MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

26 December 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: -
Coventry City
: Hignett (39 mins), Partridge (52 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 19,526

DIVISION ONE  26 Dec 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Coventry 25 39 +4
7 READING 24 39 +4
8 Watford 25 38 -6
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Brown, Williams, Shorey, Hughes, Harper, Watson (Henderson 61), Newman (Rougier 89), Salako (Tyson 61), Cureton. Subs not used: Mackie, Igoe.
Coventry City: Hyldgaard, Caldwell, Shaw, Konjic, Quinn, Pead (Eustace 89), McAllister, Hignett, Bothroyd (Safri 73), Holdsworth, Partridge. Subs not used: Gordon, Mills, Montgomery.
Reading: Newman, Shorey, Watson. Coventry City: Bothroyd, Hignett, McAllister, Pead .
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt)

Reading once again suffered from a complete lack of any fire-power up front as Coventry City took a clear Boxing Day victory. Reading's magnificent run in November was thanks to a superb defensive run of form, which hasn't entirely disappeared. During that run we only managed to find the one or two goals per match and that's the problem that is leading to our current poor run. This defeat was Reading's third straight defeat and our fourth game without finding the back of the net. There are only two teams in the Division that have scored less goals than the Royals.

With Nicky Forster out injured, Alan Pardew was forced to change the line-up. What appeared to be a continuation of the 4-5-1 formation might have actually been 4-4-2 with Andy Hughes pushed forward to play alongside Jamie Cureton who started the game in place of Forster. Cureton worked hard up front but wasn't presented with enough of the ball to make an impression on the game and the partnership of Hughes and Cureton never looked like producing a feast of goals for the Royals.

Ricky Newman returned to the squad in midfield, but in honesty the Coventry midfield was far superior to Readings and won them the game. The home side opted for 4-5-1 and showed how to make it work by making excellent use of the wings as they pushed forward leaving the Reading defence looking beatable on many occassions. New signing, Steve Brown made his debut in the centre of Reading's defence in place of John Mackie, who remained on the bench. Brown had a good game for Reading but the defence was beaten on several occassions - plenty of indications that we lack the ability of Upson to hold it all together. Coventry's pace down the wings was a lesson for the Royals on how to produce goals when playing with a five man midfield.

Coventry got off to the better side and continued that way. A number of early opportunities called Hahnemann into action to make a few solid saves to keep the scores level. Reading looked like they were starting to get into the game with a good bit of pressure and winning a few corners before Coventry took the lead on 39 minutes. The pace of Coventry's Partridge down the left wing was the difference and he cut inside the Reading defence to deliver an excellent cross that drifted over the heads of the entire Reading defence leaving a header for Craig Hignett, which he sent past Hahnemann and into the back of the Reading net.

The victory was sealed for the home side not long into the second half when the pacey Partridge doubled the lead with a superb solo goal for Coventry. After getting hold of the ball inside his own half he went on a run straight for goal twisting past a series of Reading players with apparent ease before burying the ball into the back of the net to make it 0-2. With the game slipping away from Reading, Alan Pardew introduced Henderson and Tyson for Salako and Watson to produce a very attacking formation with half an hour of the game still to go.

Despite the number of attacking players on the field Reading still failed to produce enough dangerous chances. Nathan Tyson looked lively and had a good chance which he failed to take but did produce an effort that wasn't far over the crossbar from distance. Cureton had a shot well wide, but Coventry always looked likely to grab a third down the other end. In the dying minutes of the game Reading threw everyone forward and goalkeepr Marcus Hahnemann perhaps came the closest for the Royals all afternoon when he nearly side footed home a cross. However, Reading had failed to look dangerous in front of goal and failed to contain a lively Coventry midfield, and as such the result was never really in doubt.

thatcham royal
To all those who said a team can't win at home playing 4-5-1, Coventry did alright didn't they?
For Reading, new formation, new line up, bad result. I think Pardew has to work on the midfield. We used to control games with our midfield. Now, we just seem to have lost that edge. Cureton up front hasn't fared any better than Forster recently. Our midfield is too deep and just not getting the ball forward quick enough, or supporting the front men.
With just one day to review things until the next game, I'm not sure what to expect on Saturday.
ken c
With all the strikers that we have at the club, you would not have thought that scoring goals was going to be a real problem. The last few games have shown this to be our main weakness, for not only did we fail to score yesterday but we did not look like scoring. The combination of Cureton and Hughes offered nothing new as Hughes was clearly not comfortable in that role and Cureton was not good enough to hold onto the ball - again not his strength. We looked better with the introduction of Tyson and Henderson though I thought Salako had also been playing OK.
There were one or two questions that seemed hard to answer. If Newman was selected surely his job was to man mark McAllister- he ran the midfield as he had done at the Mad Stad. Did we not know about Partridge's pace? He skipped past Murty for the first which Hignett duly dispatched and then scored a wonder goal, if you were a Covenrty fan.
There were also positives. This team does not give in. Brown had a good debut. But where was the quality in the final third? Coventry had four loan players in their team today, I suspect we might need one up front unless Henderson can grab his opportunity. What we have seen is how dependent we are on Forster and the sooner he returns the better, after all Hahnemann was the only person with a shot on target!
nick newbury
Ok, so we've lost three six pointers on the trot and we're looking a ghost of the team that were unbeatable in November but who in their honest mind, would not have taken seventh in the league on boxing day! Be honest! Two home games starting with Derby on Saturday, who not only do we owe one from the first game of the season, but also got thrashed at home by Grimsby today will be the ideal tonic after all the festive blues. I always thought this season was going to be a roller coaster and so it's proving to be. Let's hope for a whopping crowd against the Rams and a fitting result to set the Royals up for the big game on new years day against the Crispmen. Have faith!
caversham royal
A very poor show all round, and we got deservedly beaten by a 'not all that special' Coventry for the 2nd time this season. The difference between the 2 sides? From what I saw, they had an idea of how to work the ball round quickly to try and find space, passed pretty well most of the time, varying the pattern of their play and looked sharp round the box. Reading, on the other hand looked slow and laboured in their build up, playing passes sideways and backwards, along with the odd aimless long ball either miles ahead of Cureton or diagonally to where one of their defenders was waiting. I couldn't tell how sharp we were around the box because the ball seemed to rarely be delivered there with any threat or accuracy. I counted us having 5 shots, with 4 of those coming from about 20yrds or so, and I think it speaks volumes for our worrying lack of attacking potency that the most dangerous moment for the Coventry goal came from Hahneman towards the end.
We lacked any width today, amongst many other things, and only started to look threatening on the left when Tyson replaced Salako. The only game I can really remember seeing him perform at all this season was against Pompey, and yet I'm sure his name is always first on Mr Pardew's teamsheet. Having Rougier or Igoe on the right might have also helped the balance of our play. I didn't see the point of bringing Rougier on only when the 4 min injury time board went up. Too little too late by then I reckon. Their number 7, Partridge (on loan from Liverpool so my gloating Coventry-based family tell me) was a threat all game with his pace and it was no surprise that he made one and scored the other goal.
As for our new boy, Brown, he didn't really stand out; some of his balls out of defence looked pretty good, and he made some decent challenges (I think!). Anyone who says we missed Forster (including the manager) this afternoon is wrong in my opinion. I don't feel any of our strikers would have made anything of todays game with the lack of service on offer. And where was Butler again? Is he injured, or has something else happened to cause his complete disappearance from even the bench?
Credit to the travelling support, I thought the "At least we got here on time" answer to the Coventry fans chants or "You might as well go home" was a masterstroke. Finally, I'd just like to moan about the awful facilities at Highfield Road. It may be an old ground, but I think it's poor for any stadium that hosted Premiership matches 2 years ago and can house 20,000 to only have 2 titchy food bars (one that ran out of hot water, and all palatable food very quickly), and toilets that were very reminiscent of Elm Park.
God, what a day... I live in hope of improvement against Derby and Leicester. COME ON... (Please!)
cambridgeshire royal
All season I have been looking at December to New Years Day with its run of games and saying to anyone who would listen, including a mate at work who is a Millwall supporter, that it is a nightmare month. Pompey, Leicester, Forest, Sheff Utd, Coventry, Derby. When Pards won the cursed MOTM award for Nov that just increased my worries. So, it seems I was right to worry. 1 pt from 12, the only consolation is we are due to play a poor Derby side next. Hopefully 3 points to make the averages look better. BUT positive thing is that we have only dropped two places and are still in in the top half of the table despite 3 straight defeats. IF we can start to find the target and score some goals we can still be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. Top half finish would be a good season, let's face it if we managed to get into the play-off final and win it, next season would most likely be very embarrassing!!! We need to consolidate, make a few astute acquisitions bring on the youngsters and build for the Div One championship in a few years. The main thing is to avoid what we did in 1994/95 and loose half the squad at the end of the season then gradually slide down the table into the 2nd again.
emmer green royal
Oh dear! Three 2-0 losses in a row and no goals scored. Things certainly arenít too good at the moment. Pardew said that he blames the midfielders and strikers for us not scoring in recent games. However I would like to know how he expects our strikers to score when they are given absolutely no service. We could have had Ronaldo up front against Coventry and the only way heíd have scored would be if he took the ball at the half-way line and dribbled round the opposition himself. Strikers thrive on decent through balls and crosses and we did neither and havenít done so for ages. The balls played to Cureton were down the channels, which is ideal for someone with pace like Forster but Cureton needs balls into the box. Pardew must learn to vary his tactics for the personnel. You canít blame players for not performing when the tactics are aimed at their weaknesses not their strengths. Pardew says he will look to bring someone in on loan if he canít find the solutions in the squad. Well getting a striker on loan would be a complete waste of time if we donít start producing chances.
The problem is not so much the players but the way they are being asked to play. Ken c said we are dependant on Forster and the sooner he returns the better. Why should that make a difference? He has only scored once in his last 7 appearances and the only way he would have scored Saturday would be to dribble round the whole Coventry team. Strikers need chances and Reading are failing to produce them. The main difference between us and Coventry was the wide men. Every time Richie Partridge got the ball he had only one intention and that was to attack the final third of the pitch and get the ball into the box. However the Reading wide men and in particular Salako kept on turning back and laying the ball off to someone behind rather than putting the ball into the Ďdangerí area and forcing Coventry to defend. This is something Salako has been doing game after game and he should be dropped. One person said he is playing ok. In what way? He isnít doing his job, which is to creat chances for the strikers.
Although Tyson is in-experienced he is determined to go forward and attack which forced Coventry to defend. As for the right hand side, we had Harper. I think he did alright but he is not a right mid-fielder and again didnít cross the ball. Why couldnít Igoe be given a try? He has pace and will attack the final third. If we had him and Tyson on the pitch we would have put Coventry on the back foot more. I have to say I donít feel to positive about the upcoming matches. Pardew doesnít seem to realise it is the way that he asks the players to play that is stopping us scoring. If he doesnít tell the team to put crosses into the box we will not create chances, we will not score and we will not pick up points.
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