PORT VALE 0 READING 1 (HT: 0-1)
Port Vale Scorers: -
|Date: 2 September
Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash, Hunter, Caskey (Gamble),
Parkinson, Newman, Butler, Hodges, Cureton (McIntyre), Igoe (Gurney).
Readings first away points of the season were hard fought for and well deserved in the end. There were still some frailties in the team, particularly in defence, but in general this was a much improved performance from the draw with Stoke in midweek.
The Royals again showed that away from home they are able to thrive on confidence. Scoring after just five minutes of the match was exactly the boost the players needed, and gave them belief that they can perform on their travels. A similar early goal at Millwall or Northampton may have produced vastly superior performances to those we witnessed, but instead they conceded first and were unable to recover on both occasions.
Alan Pardews team selection reflected the general feeling amongst the fans, as there were a couple of changes from the starting line-up against Stoke. Sammy Igoe was given a chance on the right of midfield in place of Darren Caskey. Bizarrely though, Caskey was moved to the opposite side rather than being played in the centre where he usually performs best. Andy Gurney was dropped after his woeful performance against Stoke, with Ricky Newman moving from midfield to the right back position. His place in the centre of midfield was taken by Lee Hodges, who played alongside Phil Parkinson in the middle.
The changes made the world of difference to the team, in particular on the right of the pitch, with both Newman and Igoe performing well. Sammy Igoe showed what he is capable of for the first time since signing from Portsmouth, with a superb performance giving Reading something they have lacked all season. Some pace and creativity down the right is what we have all been calling out for, and Igoe showed within five minutes that he is capable of delivering it. He made a run down the right to the byeline, beat his man, and crossed perfectly for Jamie Cureton to knock in his third goal in three starts for the Royals.
It was a dream start for Reading, and the sizeable Royals following were celebrating our first away goal in the league this season. As Reading grew in confidence and started playing their best football of the season, it seemed as if they would over-run recently relegated Port Vale. Vale showed very little in the first half, and it looks as if achieving an immediate return to the first division is going to prove very difficult for them.
Creating real chances still proved to a problem though, and there were no other clear-cut opportunities in the first half despite Readings superior possession and confidence. Phil Parkinson had a header well saved by the Vale keeper, and Cureton almost broke through the home sides defence following more good work by Igoe.
Half time came with Reading still on top, and it seemed that the Royals would be able to add to their lead in the second half attacking towards their own fans.
Yet Vale emerged from the half-time break looking far more positive, and the second half saw Reading trying to hold on rather than pushing forward for more goals. Viveash and Hunter were looking more composed and confident at the back than they did against Northampton and Stoke, and they were able to deal with most of what the rather uninventive Vale attack threw at them.
Yet the real star of the defence was Ricky Newman, who did a great job at right back. Admittedly it wasnt hard to improve on Gurneys performance in midweek, but Newman did so in style and shored up many of the weaknesses that have been apparent in our defence this season. On the other side, Matthew Robinson also put in a much improved performance, showing a determination to get stuck in at the back and well as pushing forward.
The second half passed by without many chances being made, Phil Whitehead only being called upon to make a couple of routine saves. We were forced to endure the typical nervous last ten minutes as the home team threw all they had at us, but they were unable to find an equaliser and we were soon celebrating a precious away victory.
We shouldnt get too carried away with the result, since it was by no means an impeccable performance. Caskey looked out of place on the left of midfield, and needs to find a settled role in the team so we can once again see the best of him. Hunter was still prone to randomly hoofing the ball up the pitch, with Cureton and Butler still unable to win much in the air against the Vale centre backs.
Yet the result shows that we beat a team who had comfortably won their previous two home matches and were genuinely hopeful of promotion at the start of the season. With five games gone, two wins and a draw is a decent start, and now were off the mark both at home and on our travels.
The Royals fans were once again excellent, with a decent following that sang throughout and gave the players all the encouragement they could have hoped for. With such a good support, and some encouraging signs on the pitch, everythings in place for a successful season.
Report by Neil Cole
Post Match Opinions
At last, Reading communicated well, passed the ball around
well (in the first half anyway) and switched the play from side to side
with good effect. In the first half our attacks were very effective and
worried the Vale defence every time. Sammy Igoe (my man of the match)
was on fire and many a time tore down the wing passing the Vale full back
with ease to cross superbly into the box.
As an exiled Royals fan staying in Stirling in Scotland,
this was my first opportunity to see the R's this season.
I just wanted to say 3 things:
What a transformation from the Stoke game, although we
still looked a tad dodgy at the back we never really looked liked conceding
a goal, this was obviously helped by the central midfield who were told
to back track more often and help the defence out , but the star of the
show was by far Sammy Igoe.
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