1 May 2004: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
READING 1 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0
West Brom: -
| Half Time: 0-0
| Reading: Ashdown, Murty, Williams,
Newman, Hughes, Savage (Morgan 65 mins), Sidwell, Harper, Salako (Gordon
45 mins), Kitson, Goater (Brooker 65 mins). Subs not used: Hahnemann, Owusu.
West Brom: Hoult, Chambers, Gaardsoe, Moore, Gregan, Robinson (Clement 60 mins), O'Connor, Kinsella, Dyer, Hughes (Sakiri 53 mins), Horsfield (Dobie 45 mins). Subs not used: Murphy, Haas.
| Reading: Kitson, Newman.
West Brom: Moore, O'Connor, Chambers.
Referee: Clive Penton (Woodindean)
It is always particularly satisfying to score the winner in the final minutes of a close game, but even more so when your opponents had been gloating over their recently achieved Premiership status and had the benefit of some very poor refereeing in their favour. Today's game was clear evidence that the Royals have the nucleus of a team capable of automatic promotion next season. It was a fairly even contest but Reading certainly deserved their win. As for the Baggies - well they will get absolutely hammered in the top flight if they have to stick with this team. Reading contributed the more creative and enterprising play throughout, and looked far more secure in defence than their newly promoted opponents. Albion were physically strong but were toothless in attack and I lost count of the times their players miscued and sliced the ball out of play. The Premier League will certainly be 'having a laugh' at their expense next season.
Reading applied pressure to the Baggies defence in the early stages and Hoult looked uncomfortable (as he did all afternoon) when dealing with crosses. Lee Hughes wound up the home fans when he elected to punt a stray ball, which had rolled onto the pitch, deep into Reading's half instead of knocking it into touch. It was a deliberate act to disrupt the game as Reading were building an attack. He deserved all the abuse he received. Reading created more openings in the first half but neither 'keeper had to make a save. Kitson had possession with his back to goal in the box but could not make room for a shot, Goater almost set up Sidwell but he found himself quickly closed down, and Murty sent a fine long range effort whistling past the far post just before the interval. Albion's most significant contribution to the half was to initiate a Mexican Wave which I thought was a distraction for the players which best served to visitors. The half ended with Reading forcing a couple of corners and walking off to deserved applause whilst the Albion players surrounded the referee to whinge about something or other. If anyone had cause for complaint it was the Reading players!
Apparently injury prevented Salako from coming out for the second half which prompted Coppell to reorganise. Gordon came on to play wide on the left, and Hughes was switched to the right as Reading adopted a more attacking 3-5-2 formation. Kitson was the first to force a save when he ran onto a ball from Sidwell. As he carried the ball into the area he found there was no alternative to try his luck from a tight angle and struck a shot with some venom which Hoult saved but had his arm wrenched back against the post in the process. Hughes headed over from the resulting corner. Three minutes later Gordon who was looking sharp going forward supplied a superb cross from the left which Kitson failed to keep down and the ball sailed harmlessly over the bar. He completed his hat-trick of misses when Morgan slipped a great ball behind the defence and Brooker found him five yards out with a slick low cross. If he had kept it down he would surely have scored but the ball sailed a long over the bar. It was a bad miss, but he still looked the best forward on the pitch (from either side). Albion had one clear chance midway through the half which fell to Dyer. Fortunately for Reading he was unable to steer the ball into the empty net as he stretched for it at the far post.
Reading were determined to get something out of this game, and Williams' attitude was an inspiration. He fought for every ball, closed players down on the half way line, and even had a spell on the left wing in each half! Newman again quietly got on with the job of defending and hardly put a foot wrong. He has a had a great season filling in all across the back four, and doing so extremely well.
With full time approaching Reading suddenly surged forward on a counter attack and found themselves with an extra man. Sidwell carried the ball towards the penalty area, his passing options gradually disappeared, and with everyone screaming for him to lay it off, he hammered a low shot into the net for the winner. It may have taken a deflection but it was hit well enough to have beaten Hoult anyway. It was to cue for ecstatic celebration as the mournful looking Vikings looked on.
There was slight flurry of activity from Albion before the end but they didn't look like beating Ashdown. Reading enjoyed the moment and soaked up the applause as they lapped to pitch after the final whistle. There were a few Baggies fans who to their credit sportingly joined in the applause as they drifted away, but they must have been wondering with some concern how their side would cope next season against much tougher opposition.
Again Reading looked hard to beat today, which is
the hallmark of a promotion winning side. Pity we didn't manage to find
a bit more consistency around Christmas. Only an extremely unlikely set
of results next weekend will allow the Royals to sneak into the play-offs.
It would be a terrible irony if Ipswich just beat us to sixth place on
the last day after that awful last minute penalty decision at Portman
Road denied us of three points on the first day of the season.
A late strike from Steve Sidwell, with just a couple of minutes left on the clock, gave Reading a deserved victory over already-promoted West Brom this afternoon. The game looked to be heading to a draw, despite Reading's efforts, when Sidwell broke through the middle and fired a low shot from distance that struck the left post and found it's way in with the keeper rooted to the spot. Sidwell's goal capped another excellent performance from the player who impressed along with Kitson on "Ginger Day" as thousands of home fans displayed their appreciation with a show of orange shirts, wigs, and balloons. It was another excellent Madejski Stadium atmosphere - but the travelling fans won the best dressed fans award with everyone in the away end kitted out in full Viking gear.
The West Brom team failed to match the efforts of their fans and looked second best throughout the game, getting in just a couple of poor shots, as Reading looked much the better side. The Royals could well have had the game wrapped up before Sidwell's strike with Dave Kitson having three or four chances to put Reading ahead. He missed a couple from very close range - somehow sending the ball over the bar when a goal looked a certainty. On other occassions we did well to work the ball into the area but failed to get in that final shot before it was hacked clear. Reading were working hard across the pitch and looked tired towards the end after a massive display of effort during the first half. The game saw few chances during the second half - but Reading certainly had the better of them.
The result means that Reading still have a remote
chance of making the play-offs on the season's final day next Sunday.
With one game remaining Reading can still finish in that magical sixth
place - but only with a series of results going our way. Firstly Reading
must win at Watford. However, the win will only be of use if Ipswich lose
at home to Cardiff, Wigan lose or draw at home to West Ham, and Sheffield
United fail to win at Preston. Considering that Reading have so far this
season failed to win three games in a row - it seems a very tall order.
Whatever the outcome next weekend Reading have enjoyed one of their highest
league finishes in the history of the club, and today made West Brom -
a Premiership team next season - look very ordinary.
Trust Reading, just when you think you are spared of trying to work out what you need to get into the play offs, they go and produce a brilliant performance against a top team, and give us fans another headache as we try and work out what needs to happen next week in order for us to achieve the unlikeliest of scenarios. And what a goal it was from one of this seasons heroes to seal the win. With just minutes to go, Sidwell picked the ball up midway in his own half and charged up the field. 15,000 Reading fans screamed for him to look to his right and pick out Andy Hughes, but I'm sure almost every person in the ground knew that there was only one thing on the Ginger ninja's mind; to put the ball into the back of the net. There would be countless posts of complaint on the HobNob disscusion boards if he'd missed. 'He should have passed it to Hughes', 'why didn't he take it further?', 'he should have held the ball up and waited for further support.' But Sidwell doesn't miss. We've seen him score late winners enough times this season to know that that ball was going to fly past Russell Hoult.
It was a fitting end to a succesful season at the Madejski for Sidwell. Honoured by the crowd with a sea of ginger wigs and balloons, you could forgive him for feeling a little dissapointed at missing out on the player of the season award. If Coppell can hold onto him in the summer he will certainly play a major role next season as the Royals again look for success. Reading had control of the game for the majority. Harper had a lot of possesion but again frustrated with hesitant play and poor passing. Bas Savage, making his second start of the year proved a handful and put himself about well; the sheer size and strength of the man seemed to have West Brom's defence running scared. Player of the season Murty again looked sharp and a 25 yard screamer almost found the top corner, and Hughes was Hughes - he worked hard, ran his socks off, played a couple of great cross field balls and must again be applauded for his versatility. Hughes being Hughes however also meant his passing was crap.
The stars of the show however for me was the centre back pairing of Newman and Williams. Newman has had to fill in all season in a variety of positions and done very well, but today stood out more than he has ever done. Niether Horsfield or Hughes were allowed a sniff at goal and despite his height (small for your average defender,) Newman won everything in the air. His strength and bravery are great attributes and if Coppell was still unsure about offering Ricky a new contract then he shouldn't be now.
Adie Williams was my man of the match. A Reading ledgend soon to make his 400th appearance for the club, Adie was strong again and for a man of his size, played some neat touches on the floor including a fabulous back-heel to fellow defender Murty, allowing us to play the ball out of trouble. There have been a few comments on this board that Adie should be replaced as captain by Murty, and although I do not doubt Murty's ability to captain the side, I feel there is no-one at this club more influential and willing than Williams.
So, on the pitch Reading were great and fully deserved
their win. Off the pitch the Reading fans were just as good. Credit must
go to Jay for getting 'ginger day' up and running, and the fans responded
with over a thousand wigs sold in the megastore in just 45 minutes. The
mood and attire of the Baggies fans obviously helped spur on the Royals
fans efforts, as all 3 home stands were loud, proud and ginger! Dave Kitson
may have voiced his dissent about ginger day at the start of the week
but even he couldn't fail to be impressed by the fans. Kitson incidently
produced another stirling performance and could have scored a couple,
one a header from a brilliant Dean Gordon cross and the other a shot from
6-yards out which he dissapointingly slammed over. However it is encouraging
that he managed to get himself into these positions and I am very excited
about the prospect of him and Fozzy forming a partnership. All-in-all
it was a great day both on and off the pitch, nothing feels better than
a victory from a goal in the final minutes, and no-one deserved to score
it more than Steve Sidwell.
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