(Half Time: 1-1)
Reading Scorers: Butler (10 mins).
Wigan Scorers: Bradshaw (11 mins).
Date: 6 October 2000
Attendance: 7,021

Reading: Whitehead, Gurney, Viveash, Williams, Newman, Parkinson, Caskey, Jones (Smith), Butler, McIntyre (Cureton), Hodges.
Subs not used: Robinson, Howie.

Wigan: Stillie, Green, Griffiths, De Zeeuw, Bradshaw, Sharp, Nicholls (Ashcroft), McLaughlin, Kilford, Roberts, Martinez.
Subs not used: Redfearn, Padula, McLoughlin, Mitchell.

Bookings: Newman (Reading); De Zeeuw, Roberts (Wigan)

If any Reading fan had been offered a 1-1 draw away to fourth place Wigan before the game, I’m sure they would have accepted it. This was a good result against one of the stronger teams in the division, who before this game had a 100% home record. However, coming away from the game we couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that we hadn’t taken all three points. It shows how quickly we have all become accustomed to success. We now go into every game expecting to win, because we have all seen what the current Reading team is capable of. Reading were better than Wigan tonight, but missed out on taking what would have been a massive victory for Alan Pardew’s team.

Everyone in the ground was surprised by Alan Pardew’s team selection, as top scorer Jamie Cureton was left on the bench. This was so Keith Jones could make his first start of the season, in an attempt by Pardew to stop the strong Wigan midfield from dominating the game. This tactic had worked in the second half at Rotherham, as the introduction of Jones effectively ended that contest. However, at Rotherham we were already winning, and tonight was clearly going to be a very different match against one of the favourites for the Division 2 championship.

This tactical switch meant Jimmy McIntyre was playing in a role further forward than he has been in recent weeks, partnering Martin Butler up front. Although McIntyre has been playing exceptionally well, I couldn’t help but feel this was a mistake by Pardew. While McIntyre holds the ball up brilliantly and does a good job up front with Butler, he never looks threatening when we are going forward. Dropping Cureton and putting McIntyre up front meant we had lost the cutting edge that has been so lethal in our last few games. Whereas the Cureton and Butler partnership look like scoring a hatful in every game, dropping Cureton took away this threat and clearly encouraged Wigan.

While this team selection by Pardew can be seen as slightly dubious, one excellent decision was the introduction of Keith Jones. He did a good job of limiting the threat held by the Wigan midfield, winning balls all night and showing some excellent vision going forward. This was apparent after just eleven minutes, when a clever through ball gave Martin Butler the opportunity to put the Royals in front. Butler is in the best form we have seen since signing him from Cambridge, and he didn’t hesitate in scoring his fifth goal in three games for Reading. It was another great start, but sadly the celebrations did not last long among the Reading fans.

Within a minute of Butler scoring, the ball went up the other end and Bradshaw was given a bit of space just outside the Reading box. He decided to try his luck with a long range effort, and we were all as shocked as Phil Whitehead to see it curl beautifully into the far corner. The scores were level again, and any momentum Reading has gained with the early goal had been lost.

Despite the two early goals, it never looked like a game that would go on to be a high scoring affair. It was a battle of two strong and determined midfields, which was reflected in the number of free-kicks the referee gave. The game was never allowed to flow, as the ref blew up time and time again for every strong challenge.

Where it has been the Reading attack that has taken the headlines so far this season, today it was apparent we have one of the best midfields in the division as well. Parky and Jones were superb in the middle, and Caskey had one of his better games. It will be interesting to see how Pardew selects his midfield in the coming weeks. For games like Wigan, it was definitely a good move to play Parky and Jones in the same side. However, against weaker teams it may be wise to leave one of these two out, and include one of our more attacking options. However, with Cureton suspended for the visit of Wycombe next week, it is likely we will see the same starting eleven.

Pardew decided to change things round early in the second half, with Jamie Cureton coming on for Jim McIntyre. The difference in the team was apparent immediately, as the mere presence of Cureton seems to give the players more confidence and worry the opposition. Although he was only on the pitch for a short time, Cureton looked very lively and was involved in nearly everything for the last half hour. One exceptional piece of skill saw him beat his defender down the right. He pulled it back for Butler, and everyone expected him to score from six yards out. Yet the ball took a cruel bobble as he hit it, and Butler sent it flying over the bar.

Just minutes after that, a wonderful through ball from Darren Caskey put Cureton away. The pace of Cureton gave him the edge over his marker, and he was left with only the keeper to beat. Yet Wigan’s second choice keeper was quick to come out, and blocked the shot with his legs to stop a certain goal.

The game petered out in the last ten minutes, with Wigan having most of the possession but unable to find a way through. More sound defending by Reading secured a valuable away point, and certainly gave Wigan something to think about. Their 100% home record was gone, but I’m sure most Athletic fans realised they could easily have seen their team beaten tonight.

Another encouraging performance from the Royals. Unfortunately, wins for Walsall, Bury and Wycombe saw us slip to fourth, and the gap between us and the top open up to six points. However, I am still convinced we are the best side in this league, and tonight confirmed it’s only a matter of time before that gap is closed.

Report by Neil Cole.

Post Match Opinions

Having seen 2 games in 24 hours I can tell you that the entertainment at the JJB stadium was far better than that pile of shite I saw at Wembley yesterday. Strange that Cureton was on the bench with Butler really the only striker with Macker just behind him. Still who cares when Butler scored after 10 minutes - sticking it between the keepers legs. Unfortunately, we were still celebrating when they scored from about a millions yards out. Last 20 minutes of the first half they were just getting the better of us, but that all changed in the second half when Cureton came on and the impact was almost instant. They couldn't cope with is pace and he had a one on one with the keeper, after Caskey put through a quite brilliant pass, but blasted straight at the keeper. It was now them that were wasting time and settling for a point, and we had several chances to score, Butler even balloned one over the bar from 8 yards. 1-1 and I was a bit disappointed but all that was forgotten when we spent a night out in Wigan looking for the infamous Wigan Slappers. Had 3 hours kip then the first train back to London to watch the likes of Beckham & Adams. Give me Cureton & Caskey anyday.
-- Russ, Essex Royal

I would just like to mention my delight at the amount of Reading supporters who made the 200+ mile journey to Wigan. Considering anyone who should be working that day had to take at least a half day off I thought the commitment of supporters was excellent, and we certainly made ourselves heard in the ground, not that the Wigan faithfull were ever going to be heard above us anyway as they only managed a couple of halfhearted songs all night! Well done to the team as well who battled hard all night and ran the game for the last half hour. Although disappointed not to win, I think anyone of us would have taken the point before the game.
Bring on the Wanderers!

-- Nick, Burnham

Before tonight, Wigan had a 100% record at home and we weren't the finshed article away from home. Although it's disappointing to lose a lead, we can take a lot out of the game, and it seemed we controlled it in many parts. Well done to those who went, lets make Bristol City a big outing!
-- Jon

Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email opinion@royals.cx
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!

HNA? Home Page
Copyright Hob Nob Anyone? © 1994-2000