MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

1 February 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Sidwell (37 mins, 79 mins), Salako (45 mins, 52 mins), Henderson (90 mins).
Ian Moore (55 mins), West (90 mins).
Half Time: 0-2
Attendance: 14,420

DIVISION ONE  1 Feb 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
4 Notts F 30 48 +16
5 READING 29 46 +5
6 Wolves 29 45 +19
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey, Salako, Harper (Mackie 75), Sidwell, Hughes (Henderson 76), Newman, Forster. Subs not used: Cureton, Ashdown, Tyson.
: Beresford, West, Diallo, Gnohere, McGregor (Little 24), Briscoe (Alan Moore 45), Cook, Grant, Ian Moore, Blake (Papadopoulos 69), Taylor. Subs not used: Michopoulos, Cox.
Reading: Brown, Murty, Salako.
Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee)

Who would have expected this result after the recent run of form? One win from ten games became two wins from eleven as Reading's first away win since November 2002 saw them jump back into the play-off positions. But this wasn't just a win - it was a win in which Reading scored a massive five goals - and could have sneaked a couple more as they finally found form in front of goal. After last Tuesday's 1-3 home defeat against Leicester an away win seemed a little optimistic. If someone had told you that Burnley had scored two goals you would have to assume we'd lost out not beaten them by three. We had a much improved all round team performance to thank for this win but also inspired performances from John Salako, early on at least, and Steve Sidwell who scored two goals each to send Reading on their way to victory.

After Tuesday's poor performance Alan Pardew promised changes for the game at Burnley. It was perhaps a little disappointing to see Reading back to playing a 4-5-1 formation with Cureton left on the bench once again. The lack of Igoe and Tyson in the starting eleven also seemed to hint at Reading looking at grabbing a single goal win or even going for a draw. Rougier was also dropped leaving Salako and Hughes to play out wide with Sidwell, Newman and Harper in the middle of midfield. Salako has taken a lot of stick recently - but his inclusion in the starting line-up was a master stroke as he put in a stunning opening 45 minutes for the Royals. Steve Sidwell didn't get a chance to shine on his Reading debut but he more than made up for it today with involvement in nearly everything. He scored twice but could have secured a hattrick in the dying minutes.

The first half was a bit scrappy at times and the goals didn't start coming until nearly half time. The first of the seven goals took 37 minutes coming - and from that moment onwards there was plenty of action in front of goal where there hadn't been before. Reading took the lead when Murty and Harper combined to provide a ball for Sidwell running on through from midfield. Sidwell finished excellently, putting the ball under the keeper to make it 1-0 to the Royals. It was a pleasant suprise that became even more pleasant just before half time when a ball was hoofed through by Murty and Salako drove it home from the left side of the box. Reading kept up the pressure and made it 3-0 after half time when Salako scored his second of the game when Hughes hit the ball in from the right and Salako powered it in from the centre of the area. All of a sudden Reading appeared to have the game won and three goals was amazing enough if the game had finished then.

After the defeat at Sheffield Wedneday we're well used to Reading collapses and for a brief while it looked like it might be on the cards yet again. On 55 minutes Burnley pulled one back after a free-kick was hit against the Reading wall and then stuck into the back of the net. Suddenly the game looked evenly balanced as Reading attempted to time waste their way to victory. Marcus Hahnemann failed to win over the home crowd by taking a massive amount of time over everything he did and when the fans behind the goal started throwing all kinds of things at him it was just the excuse he needed to take even longer over it. Burnley had the chance to punish Reading when they won a penalty when Williams was judged to have handled the ball when it was blasted at him. If Burnley had scored that then who knows what might have happened. Instead Hahnemann came to the rescue to push the penalty away and keep Reading's advantage and Reading went down the other end and saw substitute Henderson go down inside the area under a challenge from the goalkeeper. Nicky Forster had a chance to get on the scoresheet but saw his penalty saved. Thankfully Sidwell was charging in to put the rebound into the back of the net and make it 4-1 to Reading with a little over ten minutes remaining.

All of a sudden the game was over, the home fans emptied the ground and Reading relaxed with the away fans celebrating an excellent away victory. Reading didn't really rush anything but still managed to extend the lead as the game ticked over into injury time. Henderson followed up winning the penalty and further rewarded Pardew for calling him off the bench by hitting the back of the net with an excellent shot from the centre of the area. 5-1 to Reading and the celebrations were in full swing. Burnley pulled back another shortly after that with a superb shot from the edge of the area to make it 5-2 - but it was quickly forgotten as a Sidwell header found the crossbar from a Nicky Forster corner. Then it was the final whistle - and a big win the the Royals that pushed them back up to fifth.

nick newbury
As I lick yet another portion of humble pie off my lips, please be honest, and honestly ask anybody who witnessed the debacle against Leicester,who would have predicted the win today yet alone the final score. Either Burnley are complete shite or as I suspect Reading's Jeckyl and Hyde character comes good again. A great result that hopefully will restore some much needed confidence and almost certainly ensures another season of division one football at the Mad House next season. I've no doubt nobody is stupid enough to be lulled into thinking everything is rosy again after this result. It is not and much hard work has still to be done but although it's very hard to take, we do have to be not only patient but realistic. This section of HNA goes from strength to strength and the opinions posted after the Leicester game were united on their anger and frustration at what was clearly an unacceptable performance to the paying supporters on Tuesday. In particular Emmer Green , Kevin Worthing and Steve W all I thought captured all of our frustrations with a fine degree of eloquence and common sense. I don't mind getting beat, of course that is going to happen, its the manner of defeat that hurts and the lack of effort on the pitch. Just show passion and fight and should be get stuffed not many would complain if beaten by a better team. As I said earlier it's now clear we are not going to be relegated, we are also not going to be promoted, so lets hope AP throws caution to the wind like it appears today and plays out the remainder of the season with an attacking team and a sense of adventure. What is it again.... Tenacity, Spirit and Flair! Yet another long wait now till the much awaited super Monday Sky special super Royals versus the mighty Gills!
ken c
"If that was a penalty then my backside's a fire engine" such was the quality of the commentary from the Burnley point of view today when we were given a penalty. I wasn't at the game and so can't make genuine comments. It is always interesting though to listen to a biased commentary especially when it not from our viewpoint. Firstly you have to get used to the fact that you do not know immediately when we have scored. It sort of goes quiet and then someone says "Well it's gone in". What is interesting is how they perceive us as a team. Today the comments were "Sidwell looks a bargain, he looks a really good player" I understand that he has had a habit of scoring against Burnley this season. "Surely he's got to go for that, that must deserve a red card" Murty's tackle. He's well known to all of us as being a dirty player! "Oh he's moaning to the ref again surely he's got to get booked this time" Comment on Newman, perhaps more justifiable. "How much more time can he waste?" "No they shouldn't throw things at him but he really should not waste so much time at goal kicks" on Marcus. Salako got many mentions, perhaps we forget how good he is at holding the ball.
All in all what a terrific result. Sidwell becomes an instant success. We score goals from all over the place. The main winner will be Henderson if he can get his fitness. I still believe that Pardew wants him to lead the line.His judgment has been pretty good so far. We have been through a difficult patch and many have commented in a negative way. Come on get real we are having a terrific season. As the man says back the boys and make some noise. Come on URZ!
caversham royal
Great result and very unexpected. Good to see the midfield getting on the score sheet, with Salako justifying his existence for the first time in ages and Sidwell making up for his uncertain debut by nearly getting a hat-trick. Good too that Henderson got on the score sheet as well to show at least one of our forwards knows how to hit the back of the net. As it seems Pardew will never pair Forster and Cureton, I'd like to see Henderson (when fit to start) partner Cureton up front and see if Henderson's physical presence and bustle could create a bit for the little man. However, the chances of Pardew not playing Forster save injury or hell freezing over are slim. I have nothing against Forster and his pace can still create opportunities from nothing, but since his purple patch during the start of the 'Upson/4-5-1 era', he hasn't exactly lit the scoring world alight. If Pardew won't play the two little fellas together, I reckon Cureton's form would benefit from a run in the side with Henderson and maybe our 'goals for' column could benefit as well. But I doubt this will happen so what the heck. Good also that Rougier's dire performance Tues saw his non-involvement today. But a shame that Igoe, despite being one of the better players against Leicester, had to be dropped down the same hole Watson seems to be occupying leaving Hughes who was fairly poor despite the goal on the right. It does seem still that there are players who have a fireproof quality when it comes to their performance/selection and others who'll be dropped the at first sign of slight dip in form. Despite all he says to the contrary, the manager certainly has his favourites. Still, all these are minor quibbles when you've come off a poor run and scored 5 away from home. Perhaps the Sky viewers may get something worth watching after all next Monday. COME ON.......
worthing royal
Bit late with my comments on the game at Burnley. I have only just stopped partying following the rollercoaster Royals latest offering. What a difference. Like Nick, and the other correspondents, I didn't expect even to win, let alone put on a good performance, bagging our best goal tally for a couple of years! Well done Pards and Dill for providing the impetus we all demanded after the Leicester debacle. Even Salako was inspired. Sidwell looked more confident that any hooped shirted player has for some time. Marcus answered the missile throwing morons behind the goal in the best way possible. He saved a penalty. We missed one too, and I am still worried about our ability at dead ball situations. Best trip since our day out in Cleethorpes, when we slaughtered the Fishy people. Good job Mr USA did save the pen. I don't know what would have happened if Burnley had got back to 3-2. They didn't and we all went home happy. URZZZ.
I was at the game and I must say it was quite a day and a very exciting game. Looked like Reading were gonna collapse at one point. When they were 3-0 up they lost the plot and didn't touch the ball for about 15 mins. Burnley pulled one back and then got a penalty and it was "here we go again" But USA (not sure why he needed to time waste so blatantly, not very sporting and rather annoying when the situation is reversed) saved and then we had our own penalty. Forster and Salako stood on the penalty spot and argued about who was to take it. Salako was on a hat-trick and should have been allowed to take it as he was having a blinding game but Forster, who did sod all for most of the game, won the argument and followed it with the lame effort that was saved. Fortunately Sidwell knocked in the rebound and that was it. Pressure off and time to take the p*ss. The brave fans who did travel were well rewarded and deserve praise for attending as they can hardly have expected to win let alone in such emphatic style. Fortunately I was in the North anyway and didn't have to travel too far otherwise I wouldn't have gone either. The most enjoyable score line I have seen since we beat Blackpool 6-0 on a warm summers day at Elm Park about twelve yaers ago.
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