(Half Time: 1-0)
Reading Scorers: Forster (56 mins), Salako (78 mins).
Cardiff Scorers: Earnshaw (29 mins, 67 mins).
Date: 26 December 2001
Attendance: 16,708

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Igoe, Harper, Parkinson, Salako, Rougier (Hughes 79), Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Cureton, Tyson, Alex Smith.

Cardiff City: Alexander, Gabbidon, Prior, Young, Dean Gordon, Boland, Bonner, Kavanagh (Legg 87), Bowen (Brayson 62), Gavin Gordon (Fortune-West 88), Earnshaw. Subs not used: Maxwell, Weston.

Bookings: Parkinson, Shorey (Reading); Kavanagh (Cardiff).
Referee: D J Gallagher (Banbury).

What a magnificent performance! When Reading play as well as this there is not a team in this division that can beat them. Earlier in the season City came to the Madejski Stadium and took all three points but today they barely deserved one. Not that Cardiff played badly, Reading were simply a better team. The big difference today was that the Royals were prepared to match City in the physical battle for the ball but were not intimidated by their opponents and continued to attempt to play good football.

The whole team were at their best today but the changes made in midfield proved to be crucial and absolutely correct. With Parkinson. Harper and Igoe replacing Smith, Jones and Hughes there was a much better balance of skill and aggression. This is the sort of fixture when Parky comes into his own. Igoe was lively and for more effective that Hughes. Harper was outstanding. He ran himself into the ground and played for the team. It was him more than anyone that ensured Reading kept a grip in midfield by holding the ball and playing simple accurate passes in spite of the lunging tackles coming at him from all angles.

It was not only in midfield where City found themselves on the back foot. Forster was lively and direct as usual but Rougier was outstanding. I have never seem him play so well. (Yes I did see him score two against Oxford last year!) He closed down defenders deep in their own half, held the ball up, took players on, and was prepared to work hard to get on the end of passes even when they were not delivered accurately. The City back four which is strong, quick, and well organised, were clearly unsettled by the Reading strikers.

The defence was put under pressure at times but generally held firm. Williams and Mackie dealt well with the ball in the air. Murty did particularly well when faced by Earnshaw running at him at pace from a City counter attack. Most important of all they defended as a unit and were well protected by their midfield.

Reading made the first clear scoring opportunity when Forster made room for a shot just inside the area and it required a very good save from Alexander to keep it out. Reading were having more of the ball in the early stages but Cardiff took the lead. For some reason Earnshaw was invited to run across the box and he responded by smacking a very firm shot into the net inside the near post. Maybe Hahnemann should give the situation some thought for future reference.

Although Reading went in a goal down at half time I had enjoyed the first half and still felt we could get something out of the game.

Reading carried on from where they left off after half time and were clearly intent on getting back into the game. Shorey was booked for diving when he looked to have been fouled. (One of many strange decisions by Dermot Gallagher.) Rougier got behind the defence and crossed for Forster who received the ball slightly behind him and his shot flew high over the bar. The equaliser came when Murty got forward down the right and fired in a shot which was deflected past Alexander by Forster. Cardiff came back strongly but were more than matched by a very competitive but composed Reading team.

Reading were looking sharp and deserved to go ahead when Forster's shot was cleared off the line in the 60th minute. Cardiff took the lead again from what in my opinion was a poor decision by the referee. Rougier having pushed the ball past his man was obstructed and than hauled his opponent out of his way. Gallagher awarded a free kick to City. The ball was played forward and with Hahnemann caught of his line (again!) Brayson lobbed the ball over the keeper for Earnshaw to tap in.

This was becoming a real test of character and Reading came through it with credit. Kavanagh was lucky to remain on the pitch when he lashed out twice after Parky had clattered enthusiastically into him from behind. Perhaps Gallagher didn't see what happened right under his nose! However this didn't matter really because Reading were focussed on the game and getting a second equaliser. For the second time in four days Salako's skill and composure gave the Royals a well deserved point. Igoe's cross fell to him in front of goal and he drove it firmly into the net through a crowded area.

Although they might not admit it Cardiff were probably happy not to have lost this game. If Reading can play like this for the rest of the season they will definitely finish in the top two - but what are the odds on that happening! For now I'm happy to have enjoyed a great game and see my team play well.

Report by John Wells.

Post Match Opinions

Good battling performance from the Royals today earned a well deserved point in a match that i hadn't relished attending. So many times Reading have gone behind and the heads have dropped - but not today where we came back twice against a good Cardiff side to earn a point.
Too many highlights to mention - good performances from all over the pitch with the possible exception of Hahnemann who was at fault for the second goal - Phil Whithead can't return too soon. I've often criticised Parky in the past for a lack of class but he was just what the doctor ordered today - his type of match where he mixed it well in the middle of the park. His enthusiasm clearly rubbed off on Harper and Rougier - two often criticised players who had good games today. Murty was again faultless definite player of the season so far....
Gallacher and his fat assistant in front of us were woeful booking Shorey after he was clearly fouled by Prior and giving them most 50-50 decisions including the dodgy free kick that led to their second goal.
The low point of the day was the dreadful rascist abuse aimed at Salako by the home fans - given the clear notice which stated 'rascist and abusive chanting will not be tolerated any such action will result in arrest and banning from the ground' - my dad asked the local constabulary at half time why they had stood by as this happened no more than 10 yards from where they stood. The long arm of the law replied that the we had clearly misheard and that those nice Welsh folk had said 'fat' and not 'black' and 'Cardiff have some black players as well'. What a pathetic waste of tax payers money.

-- Brummie Royal

Just read your report which was fair. We'd have settled for taking 4 points from you at the start of the season! However, I must respond to the racist charge levelled against us by "Brummie Royal", we were chanting "You Jack B*****d" at Salako, "Jack" being a friendly (!) term for Swansea folk (Salako had a spell on loan there). I haven't heard any (colour) racist chants at Ninian Park for years, however, this confusion has happened before and perhaps we should learn from it. See you in the play offs!
-- David, Cardiff Fan.

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