professionalism, hey, even p*ss taking. This wasn't just a good result, it was great entertainment. It was a sign to a huge crowd a mile high that we are a solid First Division side and don't anyone talk down to us. It was a sign that Pardew has still got places to go with this team and the Pardew Out contingent are beleaguered and dwindling. It was great and the whole weekend becomes magical. I feel sorry for Preston.
With four key players not in the starting line up, some may have had cause for concern but how wrong that would have been. Everyone out there today could be proud of their performance. Ipswich are a good side with some very good passing movements but we gave them a lesson in commitment and solid defending and awsome finishing. Credit where it's due, Alan Pardew can be proud of the teams performance and of his part in this. I travel about 140 miles to see every home match and struggle with that car park and the unorganised exit procedure but when it's football like that, well who cares!
ian glendinning
Great first half, the team played as well as any period yet this season. Harper in for Hughes, in that just behind the striker, in front of the midfield role was able to express himself successfully for the first time I've seen. Just shows that the current team and the formation is working well. Adie Williams was majestic, my MotM, and Fozzy has secured his first choice starting place for a long time to come. Very disappointed with the last half hour though, when far from "Reading being happy to play the ball around with time running out with Ipswich a well beaten side" as you reported above, I felt we did everything we could to throw away the game. We scraped a 1:1 draw in the second half.
london royal
Fantastic performance. First half I felt we were in control, the formation worked really well with plenty of bodies available to challenge Ipswich if they came forward and a real determination to win the ball back. Ricky Newman is making a big difference in that area at the moment I feel. Going forward, Harper looked keen to take his chance to impress and Nicky Forster was always a threat. Slight wobble after the break as we tried to sit on the 2-0 lead, waste a bit of time and antagonize the opponents. Thankfully this eventually worked with the sending off but I was a bit concerned that we had disrupted our own play until that point. But once they were down to ten and we scored the third there was never any doubt in the result and we started to play again with some great passing movements developing. Man of the match has to be Forster, who showed why he is in my opinion the "must play" up front rather than Cureton - Forster offers so much threat with his pace and ingenuity and the finishing he showed today was different class. Superb team performance, here's to more of the same!
thatcham royal
Fantastic. There have been a few times over the last two seasons where we have dominated a team at home, but only won 1 - 0. We totally dominated Ipswich, and Forster made them pay. I took a friend (Ipswich supporter) into the North Stand. On the way out his face was green, and he said he felt sick. He had seen his team look very ordinary and thoroughly beaten. Obviously Forster played well, but I thought the whole team delivered today, and it showed. Lets see more of that at home and the crowds will keep growing. Come on URZ!
I would just like to say that as a Reading fan living in Bury St Edmunds, (the town with the biggest Ipswich following after Ipswich itself), that Christmas has come early for me!
Come on you RRRRZ!
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