(Half Time: 2-0)
Reading Scorers: Hunter (22 mins), Cureton (35, 80, 89 mins)
Luton Town Scorers: Nogan (69 mins)
Date: 23 December 2000
Attendance: 10,771

Reading: Whitehead, Newman, Viveash, Hunter, Robinson, Caskey, Smith, Parkinson, Cureton (Rougier), Butler, Hodges (Igoe). Subs not used: Howie, Gurney, Mackie.

Luton Town: Abbey, Helin, Taylor, Boyce, Whitbread, Johnson, McLaren, Spring, Fotiadis, Nogan, George. Subs: Ovendale, Fraser, Baptiste, Locke, Scarlett.

Referee: Steve Tomlin (Lewes)

Reading bounced back to winning way after two straight defeats with a convincing scoreline at the Madejski Stadium, beating Luton Town 4-1. Reading always looked the most likely winners but the scoreline still seemed a bit generous after Reading spent long periods of the game sitting back and letting Luton do the attacking. Reading appeared to be playing with plenty of reserve throughout and only really made the victory definate with ten minutes to play when Jamie Cureton scored his second and Reading's third. Luton will leave feeling disappointed at such a heavy defeat, particually after looking like they might get something out of the game when Lee Nogan made it 1-2 with twenty minutes still to play.

After the recent abuse Keith Jones has suffered from his own fans he was left out of the starting line up and the subs bench to allow long-throw merchant Neil Smith a rare start for the Royals. After playing like a man possessed recently Darren Caskey was awarded another start, giving a midfield of Parkinson, Smith and Caskey. Mackie was relegated to the bench with Hunter and Viveash the pairing in the centre of defence. Up front Cureton was started alongside Martin Butler with Rougier back on the bench. With Igoe and Rougier in reserve and Butler and Cureton starting it looked like the tactics would be to score some goals. However, for the first twenty minutes it was hard to believe we'd go on to score four.

Luton got off to the better start but, luckily for Reading, never really looking dangerous enough. The away sides fast passing game with plenty of balls played forward and along the ground gave no indication of the scoreine to come. Luton were certainly playing some nice football, but the Royals were more than happy to let them do their bit until they got close enough to cause any danger at which point we'd hoof the ball clear. So despite plenty of possession and finding lots of space to play the ball around in, Luton were restricted to some long range efforts that weren't on target.

Reading seemed to be treating it more like a training match until they took the lead on 22 minutes after we had a whole series of chances to score from a corner. It looked like we scored when the keeper appeared to stop the ball after it had crossed the line from a shot in the middle of the area. However it made no difference as the ball come out to Barry Hunter well inside the area. As relaxed as you like Hunter volleyed the ball over the crowd of players and into the top of the net. A well taken goal and a rare one for Hunter to put Reading one up. Hunter's defensive partner Adi Viveash almost increased the score a bit later after some superb work by Matt Robinson down the left wing. After a couple of early mistakes Robinson's game just got better and better, and he set up Viveash a treat after beating a couple of players at speed, getting to the line and crossing into the box and onto Viveash's head. Unfortunately Viveash's header flew well over the bar.

With ten minutes left of the half Reading won another corner on the right. The ball was played into the box where Parkinson got to it just to the right of goal. With Cureton in front of him he prodded it forward, deeper into the area, where Cureton drove it home. 2-0 to the Royals. It would have been nice to build on this lead straight after the break with some faster direct football. But the second half got underway in a similar pattern to the first half. Luton seemed to have plenty of the ball and Reading were happy to defend and let them play it about a bit.

In the first half Luton weren't allowed to build on their period of possession - Reading eventually broke before they could get into a dangerous attacking pattern and we always seemed to have the away side under control. But in the second half we gradually began to lose that control as Luton won a whole series of corners as they flooded forward looking to get into the game. Our defence held out well with a couple of superb challenges from both Hunter and Robinson to stop the ball being sent into the middle. When we were beaten down the left wing Whitehead came storming out, was beaten by the shot, and Viveash was needed to clear the ball off the line. After a whole load of corners Luton eventually had made one count. A corner from the left was headed in at the far post, and Luton were back in the game at 2-1 down.

With Luton playing towards their own fans and having pulled a goal back there seemed a small chance that they might get something out of the game for the first time. However, the goal seemed to bring Reading back to life though and it was our turn to go on the hunt for goals. Cureton's goal with ten minutes of the match remaining killed off Luton's challenge - and his hat-trick nine minutes later definately wasn't a suprise and wrapped up a victory that was convincing in the end.

The goals would have done Cureton's confidence loads of good - and he probably has good reason to thank the Luton goalkeeper. Martin Butler worked hard on the right to break into the area turning past a couple of defenders to shoot from about the middle of the box. Abbey, the Luton keeper, had already failed to hold a couple of longer range shots. He'd got away with it before, but this time he stopped Butler's shot but failed to hold the ball, and it flew out to find Cureton in the right place to follow it up and drive the rebound in. A Caskey free-kick from the left, near the corner of the pitch, provided Cureton with his other goal, the ball finding Cureton at the far post it put it past the helpless keeper.

We didn't play flat out at all - but we won 4-1. This was the seventh time already this season we've scored four or more goals at home. That's quite some statistic, and although we've taken a recent dip in form we must have a good chance of promotion if we can continue scoring this number of goals. The last time Cureton scored a hat-trick Butler went and did it two home games later. Lets hope history repeats itself and then we can all look forward to stuffing Mark McGhee's Millwall in some style on the 6th of January. But before that lets hope we get plenty of points over the Christmas period and don't lose sight of those automatic promotion spots.

Following report by Neil Cole:

Jamie Cureton gave manager Alan Pardew a reminder of what he is capable of, with a hat-trick which secured another comfortable home victory for Reading. Although we’re struggling to pick up points away, at home it’s a different story as today a below par performance somehow ended in a 4-1 scoreline.

Another four goals ensures we’re still the top scorers at home in the whole country, but Luton will be wondering how the game ended in such an emphatic win for Reading. The Hatters could easily have taken something from this game, and for a spell in the second half it seemed increasingly likely they would earn at least a point. Yet Cureton found a return to form at the right moment, and two well taken second half goals gave Reading their eighth home win of the season.

Pardew made three changes to the side which had been beaten by York, changes which were welcomed by the majority of the fans. Jamie Cureton, who has been treated poorly by Pardew in recent weeks, was given another chance up front with Butler, at the expense of Tony Rougier. John Mackie’s spell in the first team was ended, as Barry Hunter made his first start since being dismissed at Peterborough in September. Yet the most notable change was in midfield, where Keith Jones was at last dropped after a long spell of doing absolutely nothing in the first team. Neil Smith was granted a rare starting appearance, in the middle with the ever-reliable Parky.

Luton arrived at the Madejski in the relegation zone, after a disastrous start to the season which resulted in the recent dismissal of their manager. Yet you wouldn’t have know this from the first twenty minutes, in which Luton were comfortably the better team. Reading started very poorly, even by recent standards, seemingly unable to string two passes together.

Yet it was Reading that somehow took the lead, mid-way through the first half. Barry Hunter’s goal was the result of a goalmouth scramble following a corner, and it was enough to grip the Royals a much needed grip on the game. They added a second shortly afterwards, as Cureton scored from close range at the near post. The first half performance was far from impressive, but at 2-0 at half-time Reading were clear favourites to win the game.

The second half began in a similar vein to the first, as Luton played some decent football and had most of the possession. This time, they were able to breach the Reading defence, as former Royals striker Lee Nogan headed in a corner for the Hatters. The Luton fans urged their team on, and the 10,000 Reading fans in the ground began to wonder if another York-style collapse was on the cards.

Fortunately, the Luton goal spurred the Reading team on, and it wasn’t long before Cureton settled the nerves with his second of the match. It was Butler who created the goal, with an effort from outside the box which could only be parried by the Luton keeper. Cureton was following up and was perfectly placed to knock the rebound into the net.

The fourth goal was also well taken by Cureton, who headed in at the far post to complete his second hat-trick since signing for Reading at the start of the season. This return to from could not have been better timed, with the trip to his former club Bristol Rovers coming up on Boxing Day.

The 4-1 scoreline flattered Reading, but again it shows the effectiveness of the Butler-Cureton partnership. They’ve got 27 between them this season, and they must continue up front together if we are to stand any chance of promotion.

This was a good start to the busy Christmas period, but it will count for little if we slip up again on our travels. This goal-scoring form has to be taken away, and a similar performance from Cureton at Bristol is required if we are to make further ground on the leaders.

Post Match Opinions

Its a sign of a good team when they can play a below average game and still win by a good margin. Reading did this against Luton and credit to all the players concerned, they showed flair, character and great positioning and finishing from Mr Cureton.
I do have some concern though, we seem to be playing two defensive midfielders and making all our attacking play down the wings. Sometimes this works, but a lot of the time teams grow wise to this and can easily snuff out the long ball played from our full backs up the wing, about 90% of Newmans long balls suffered this fate. With Caskey on the right wing we lack pace and all he can do is look to play a long ball twards the front two which is also cut out more often than not.
I have just watched the video of RFC's season so far, and a lot of our goals came from defence splitting passes from Cakey in the center of midfield which Butler & co ran onto. With Parky & Smith / Jones in the center they are always playing deep which leaves us only with the wings when we attack.
My solution would be to play Parky with Caskey / Hodges in the center to give us a bit more attcaking flair in that area.
Apart from that we have a great team and we are gonna extract maximum points over the Christmas period just wait and see.
Go get em you R's

-- Deano

Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email opinion@royals.cx
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!

HNA? Home Page
Copyright Hob Nob Anyone? © 1994-2000
The Original Reading Football Club Internet Site