LUTON TOWN 1 READING 1 (Half Time: 1-1)
Butler (4 mins)
Luton Town Scorers: Harper (og, 10 mins)
|Date: 3 April
Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash, Whitbread, Murty, Parkinson, Caskey (Newman), Harper, Cureton (Forster), Butler, McIntyre (Rougier). Subs not used: Howie, Hunter.
Luton Town: Abbey, Boyce, Dryden, Taylor, Helin, McLaren, Spring, Mansell, Rowland (George), Howard, Stein (Douglas) Subs not used: Watts, Stirling, Ovendale.
Bookings: Mansell, Taylor (Luton); Harper (Reading).
Perhaps it shows that Reading have come a long way in the past few seasons that it's so disappointing to only draw away at a side desperate for points and in a run of form. But this was a very disappointing result that leaves Reading a lot of work still to do if we're to capture one of the two automatic promotion places. Reading put in plenty of effort throughout the game but lacked the tactics to break down a Luton side determined to hang onto a point. The Royals put in a lively first half performance, as did both sides, but looked unconvincing in the second half as the ball and players slid all over the wet surface and Reading's passing skills evaporated.
The good news for Reading was Viveash was fit to start, and alongside the solid as ever Adrian Whitbread in the centre of defence, put in a good game. Caskey was once again included in the starting eleven but seriously failed to impress with a lack of speed and some misplaced paces, and Cureton and Butler started up front but were to suffer from a severe lack of service as the game progressed. Reading got off to the best start though and took the lead after just five minutes. The keeper came charging off his line as Butler picked up the ball on the left edge of the area. The Luton keeper then appeared to slip, leaving Butler with an empty goal. Butler saw his chance and promptly lobbed the ball towards goal in a similar manner to the goal scored at Wrexham - once again it hung in the air before hitting the back of the net causing mass celebration in the away end.
The perfect start didn't last long though with Luton almost immediately taking it up the other end. A free kick was played from the Luton left into a packed Reading box. A couple of players went up for the ball at the near post but it was the unfortunate Harper who managed to get his head on the ball - flicking it on backwards and changing it's direction enough to send it into the opposite corner of the net. An own goal and Luton Town were level. Right after Luton made it 1-1 we had good reason to expect a bit of a goal feast as Luton seemed to wake up and went in search of goals themselves.
Whitehead made a couple of excellent saves to keep Reading level - tipping over a strike from outside the edge of the box for the corner - and then holding a couple of corners well. He might have been a bit fortunate after a dodgy pass back left him with a double save to make. Both strikes, from within the area, were hit right at him, but he did well to save with his left leg, and then collect the ball. Whitehead also had Whitbread to thank for stopped a whole load of danger as Whitbread had one of his best games since signing on loan for the Royals. Whitbread won everything in defence - everytime Luton crossed the ball Whitbread was in exactly the right place to head it clear.
Down the other end Reading also had a couple of chances to regain the lead. The keeper again appeared to make a mistake by dashing to the right side of his box as Reading attacked. The ball was played over to Darren Caskey, just inside the box, on the right. Caskey also had an open goal to stick the ball home into - but failed to connect properly and instead the ball flew well over the Luton crossbar. Luton also appeared to clear one off the line after a Cureton cross from the right caused some panic within the Luton defence.
The second half was dull compared to the first - and any panic we caused in the home defence in the first half was never repeated. Too many misplaced paces, the inability to cross the ball, and Luton packing their defence meant we could find no way through. Every time we did play the ball wide Murty or Robinson would beat one player but then be closed down instantly by the second - and end up losing the ball. We didn't get it wide enough - and when we did it was wasted. Add to that all kinds of hoofing from the back instead of passing it along the floor and we looked a bit crap.
So instead it was down to Graham Poll to provide some entertainment for the
travelling fans. After giving a whole series of decisions against Reading he
then failed to book or send off the Luton number 34 after he pushed Poll after
conceeding a rare free kick against his side. Poll, famous for reporting players
to the FA, could well be reported to the FA by the Reading fans for inciting
the crowd. After taking a bit of abuse from the terraces behind the goal, he
walked over, grinned, and then conducted the crowd. I was that close to a pitch
invasion and will be telling the FA that too.
Following report by Neil Cole:
A draw certainly wasn't the ideal result wasn't this vital fixture, but it should be seen as a point gained from a Luton side who are rapidly improving under Joe Kinnear. Luton looked a very different team to the one who were easily beaten 4-1 at the Madejski, and were probably the better side on the night. Reading failed to get their game together at all, and despite taking a very early lead they were unable to break down the resilient Town defence.
With Rotherham not playing tonight, it was a great chance for Reading to catch up the league leaders. Alan Pardew opted to start with the same team that began against Notts County, which meant that Rougier was on the bench despite his impressive showing in the second half on Saturday. Adi Viveash was fit to start, and resumed his partnership with Adrian Whitbread in the centre of the defence. The Royals found the best possible start, going on the attack straight away and taking the lead after just five minutes. Luton's unpredictable keeper Nathan Abbey came rushing out of his goal, only to slip over at the edge of the box. Martin Butler seized the opportunity and lobbed the keeper to put Reading a goal up.
There was once again an impressive away turnout behind the goal, as the Reading end was only a few seats shy of a sell-out. The early goal was a dream start for the Royals, and the way the game had started it was looking like another Reading victory. However, to their credit Luton came back straight away and equalised just five minutes later. A free-kick was conceded down the left, and was curled into the box by Matthew Spring. A number of players went for the ball, including James Harper who could only get a partial header on the ball. The deflection was enough to beat Phil Whitehead as it sailed into the net to draw the scores level.
After finding the equalising goal, Luton had a spell of good pressure which forced the best out of Phil Whitehead. The Reading keeper is in great form, and after winning us the game at Swindon he certainly saved another point tonight. One long range shot was excellently tipped over, when it looked bound for the top corner of the net. Shortly after that, Whitehead denied Mark Stein after the Luton striker had found his way through on goal. The best chance for the Royals fell to Darren Caskey, who volleyed wide after Luton keeper Abbey had once again left his net unguarded.
Luton could have been reduced to ten men, after Steve Howard appeared to push referee Graham Poll after disagreeing with a free-kick decision. Such an action should have produced an immediate red card, but Poll instead let the incident pass. After reporting Jamie Cureton earlier in the season for his celebrations, Poll certainly isn't the favourite ref among Reading fans. He made things even worse tonight with a poor performance, as the most whistle-happy ref in the country gave a series of unwarranted free-kicks against Reading players.
After a lively first half, the second period was a big disappointment as neither side produced any entertaining football. Reading's passing was yet again woeful, and Butler and Cureton barely saw the ball in the second half despite putting in their usual hard working displays. The Reading midfield lacks vision at the moment, and almost every pass they attempted tonight either went to a Luton player or out of touch.
Luton could have found a winner in the second half, as the ball seemed to be permanently in the Reading half. Richard Dryden saw his header go narrowly over the bar, while Whitehead saved well at his near post after a shot by Stuart Douglas. The only notable chance Reading managed came from a shot by James Harper from a tight angle, which almost caught Abbey out in the Luton goal.
The reaction among the Reading fans at the end of the game was clearly one of disappointment, as we all hoped for a win against one of the league's bottom four. To look at the positives though, we avoided defeat against a side in good form, and we're still just three points off both Millwall and Rotherham. With seven games to go, there's still plenty of time to make up that difference, hopefully starting with a win at Cambridge on Saturday.
Post Match Opinions
Soapbox time. This was a dreadful performance by Reading who let two
precious points slip away with one of the most unimaginative performances
seen all season . Fact, we will be playing division two football next
year if Pardew persists with the long ball hoofing game. What in heavens
name has happened to our passing game that destroyed teams like Luton
earlier in the season. What chance has little Jamie Cureton got with the
ball flying high over his head every time,we all know heneeds the ball
to feet . Tonight apart from Butlers brilliant taken goal , we did not
create or have one worthy shot on goal. Pathetic for a so called championship
contending side . Our passing was truly dreadful with nearly all players
not able to pass the ball three yards yet alone trying to pass it thirty
yards all the time. Of course we're going to have bad games and yes we
didn't lose , but the game was there for the taking tonight and we never
even looked like wanting or winning it. Some players must get a mention
, Lardarse Caskey gave a performance that Billy Bunter would have been
ashamed of, Robinson ran up his arse so often if he hasn't got severe
piles then I'm the Pope . Butler worked his socks off as did Rickay Newman
when he come on, the centre backs were solid but just simply done their
job. We must see Robinson and Murty getting down the flanks supporting
and getting decent crosses in for our wealth of talented strikers who,
if they get the chances will put them away . The service to the strikers
A dire performance on a wet and miserable night. Reading were awful,
they no idea on how to breakdown a well orgainised Luton team whose sole
objective was not to get beat. Not a worthwhile chance in the second half,
as the ball spent too much time at 30 feet in the air. How shall we (Whitehead,
Murty, Whitbread, Vivash and Robinson) get the ball to Butler and Cureton,
why not try a long hoof up the field, and if that does not work why not
try again, or we'll run down the flanks with no support and either lose
possession or put in over hit crosses. Lack of imagination / creativity
call what you want, Reading were crap. Luton should have been beaten,
now to Cambridge. A win a must.
Oh dear! My comments on the Notts County game still apply. Please,
Alan and Martin, you have put together a team of footballers, and you
are asking them to play foot tennis. Football is played best by passing
the ball to your team-mates. Hoofing is for Sunday league.
I have to agree with Nicks comments on Readings performance. We have
been playing very average football and getting away with it. Last night
we had our come-uppance and should have really lost the game. This hoofing
has to stop - We all have to be realistic and say that 'champagne' football
against some of the grittier sides will not always win the day. But that
really was woeful. Andy King had said of his Swindon side that they looked
like the team third from top and we looked like the 'relegation battlers'
and no-one could argue. Kinnear could also have drawn a similar conclusion
about The Royals last night.
I must agree with Nicks comments, Luton were there for the taking
and willy nilly hoofing the ball up front, hoping our strikers will get
on the end of them is not going to win these types of games for us. The
opening 10 mins we were superb but after that we were woefully inept.
Harper had one of his worst games since arriving and was naive to head
thru his own net. We continually gave the ball away & had the opposition
been better we would have been well beaten. I would like to see us play
the ball to feet more often as our strikers have shown with good service
to feet they will score goals. On the few occasions we got the balls wide
our crossing was dreadful, & have we anyone who can take corners. Despite
this I don't think we can fault the players effort but one has to question
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