MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

Reading: Cureton (55 mins, 90 mins), Butler (87 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 12,009

DIVISION ONE   27 Aug 02
Pos Team P Pts GD
14 Derby 5 6 -1
15 READING 5 6 -1
16 Stoke 5 5 -1
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Forster (Igoe 83), Watson (Parkinson 89), Hughes, Salako, Butler, Cureton. Subs not used: Whitehead, Rougier, Harper.
Michopoulos, West, Cox, McGregor, Briscoe, Little, Grant, Cook (I.Moore 50), Johnrose (Weller 79), A.Moore (Blake 70), Taylor. Subs not used Branch, Payton.
Reading: None. Burnley: Cox, Taylor.
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt)

As solid victories go, they don't come much more solid, although Reading left it late to claim the clear victory they thoroughly deserved against an inferior Burnley side. Reading were the best side throughout the game and should have gone into the half time break at least a couple of goals up. However, even after taking the lead early in the second half Reading showed some doubt about actually winning the game before finishing the visitors off with a late flurry. With a bit more confidence we can hold our own in this Division and the promising signs continue to be displayed as Reading show themselves to be a quality footballing side.

Before the kick-off there was talk about big changes in the line-up after three defeats from the opening four fixtures. In truth, we've been playing well all season long, so it was a relief when the only change named was the inclusion of Marcus Hahnemann in goal in place of Phil Whitehead. Whitehead will be gutted to have been dropped after a couple of improved performances of late, but Hahnemann deserved a go in the starting line-up. Hahnemann didn't put a foot wrong all night, but it wasn't much of a test for the goalkeeper with Burnley failing to apply any real pressure to the Reading goal. All the goal mouth action was consistantly down the other end with Reading doing the massive majority of the attacking play throughout the game.

The half time statistics told the real story at half time, with Reading claiming 10 of the shots to Burnley's single effort. On corner's as well, Reading were clear ahead with six and Burnley failing to win a single one. Reading's superiority was only not shown in goals. We had plenty of opportunities to take the lead with Nicky Forster getting off to a blinding opening twenty minute spell. Forster seemed to fade out towards the end of the game but caused problem after problem in the Burnley defence at the start. On a number of occassions he tore past a couple of defenders down the right before laying the ball off unselfishly. When he did have a shot himself he nearly found the net after beating a couple of players and cutting in to shoot towards the near post. The Burnley keeper held the ball to keep the score at 0-0. To cause greater confusion Salako and Forster switched wings for a spell and both players enjoyed causing panic in the defence before they switched back. I lost count of the number of efforts that were heading goal-bound and were blocked or hacked away with the visitor's defence showing little confidence in their goalkeeper.

Jamie Cureton was doing a great job of working himself into some great shooting positions, and the entire side was working together to supply him with the ball with some proper on the floor football. Cureton would have been disappointed to have not found the net with a series of first half shots that seemed to go just over the crossbar. Reading looked a full team unit with the ball being worked out of defence through the midfield and supplied to the front men, although Burnley's tactics of packing the defence appeared to be working as the Royals failed to overly test the Burnley keeper during the first half. The bigger disappointment remained in defence where we seemed nervous again and almost gifted Burnley with a couple of shooting chances when Adrian Williams failed to clear the ball and played himself into danger, losing possession in the process. Williams made a couple of superb tackles to redeem himself, but he has to be pay greater attention when he actually wins the ball. In goal, Hahnemann rarely had to deal with a shot but commanded his area and did well to cleanly collect a few crosses into the Reading box.

Reading continued their dominance after the break and were rewarded with 55 minutes on the clock. Salako took full advantage of a poor clearance from Michopoulos in the Burnley goal and collected the ball before taking it down the right. He took the piss out of the full back before cutting into the box and crossing. The cross was clearly handled by the central defender for a certain penalty. However, we didn't need the penalty with Cureton steaming in to the middle of the box and receive the handled ball and calmly drive it into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Royals and Cureton's fifth of the seaon.

Immediately after the goal we seemed to sit back again and allow Burnley to get back into the game. A better side might have taken advantage, and although they had their best period of the game they failed to trouble the Reading defence enough despite winning their first corner of the game. There was always that nagging doubt that Burnley might snatch an equaliser despite Reading's superiority, and it was a relief when we turned a real piece of Burnley pressure into a Reading goal with just four minutes left to play. Burnley won a free-kick right on the edge of the box that was charged down by the Reading wall and quickly played forward. Cureton ran on before knocking the ball to his right and into the path of Butler. Butler twisted his way past the defender to take into the box with just the keeper to beat before putting it into the bottom corner of the net. 2-0 to Reading and Butler's first of the season.

With the game won it was fitting that Cureton popped up again in the dying minutes to score the goal of the game. And what a goal. With the keeper off his line, and Cureton well out, he lobbed it towards goal, where it dipped delightfully into the back of the net. The keeper must have wondered how it had happened. He'd been beaten by a moment of pure class. Cureton went mental in celebration of his sixth goal in just five games - and who could blame him? It's an amazing achievement for a striker that's only completed three full games in Division One for the Royals. So a great team performance, and a solid victory. Reading continue to look like a Division One side. We won't be getting promotion this season perhaps, but we certainly deserve our current mid-table position.

Following report from John Wells:
A superb volley by Jamie Cureton sealed a morale boosting victory over a Burnley side who, even at this early stage of the season have the look of a side destined for the drop. After a frustrating first half in which they dominated but failed to produce a goal, the Royals, through two goals from Cureton and one from Butler, ran out comfortable winners. This was a deserved victory and only wayward finishing in the first half saved Burnley from a much heavier defeat. Reading produced some slick passing moves throughout the first half but nobody seemed able to strike the ball cleanly or with sufficient power when it mattered. Shorey, Cureton and Forster all sent shots over the ball or wide. Butler and Forster hit shots which Micholopoulos was able to smother comfortably. Reading wasted a couple of corners on a set play that was poorly executed and the passing was a little erratic ay times, but they began to build up a period of sustained pressure on the Burnley defence towards the end of the half. Butler was working hard up front and, Hughes was looking to break from midfield, and Watson was doing his usual effective holding job in midfield and spraying some useful passes around.

Burnley were generally reluctant to push forward, but when they did, Reading looked dangerous on the break. Following a brief spell of desperate defending by Reading Cureton gave them the lead. Salako, who had been switching wings with Forster throughout, crossed from the right. The ball struck the arm of a Burnley defender and amidst strangled cries of penalty Cureton tucked the ball away in typical fashion. Burnley never really looked like coming back but we were kept waiting until the 87th minute before the points were made safe. A great block from Hughes broke up a Burnley attack and the ball was worked to Cureton on the half way line who pushed an excellent pass through the heart of the Burnley defence to Butler. He still had a lot to do and he did it well. A change of direction sent the last defender tumbling and as Micholopoulos came out he slipped the ball calmly past him. A fine goal from a player who has been working hard this season without looking like finding the net. That was enough to win the game but Cureton's strike in stoppage time was worth waiting for. The ball sat up nicely for him just outside the box but the volley was as good as you would see at any level of football. Micholopoulos had not really taken up a bad position but the ball flew over him and dipped into the far corner of the net. It was unstoppable.

From what I have seen this season Reading have made as good a start as could be expected and certainly look capable of holding a mid table spot. They are also playing some entertaining football - worthy of bigger crowds than 12,000. Cureton was easily the best player on the pitch tonight, not just for his goals but he worked hard to close players down and passed the ball well. I even saw him win the ball in the air in the second half! If he maintains this form and the team continues to grow in confidence we could surprise a few teams in this division this season.
John Wells

nick newbury
Can't ask much more than that, absolutely tops! Great goals from Butler and super Jamie Cureton really made for a great night. Butler's goal will do him the world of good and don't forget Hughes who made the goal with his kamikaze block from the dangerous Burnley free kick. Hughsie is turning into an enigma, brilliant in midfield, never stops running, amazing runs and yet when he gets himself into the final third, has the crossing ability of hippopotamus! Keep working mate, you'll get there one day.
So a great result that pushes us to the dizzy heights of mid table, Saturday will be a stern test but one we are more than capable of getting a result.
Remember Cardiff? We owe them one!
ken c
At half time we wondered whether this was to be another of those performances that blighted us last season. We had played well and dominated the game in terms of possession and passing ability. What we had not done was to hit the target and ironically Cureton was probably the worst offender! Last season we would have lost our shape in the second half and resorted to the long ball.
Tonight we were more confident and the players kept the ball moving around. Salako and Watson were seeing a lot of the ball and that determined the way that we played. Forster was causing problems for the opposition and eventually the breakthrough came following a deflected cross from Solako on the right which Cureton duly put away. At that point there were still doubts, as we sat back a bit instead of going to look for the second. Whilst Burnley did not look dangerous they were coming into the game more. The defence looked solid, though Williams did look slow again. Whilst Whitehead would understandably feel hard done by, Hahnemann's kicking is just so much better, which means that if we do loose the first header we are at least further in the opposition's half! When the second goal came, the delight was shared by the scorer and the crowd. Everyone can see how hard Butler had worked and he deserved his goal. When he got the ball he had a bit to do. Though the defender slipped it was a chance that he put away with relish and that made the game safe.
In truth the game should have been won by then as we went close on several occasions. The third goal was a moment of individual brilliance. Cureton received the ball on the right and saw the keeper off his line. As soon as he struck it we all knew where the ball was going and Cureton was able to milk the crowd's applause. 3-0, 3 points and everyone went home happy. Now we have to do it away from home and I think we owe Walsall something!
darren hall
When Jamie Cureton ran on as substitute at Derby on the opening day, the majority of Pride Park burst into song..."Who the f%$&ing hell are you...who..." etc.... Well my fellow mid table friends he is the country's top scorer, a poacher, a team player and a boy genius all in one, in short 'what a bargain'. Curo, there's only one Curo..... I suggest 30,000 copies of yesterday's game are immediately run off and sent up the M1 to avoid any further confusion.
All this and a CLEAN SHEET, do things get any better than this?? I sense a late surge for the play-offs on the cards! Really let's just get some momentum going and continue on to get some more results in the bag that our football deserves and, as Nick says, we owe those Saddlers one from Cardiff.
Now where is John Gregory's address... URZzzzzz
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