MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

26 November 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Forster (39 mins).
Crystal Palace:
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 15,712

DIVISION ONE  26 Nov 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
3 Norwich 20 36 +9
4 READING 19 35 +9
5 N Forest 19 33 +16
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Upson, Shorey, Harper, Hughes (Butler 88), Watson (Newman 81), Rougier, Salako, Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Mackie, Cureton.
Crystal Palace:
Kolinko, Butterfield, Powell, Symons, Granville, Mullins, Thomson (Routledge 34), Gray (Black 67), Derry, Adebola, Johnson. Subs not used: Michopoulos, Popovic, Riihilahti.
Reading: Rougier, Upson. Crystal Palace: Powell.
Referee: D R Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill)

The wins just keep on coming! Reading's season continues to improve weekly - both in terms of performances and results. Coming to Selhurst Park and taking the full three points is an amazing achievement and it was done with another solid determined performance that gets results. We just keep working hard and when you're this determined to get results, you get results. This victory made it five wins from five games without letting a goal in - and made it eight league victories from ten fixtures. It really is championship winning form - and with nineteen games of the season played Reading are now riding high in fourth place in the table with the best defensive record in the Division. The three points collected from Selhurst Park saw Reading leap above Sheffield United, Wolves, and Nottingham Forest - and we still have a game in hand over the three teams above us.

Reading had Nicky Forster to thank for the goal that won the game - but had to thank another great all round team effort including excellent performances from Marcus Hahnemann in goal and Matthew Upson in the centre of defence. Perhaps most of the praise should be directed to Alan Pardew - clearly one of the best managers in the country at the moment. We are so lucky to possess such a young, intelligent manager that has clearly got the hang of winning tactics in Division One. Pardew hid the extent of Nicky Forster's injury and gave the impression that Palace could expect the double of Butler and Cureton up front. Instead we had Forster back from injury and straight in the side and ready to cause damage. Cureton didn't make an appearance and Butler came on for a symbolic last couple of minutes. Newman started on the bench too as Reading brought in Rougier to play a varied role. The revised lay-out of the side gave Reading a continued strong midfield and defence and a front line capable of grabing that vital goal to win the game.

Crystal Palace aren't having a too bad season themselves. They had previously lost just four league fixtures all season - but were frustrated by a Reading side that defended strongly and refused to give in under late second half pressure from the home side. The first half saw few chances from either sides in a close encounter - but a Nicky Forster goal was the big difference at the break. Forster found the net after 39 minutes when his low shot from the edge of the box hit the bottom corner. It was Reading's first real attempt of the game - but a vital attempt to take the three points. The Royals looked well organised against a Palace side that were restricted to long range efforts throughout the game.

The second half came to life as Reading looked to extend their lead after the break. Forster could have made it two as Reading looked dangerous on the break - one shot was narrowly over the crossbar. Palace had a number of long range efforts as the Reading defence prevented them getting in close - and Hahnemann was always equal to any effort that found itself on target. Palace had their best period of the game in the last twenty minutes as they went on the hunt for the equaliser but the Reading defence was more than equal. A close ranger header was held with ease by Hahnemann and they had a close range shot just wide of the bar - but balls pumped into the box were headed clear by both Williams and Upson or held by Hahnemann.

wimbledon royal
A thoroughly enjoyable evening, spoilt only be the verbals I had to take from foul mouthed Palace fans travelling to the game. We have learnt what it takes to mix it with the 'big boys' in this division. Work hard, take your chances when they come, be resilient in defence. Everyone gave at least a good performance, although Roug looked a bit lost when coming back to defend. Forster took his goal well. The defence looked fairly tight, Upson in particular was solid at the back, but when he goes? The Pardew doubters can definitely stand down. I'm sure Alan enjoyed his return to Selhurst.
The spirit, flair and tenacity is back. Confidence is sky high.
Anything is possible.
nick newbury
Reading fans everywhere, where ever you are in the world, get hold of a newspaper, look on this site and find the division one league table and look at it, stare at it a long time, because the mighty Royals are fourth, yes fourth in division one, and with a game in hand on a few above us! Who would have dreamt it, I'll be the first to put my hand up and say no way. This season really is turning into fairyland stuff. Couldn't get to the game but thanks to Radio Burkshire and live reports from Bob the Builder at the game it sounded like a top professional performance with yet again super Nicky Forster getting the winner and the back four yet again performing superbly and as solid as a team of colossuses. The away support sounded fantastic too and is a great credit to all the travelling fans and the football club. With eight wins out of the last ten including our last five games, if Pardew doesn't get the dreaded Manager of the Month award I'll eat my pants! Oh for a little bit of sweet revenge on Saturday ..... UUUF'ING RRRZZZZ!
dave hunt
A few days back, Mr Francis told the Palace faithful that on paper Palace should beat sides like Grimsby Town and Reading. OK, on paper they have a more expensive squad and bigger crowds but, Mr Francis, on paper we are above you in the league, have a better home record, have a better away record and have the best defence in the Division. On paper. Well, tonight was where it counted. I saw noone in your defence with the class of Upson and noone in your attack with the finish of Forster. I saw noone in your midfield with the fight of Harper. Even no 13 outclassed you. Mr Francis, on paper you aren't even on the same page. And come the return at the Madejski, on paper we should hammer you.
bovingdon royal
You know something? If we go on like this we are going up. After the first few matches of the season I would never had imagined we would be 4th in late November. But beware everyone! We have some very really tough games coming up e.g. Pompey, Forest and Leicester and these matches will test us and our resolve to the limit. I don't think I have seen such a well organized, strong and committed Reading team ever.
emmer green royal
First things first, great results at the moment and great to see Reading in 4th. Howver I for one am not happy. So Reading are the new Arsenal? Personally I donít like that thought at all. Anybody ever heard the chant boring, boring Arsenal? How about boring, boring Reading? Many people might think thereís nothing to moan about with 5 wins in a row but I canít get excited. At the moment I hate the way Reading are playing. Yes we have conceded the least amount of goals in the division but so what, I want to be entertained as well. Pardew seems obsessed with playing 4-5-1 and I donít like it. Ok so away from home absorbing lots of pressure and hitting teams on the break is probably the best tactic, but at home we should be the ones putting the opposition under pressure. 4-5-1 encourages the opposition to come at us and I donít like that. I read a comment about the Watford game where someone said that our performance showed why we should stick with 4-5-1. Again I donít agree, once we got used to playing 4-4-2 again we were the dominant side and scored. However once we switched to 4-5-1 Watford came back into the game and we had to defend for our lives. This formation is also a wasting a lot of talent we have at the club. As Pardew admitted a week or so ago Cureton is probably the best finisher in the division. If thatís so why leave him on the bench all the time? Doesnít he want goals? In recent games we have been in single figures with shots. A couple of seasons ago we were having 30 shots a game at home. Iím fed up with going to home games and seeing Reading defend for 70-80 mins. Cureton is the best finisher and Forster is probably the one who creates the most chances. Why not play them both? We could either play 4-4-2 with the two of them up front or we could be even more adventurous and play Butler and Curo with Forster on the right. Anything different would do just to be more exciting. Should Pardew get manager of the month? Yes probably cos his tactics are working. Iím glad we are winning. We should be safe from the drop now so lets cut the dull tactics and start trying to play football again.
west sussex biscuit
Bloody marvellous! A classic smash and grab raid away from home. Palace who are also a form team in the division were made to look very average. We won almost every 50-50 ball and until we tired and starting giving the ball away in the last quarter of an hour, the team was faultless. The back four plus Marcus look fantastic. Midfield easily outshone Palace with Kev Watson trying to spray balls around, Hughesy charging forward at every opportunity and the underrated James Harper appearing all over the place. The lone striker doesn't do too badly either. Rougier looked like he didn't want to head the ball and then produces a couple of marvellous flicks. Salako tried almost too hard. But we competed for 80 odd minutes at a frenetic pace and no praise is too high for this lot at the moment. I hope Curo has a role to play in the future as he's the reason we're in this league. Butts looks too slow in the 120 mile an hour stuff but Ricky Newman got stuck in when he came on. Number 13 had a stormer last night. We were as much in the Palace fans and team's face as our team. Apparently the number 2 at Palace likes driving taxis Cloud Nine Hundred and Ninety Nine. Please can you now beat Brighton so we can put last year's nonsense behind us.
PS. Thanks to the Royals fan who lives near me who had to drive me ten miles back up the railway line after we got talking and I missed our stop.
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