(Half Time: 2-0)
Reading Scorers: Henderson (38, 90 mins), Parkinson (45 mins), Smith (51 mins).
Luton Town Scorers: -
Date: 21 August 2001
Attendance: 5,115

Reading: Whitehead, Shorey, Williams, Whitbread, Murty, Parkinson (Gamble 79), Harper, Smith (Tyson 66), Henderson, Forster (Rougier 45), Igoe. Subs not used: Viveash, Ashdown.

Luton Town: Emberson, Boyce, Taylor, Perrett (Dryden 45), Johnson, Forbes, Mansell (Holmes 45), Nicholls, Hughes, Howard, Griffiths (Douglas 45) Subs not used: Ovendale, Locke.
Alex Smith (Reading); Forbes, Hughes (Luton).
D R Crick (Worcester Park)

In terms of entertainment, tonight's performance eclipsed Saturday's match by miles. For long periods of the game the Royals looked like a seriously classy team - the difference between the two sides was clear, yet last season Luton Town were not only in the same Division as the Royals, but holding us to draws at their place. At the end I found myself wishing this had been a league victory to send us clear at the top of the table with seven goals scored and none conceeded in the season so far. However, the victory was important in giving several players a game to gain some confidence and see what they could really do. At the same time Reading deserved this victory, for treating the match as seriously as they could have done - the determination to win shone out and earnt us a big win. Luton Town weren't a bad side either and showed some qualities that will help in their Division Three promotion campaign, but they were blinded by the performance of the Royals over the ninety minutes.

Pardew stuck to his word to treat this as a game he wanted to win. The only changes were Igoe continuing in the team in place of the injured Hughes, the tired Rougier being rested with Henderson playing up front, and Robinson replaced by Shorey. All three replacements were to have to decent games, with Igoe and Henderson standing out for their determination and effort. Igoe, Murty, Smith, and Rougier later in the game, showed the kind of silky skills I'm not used to seeing in the Second Division, let alone at Reading. For a change we really looked classy all across the side. Where's the long ball game gone? Buried I hope. Today Reading's passing skills and ball control was fully on display. The result? A 4-0 demolition with some still in reserve. The ball seemed to just stick to Smith's boots and he whizzed in and out of the Luton defence. And then they were all having a go. Not wanting to be left out Tyson in his brief spell on the pitch confused the hell out of the visitor's defence and almost worked himself into a couple of fantastic scoring positions.

Not that it started all that great. From kick-off Luton almost took the lead during the first few minutes. Whitehead handled outside his area on the Luton right and the resulting free-kick caused all kinds of problems as Luton just failed to stick someone on the end of the ball that would have given them an early lead. The ball bounced back out and could have again been blasted into the back of the net - but they failed to find the target. Having seen Luton nearly take an early lead, Reading gradually regained their composure. Although the next half an hour wasn't anything special it was clear Reading were up for the game with Reading taking throw-ins and free-kicks at speed to keep the game flowing.

With the new players slotting in a treat and looking class it would be possible to overlook the older players that play such a vital role in the side. Williams and Parkinson were also outstanding. Winning the ball everywhere, challenging for everything, passing the ball around (with the odd hoof from Williams to clear the danger), and generally keeping the side together. Reading had the massive majority of possession throughout the game - thanks to the determined tackling of players like Williams, Whitbread, Parkinson and Murty. Despite Reading's possession Luton hinted that they might still be a threat as the game continued - breaking down the right a couple of times leaving Shorey for dead to whip in dangerous balls into the box. A couple of times they failed to connect with it in the middle when they might well have scored.

Reading gradually started to look more and more dangerous themselves. A Shorey free-kick from the edge of the box wasn't too far over the bar, and that was followed up by one of the best moves of the match as the ball was played to the left and fed across to Henderson in the middle of the box. Henderson, still slightly lacking confidence at this point of the match perhaps, unselfishly fed the ball to his right, but Igoe's shot was wide of the left Luton post. Henderson was to grow in both confidence and involvement in the game. His involvement in all the goals should set him aside from his teammates for special praise from the Reading fans.

On thirty-eight minutes Smith whipped a corner in from the right which dropped to the near post. The ball was half cleared, but only back to Smith on the right. Smith crossed the ball back into the centre of the box where the tall figure of Henderson stuck his head on it to send the ball spinning into the back of the net. A great goal, the lead for Reading, and Henderson's first competitive goal for the Royals in four starts. A relief not only for Darius but for the whole crowd. Reading didn't took back after that. It was 2-0 just before the break when Parkinson sent the ball flying into the back of the net at amazing speed from the edge of the box after being given the ball, plenty of time and a clear shot to really hit it. Parkinson's second goal of the season, laid on by Henderson - and what a goal.

Reading eased off a bit after the break before turning on the style once again, but this time they started to take the piss with the match seemingly already won. The ball was stroked all over the place, and every now and again we'd finish it off with a fast move forward looking to increase the lead. Plenty of the ball along the ground - and passes finding feet. A real joy. The only complaint was that we were a bit slow moving it forward, but it's hard to complain when you're already two goals up. The introduction of Rougier just added more skill to the Reading team, and Luton must have become more and more frustrated at their inability to win the ball back.

Henderson did well again on fifty-one minutes after being supplied the ball on the left. He ran into the box shoulder to shoulder with the Luton full back and did well not to lose out. It looked like he might have done enough to put the ball past the keeper, but didn't leave it to chance and instead played the ball to his right leaving the goalkeeper and the defence stranded and finding two Reading players running through. Henderson's hard work left Alex Smith with the easy job of sticking the ball into the back of the net for a deserved goal.

Smith was loving it by now, after scoring his first Reading goal, and started twisting the Luton Town side all over the place with his ball skills. If Pardew told Harper off for showboating I'd love to know what he said to Smith after this performance. Personally it was hard not to love the sight of a player in Reading shirt doing that. Smith was soon to be replaced by Tyson. Tyson worked hard after coming off the bench with some determined runs past players that found himself in shooting positions. It's obvious that Tyson is keen - so much so that he put in a couple of long range efforts that never troubled the keeper. Tyson's best chance came after he so nearly got between two defenders and put the ball in the net - but they applied just enough pressure on the short Reading winger.

In injury time Reading made it four after Rougier continued the pattern of the night by running past a Luton Town player or two to cross the ball from the right into the centre of the box. Having just played ninety of his best minutes for Reading Henderson wasn't going to miss that and drove it into the back of the net. 4-0. In the remaining minutes we hinted at getting a fifth but ran out of time. This was a great performance that proved we have a massive depth of quality in our squad this season - probably the best squad since we nearly hit the Premiership all those years back. If Pardew can build on this then the season just has to bring some success.

Following report by Neil Cole:
This match was as easy as the scoreline suggests, as Reading brushed aside Luton Town to win a place in the second round of the Worthington Cup. Luton may have been in the same division as us last season, but the difference in class between the sides tonight was obvious, as a weakened Reading side won comfortably.

Andy Hughes and Martin Butler were both out of the side through injury, while Matt Robinson was replaced by Nicky Shorey at left-back. The mounting injury problems meant Darius Henderson was drafted into the first team to play up front with Nicky Forster, while Igoe replaced Hughes on the right. Henderson has failed to impress in his few previous first team appearances, but tonight he took his chance well, and capped a good performance with the first two goals of his career.

The game got off to a very slow start, in front of a crowd of just over five thousand. There wasn’t much to excite the Reading fans, as the first half-hour was reminiscent of the woeful cup displays against Leyton Orient and York last year. However, an excellent spell from the Royals just before half-time all but sealed the win, as Reading took a two goal lead into the break.

The first goal came as a result of an Alex Smith corner, which wasn’t cleared by the Luton defence. The ball fell again to Smith, whose cross was headed in by Henderson. Following the goal Henderson visibly grew in confidence, and by the end of the match he was beginning to look the player that Alan Pardew had told us all he could be. Reading’s second came from captain Phil Parkinson, as he got his second of the season with a superb volley from the edge of the area.

Reading’s good spell of pressure continued after the break, and they quickly made it 3-0. Some great work from Henderson saw him beat two Luton defenders on the edge of the area, before crossing across the face of goal for the unmarked Alex Smith to get his first for Reading. The introduction of Tony Rougier for Forster made the game even livelier, as Reading threatened to demolish Luton. Rougier’s pace and skill was too much for the visitors, and he created a number of chances which somehow weren’t taken. It wasn’t until the 90th minute that Reading added to their tally, as a Rougier cross was finished well by Henderson for his second of the night.

Although the game was slow in places, this was an excellent performance overall from Reading. Henderson, Smith and Rougier were the players to really impress, while the defence looked as sound as ever and kept a clean sheet for the third consecutive match. This result should increase the team’s confidence even further, as well as seeing us progress in the Worthington Cup.

Post Match Opinions

The match reports are fair and accurate. It was good to see Henderson score although I still cant see him making the first team regularly with his relative poor speed and first touch, perhaps we have got too used to being spoiled by quality of our other top guns. But one important ommission from the reports was for me the most promising yongster we have seen for a while, Joe Gamble came on and looked as though he had been the boss of the team for years. He was composed, offering both grit and excellent distribution. A sign of this was the willingness of the other players to give him the ball on the occasions he wasnt taking it off Luton. On a more biased note, I would prefer Kingsley at full back to Robinson so it was good to see Shorey making a decent debut. It will be difficult to keep Igoe out of the team, and I would already give Murty 'most improved player of the season'. Well done Royals, and keep playing it on the ground.
-- Roger, Wargrave Royal

Could it be that the long ball's disappearance had anything to do with Robinson's disappearance? Shorey started a number of moves with his intelligent distribution, and he also worked hard to overlap with the midfield going forward. Robinson may be tougher in the tackle, but I hope we see more of Shorey this season.
-- Royce for Royals

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