MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

24 February 2004: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Owusu (19 mins), Harper (90 mins).
Ian Moore (23 mins), May (67 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 10,543

DIVISION ONE 24 Feb 2004
Pos Team P Pts GD
7 West Ham 31 49 +13
8 READING 32 49 -3
9 Sunderland 30 48 +8
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Newman, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hughes (Murray 71), Sidwell, Harper, Salako (Morgan 56), Goater (Kitson 71), Owusu. Subs not used: Williams, Young.
Jensen, Roche, May, McGregor, Camara, Little, Chaplow (Orr 45), Grant, Weller, Blake, Ian Moore. Subs not used: West, Alan Moore, Chadwick, Rachubka.
Reading: -
Referee: Andy Penn (West Midlands)

Reading earnt a share of the points at the Madejski Stadium last night - but needed an injury time equaliser from James Harper when Burnley looked set to secure just their third away win of the season. It truth neither team deserved to pick up the full three points after a very average Division One game that saw long periods of scrappy play and plenty of hit and hope balls - especially from the Royals.

We were probably lucky to see four goals in a game of few chances but Reading enjoyed the most of the ball and could have sneaked a late win when the lively Owusu smashed a shot against the crossbar just before Harper hit the net. It was Owusu that put Reading ahead mid-way through the first half after a terrible defensive mistake from the visitors. With Owusu causing pressure the defender headed the ball over the keeper who was strangely running out to collect, leaving Owusu free to run through and tap the ball home.

Reading's lead lasted just four minutes when a familiar break in concentration after scoring saw Ingimarsson beaten in the area and Hahnemann poorly placed as the ball was slid across him and into the far side of the net. The only other memorable chance of the first half came from a Reading corner when Harper's ball was met by Ingimarsson who saw his header cleared off the line when it looked to be heading for the far corner.

The second half saw Reading attacks continually break down and then Burnley take the lead with 23 minutes left on the clock. The ball was crossed from the left and hit home from the left side of the box just inside the near post. Reading threw on Murray and Kitson to chase the equaliser but it was a long time before either player was involved. With Reading finally putting some pressure on in the final minutes, and plenty of home fans already out of the exit, the goal eventually came. Reading broke into the area and the ball came to Harper just inside the area who hit a low shot into the back of the net to make it 2-2. Probably a fair result on the night, although Burnley will be gutted, but a very forgettable evening.

Following report from John Wells:
After a fairly lively and even first half, Reading dominated the game, ran out of ideas, fell behind. Finally a point was rescued with desperate flourish when Harper thumped the equaliser well into stoppage time. The loyal fans who stayed to the end must have drawn some comfort from the point gained, but were surely as disappointed as the ones that left early with the way the Royals resorted far too frequently to the long ball.

Given that Reading had just had a good away result, there had been no home game for almost a month, and a win would have taken the team into the play-off positions, 10,000 was a poor attendance. The players were clearly in a confident and positive frame of mind and although few chances were created in the first half Reading were looking sharp and competitive. They were matched by an equally determined Burnley team fresh from a good win against play-off candidates Ipswich. Murty was looking particularly good going forward and Owusu was winning a lot of the ball in the air although nothing was being made of the flick-ones.

Reading took the lead when Camara and the Burnley 'keeper Jensen combined to put Owusu through with an empty net in front of him. He seemed to take his time in applying the finishing touch but it would have been the miss of the decade had he failed to score. Burnley reacted with some venom and were level within four minutes. Ingamarsson almost made it two with a header from a corner then looked to be at fault for the equaliser. There did not seem to be any real danger as Camara played the ball forward but somehow Moore found lots of time and room to slide the ball past Hahnemann. Goater had a half chance which he completely mis-kicked. Sidwell broke clean through and was given offside when he clearly wasn't. It was the sort of decision which Alan Hansen and his colleagues have been complaining about so much this season. Half time came and there was some cause for optimism.

The feeling of optimism gradually was replaced by frustration as the Royals seemed to lack the imagination and flair to open Burnley up. Burnley either would not, or could not, get forward and as Reading's passing deteriorated the home side increasingly resorted to long hopeful balls. Coppell did his best to liven things up by bringing on Morgan for a jaded looking Salako but it made little difference. Midway through the half Burnley took the lead when a low cross, which seemed to take everyone by surprise and should have been cut out, was turned in smartly by May. Reading seemed unable to raise their game and the crowd which had come to life briefly in the second half became increasingly subdued and began to drift away. The optimists were once a gain rewarded when a desperate late flourish saw Owusu hit the bar and Harper ram home the equaliser following yet another long punt up field.

It was not an inspiring performance but, as sipped my beer after the game, I drew some comfort from gaining a point when it looked as if we would get nothing. Also, our recent league results are not bad - three wins, three draws and only one defeat in seven games. On Saturday promotion rivals Sheffield United visit the Madejski. It should be a good game, and a win could take us into the play off places. That's enough to get me excited about Saturday.


The passing and movement were very poor – there were virtually no crisp/accurate passes. Only Owusu came out with any credit. Although it’s a pet subject of mine, I can’t believe how Hughes gets a game. The only positive he has is ‘he’s gotta great engine’, but then so have donkeys !! As we’re highly unlikely to be promoted and wont go down, isn’t it an ideal time to blood some youngsters ? After all the senior professional are only mediocre. Don’t suppose it will happen – maybe Coppell can use the Brentford youth team.
Alan P

Due to various reasons first game I've seen since Ipswich. Must confess to having barrels loaded in expectation of another home defeat. But fair play to the lads for getting the point in what must have been one of the most woeful displays for a long time. Great finish by Harper. Quite unbelievably, we could have gone fourth last night if we'd have won and Sheff Utd had lost. Judged on last night performance what the bloody hell does that say about this league and more worrying the huge gulf between the Nationwide and the Premiership. The game was utterly forgettable though a few worked hard Harper, Murty and Owusu deserving mention but who can blame the players not raising their game when they are playing in an atmosphere more associated with a funeral than a football game! It was awful almost painfully quiet. Something has to be done, what I don't know, but at Elm Park under the South Bank we had a great atmosphere and though in no way I'm advocating a return to those days and conditions, we may have the sate of the art stadium but it's soulless at the moment and something has to be done. Saturday will be a tough game, I think we prefer playing away at the moment so a win would be a great bonus, but there will have to be a mighty improvement on tonight's performance to get that .... we dream on!! UURRZZZ
Nick Newbury

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