22 August 1998
Reading 3 Luton Town 0
Van der Kwaak, Bernal (Booty), Primus, Kromheer, Gray, Houghton, Brebner, Caskey, Sarr (Williams), McIntyre (Fleck), Reilly.
All samples are Real Audio format - you'll need Real Player. Thanks to Ben at CG.
The opening of the Madejski Stadium. Despite all the hype of the past season, no-one could have been anything other than completely blown away by just how impressive the Stadium is. The new home of Reading Football Club is quite simply one of the best grounds in the country. There is all that leg room, the seats are wide enough, the slope of the stand is approaching vertical, and you can see all four corners of the pitch from where-ever you happen to be sat. A premiership ground for a errr... second division team.
But don't worry - although everything physically was near-perfect there's still plenty of old Reading left at the new ground. The ticket office managed superbly in double-booking seats for starters - after eventually getting my season ticket I got in the ground to find my seat taken by someone with a perfectly valid ticket. The lack of programme sellers outside the ground meant huge queues inside. No ticket sales before the game meant the biggest queues you've ever seen in your life for a League Cup first round tie as everyone headed round to the single open ticket office in the West Stand. No food at half time - unless you wanted to queue well into the second half for a carton of juice. But who gives a...? Watching Reading play at the Madejski Stadium is an experience that must be enjoyable even when we're losing 0-4 to York City. Maybe.
Luckily Reading gave a performance today that matched the venue. After the disappointing send-off to Elm Park, Reading opened the Madejski Stadium with an impressive show of football and a convincing victory over a Luton Town team who themselves gave a fair share of entertainment. It wasn't the best game ever but it was more than enough following 17defeats from 19 games. Hopefully we've turned the corner.
The biggest thing that could have gone wrong would have been the first goal scored at the Madejski Stadium to have come from the opposition. Thankfully Reading sorted that one out fifteen minutes into the game. The Royals won a corner to the right. Houghton drifted the ball outwards towards the edge of the box, Kromheer flicked a header towards the far post. Someone seemed to get a touch on it before Brebner stepped in just outside the six yard box to drive the ball into the left side of the net. YES! A Reading lead and the first goal to celebrate in the new ground. The ground errupted - a lot more in the East Stand, the New Southbank, than anywhere else I note. The atmosphere was rather strange I thought - I never heard a noise from anywhere other than the left side of the East Stand where I was sat - the West and North stands must have been hypnotised by the new ground I guess.
Reading had plenty of opportunities to make it two before half-time. Sarr showed a rather wonderful bit of skill over on the left side. Something I think we're going to see a lot of - he chipped it over the full back, turned round him and played a superb ball to McIntyre. The ball took a wicked deflection and needed to be tipped over the bar by the Luton keeper. Kromheer was next to almost increase Reading's lead with a charge into the box and a great header that dipped just over the bar.
Meanwhile Van der Kwaak was looking rather suspect between the Reading posts as Luton threatened to equalise. He entirely missed a couple of easy balls, and Luton will consider themselves unlucky not to have grabbed a goal. He did manage to save well with his feet from a close range low shot. As the second half got underway he punched at them instead of making an easy catch. Still he did keep his first clean sheet for the Royals.
Ten minutes into the second half and Reading made it comfortable by adding a second. Entirely created by Mass Sarr. He turned a couple of defenders on the left played it cooly to McIntyre who slotted it into the bottom corner of the net for his first Reading goal. Sarr did the same moments later by the goalline - turning a defender and chipping it over his rather confused head once again before forcing a good save out of the keeper. The third goal getting towards the end had a hint of offside. The whole ground went silent play seemed to stop with two Reading players stood in front of the Luton goal with just the keeper to beat. Fleck, who had been waiting for the ball for ages, eventually stuck it into the back of the net. 3-0 to the Royals.
Quote from the match day programme about Mass Sarr: "talented... unselfish and a good creator of chances". These words are the biggest understatements you'll ever read. Sarr IS GOD. We are not worthy! He must be set to be one of the best players any of us have ever seen in a Reading shirt. Unfortunately he limped off injured towards the end - hopefully nothing serious - probably just tiredness from his trip away with the Liberian international team.
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|2pm: Reading fans arriving in their thousands nice and early.||3pm: Allegedly 7,500 balloons here being released before kick-off.||3pm: The real reason the game was delayed 15 minutes as the parachutists arrive!||The away (South) end. Look carefully for the "Give Us Our Dome" banner from some jealous Luton fans!|
|The North Stand filled with R's fans.||An action shot as Reading enjoy their 3-0 victory.||A quick walk round the ground at the end to discover a 4,000 person queue for Peterborough tickets. Doh!|