MATCH REPORT: 2004/2005 Season

Reading: -
Derby County:
Smith (45 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 15,491

Pos Team P Pts GD
3 Sunderland 28 50 +24
4 READING 28 48 +10
5 Sheff Utd 28 48 +4
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Little, Sidwell, Harper, Hughes (Morgan, 73 mins), Owusu, Forster. Subs not used: Young, Convey, Brooker, Newman.
Derby County: Camp, Kenna, Jackson, Mills, Johnson, Bisgaard (Bolder, 74 mins), Huddlestone, Idiakez, Reich, Rasiak, Smith (Tudgay, 90 mins). Subs not used: Grant, Taylor, Boertien, Tudgay.
Reading: Harper.
Derby County:
Johnson, Idiakez.
Referee: B Curson.

Reading's season long unbeaten home league record came to an end this evening with a 0-1 home defeat against Derby County. The result means the Royals managed to pick up just four points from the four games since Boxing Day. The festive period had started so well with the 3-0 win over Watford on Boxing Day. A heavy defeat at Preston, followed by a point at Gillingham, before today's home defeat, means that Reading go into a small break from league action seven points adrift of league leaders Ipswich Town.

Reading started very brightly today in front of the Sky TV cameras and dominated the fixture for the opening twenty-five minutes. There was only one side in the game early on as Reading created a whole series of chances but somehow failed to find the back of the Derby net. Reading won two corners in the opening three minutes as Derby were pinned in their own half - but the crosses into the box failed to find Reading men. Owusu had a header on target but straight at the keeper and nearly connected with a fast cross from the right later on - but again we were just short of sending the ball goalbound. After Reading's early effort it was the visitors that started to get into the game. After a couple of impressive Derby breaks they hit the foot of Hahnemann's post and forced a couple of straight forward saves from the Reading keeper. Then, in first half stoppage time, Derby took the lead after Smith got the better of two Reading defenders. He was left with a simple finish after taking the ball easily past Hahenmann, who had poorly timed his run out of goal.

The second half was a huge disappointment for the Reading fans with the Royals failing to rise to the challenge. The quick passing game of the first half was a distant memory as Reading struggled to pass the ball around and we were restricted to a handful of chances as Derby were content to play out time. We perhaps should have found an equaliser but were again left lacking up front. Forster missed a decent chance after Little put the ball in the middle when he might have buried it himself - Forster's effort was far too fancy and sent the ball over the bar. We threw on Morgan late on and replaced Hughes who had been impressive throughout. However, Derby continued to frustrate the Reading attack and held on with ease for the win.

Following report by John Wells:
In his programme notes, Steve Coppell explained how, as an ex winger, he liked his teams to get in lots of crosses. Well they certainly managed that this evening. Unfortunately, apart from an Owusu header which shaved the post after fifteen minutes, Reading did not look like converting them into goals. This evening we saw the best and worst of Reading. For the first half an hour the Royals tore Derby apart. They were first to the ball all over the field. Players were making good direct runs on and off the ball forcing Derby into rash tackles, desperate clearances, and misplaced passes. When they did attack, Derby were restricted to harmless long range efforts.

Derby were reliant on an offside trap to contain Reading, and with Forster's inability to understand what was going on, it was fairly successful. Little and Harper however demonstrated how simple it was to breach with well timed runs which could or should have produced goals. The Derby back four was sluggish to say the least. Harper's run produced a cross which was struck too firmly for Owusu to reach, and when Little broke through he turned back inside and struck a delightful shot which curled just wide of the top left hand corner of the Derby goal. Derby's 'keeper produced a fine save from Shorey's superb free kick from well outside the box. Somehow the visitors hung on and eventually gave Reading a scare when Smith hit the post just after half an hour.

The turning point in the match came in added time in the first half. A simple ball over the top caught everyone napping. Hahnemann came out purposefully but a shade too late, and Smith demonstrated how to round the 'keeper and finish.

Owusu was a again prepared to work hard but he lacks the ability to bring others into the game and he made a real hash of a chance during Reading's purple patch. His touch at times can only be described as embarrassing and emphasised how much we are missing the talented Kitson. What was really disappointing was the performance of Nicky Forster. His failure to read the game and anticipate passes was glaringly apparent today. On one occasion, as Little burst through the middle of the Derby midfield, he ran across his path into a cluster of Derby defenders when there was acres of space out wide! Only once did we see a flash of the old Fozzy when he went past his man and was hauled down just outside the box five minutes into the second half. Ten minutes later he missed an absolute sitter from six yards when he snatched at a ball dropping to him in front of goal and sent it over the bar. From that moment he virtually disappeared from the game. It was also at that point I began to despair, and I think it may have had a similarly depressing effect on his team mates. Reading faded and Derby looked more comfortable than they had in the first half. Desperation set in and it was sad to see Reading resort to hoofing the ball hopefully forward to a line of players which eventually included Sonko near the end.

The views of the BBC Berkshire radio team were equally way off the mark when they claimed that there was not a problem with our strikers. Conceding four goals in our last five games, including three clean sheets, is not too bad. Only scoring four in five games is simply not good enough for a serious promotion push. Come on lads, think about what you're saying! I was also puzzled about their request for more silly rumours about potential transfers of players like Sidwell and Kitson. What do they expect to gain from promoting such speculation? Boost morale?

We may need a cover for Ingimarssson and Sonko, but more than that we need to find someone else to lead our attack. I'm not confident that Fozzy is going to regain his best form alongside Owusu. We could wait until Kitson is fit, but by then it could be too late to repair the damage. The good news is we only have two more league games in January.



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