READING 2 WREXHAM 0 (Half Time: 0-0)
Forster (69 mins), Henderson (84 mins)
Wrexham Scorers: -
6 November 2001
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Viveash, Shorey, Hughes, Harper, Watson (N.Smith 71), Salako, Butler (Forster 61), Cureton (Henderson 79). Subs not used: Ashdown, Igoe.
Walsh, Whitley, Holmes, Hill, Carey, Edwards (Gibson 72), Sharp (Sam 71),
Chalk, Barrett, Faulconbridge, Trundle. Subs not used: Whitfield,
This was the much needed home victory we'd all been hoping for - the first since we beat Wycombe Wanderers way back in September at the Madejski Stadium. Since then Reading have struggled, but recovered in recent weeks to put together a run of four wins from five league fixtures, including three straight away wins, that lifts us to fourth in the table. The recent results paint a rosy picture that show us just a few places from the automatic promotion places. The recent results make things look great, and tonight's victory is very reassuring on paper. On the pitch however it really wasn't anything special as Reading struggled to really entertain the below average number of home fans. In the end it was a comfortable enough victory but it needed the introduction of two forward playing substitutes to earn us the three points when it could easily have slipped away.
It's hard to grumble too much when the victory is comfortable at the end of the game and we go fourth, but there remains plenty to grumble about. Wrexham were a very poor side and never really threatened to win the match - but they could have escaped with a 0-0 draw if Reading hadn't started to look more dangerous after the unfortunate Martin Butler was substituted with less than half an hour to play. Butler left the pitch on a stretcher with a leg injury - it's hard to know how serious it was. Everyone will hope it's nothing too bad and Butler is straight back into action. On the other hand Butler was very very poor tonight and never looked capable of finding the net - although the lack of service again didn't help him. Saturday's goal scored in injury time could have restored a bit of confidence - but it sadly didn't. Butler is a shadow of his former self and his only real contribution was a poor effort in the first half which bobbled along the ground and straight to the keeper. It was a back pass rather than a shot.
When Forster replaced Butler inside the last half hour we instantly looked more dangerous. Forster responded just eight minutes after coming on the pitch with a goal from the right, cutting inside the area to shoot low across goal to put Reading 1-0 up, break the deadlock, and send us on our way. Cureton was replaced ten minutes later with Henderson, and again we looked a bit more dangerous still. Henderson could have scored two in the fifteen minutes or so he was on the pitch. Firstly he was put through by Neil Smith who played a great ball through from the centre of the pitch. Henderson ran on to it well and took it into the box with the keeper racing out, but he couldn't decide what to do and ran straight into the keeper rather than go round him and stick the ball home. Thankfully Henderson made up for it a few minutes later to seal the points. With six minutes left on the clock Murty set up the move that found Henderson on the right. Henderson shot low across goal and the ball was in the back of the net off the base of the far post. 2-0 to Reading and the points were sewn up.
The last half an hour probably made it worth paying the money to see the game, but before that there wasn't much to shout about. The contributions of Murty and Salako stood out though as the two players competed for man of the match in an otherwise dull first half performance. Murty was solid once again and showed the kind of first touch that has deserted Butler. He looked comfortable, able to win every loose ball and ones where Wrexham were possession. On top of that he put in some good balls throughout the ninety minutes. On-loan Salako looked like a class player every time he got the ball. He had one of Reading's best chances of the first half after working well to get in a shot by confusing the Wrexham defence with his control. The shot was low but near the keeper who collected after failing to hold the first time. Salako also set up the other decent chance of the half breaking into the area from the right wing, as he continued to switch wings, to cross to Cureton. Cureton's shot was blocked and Hughes nearly stuck home the rebound.
Wrexham were happy to hoof the ball wherever they were stood but took advantage after Reading's reasonable start to the game faded out towards the end of the first half. Wrexham had a couple of efforts on target needing a couple of saves and won a few corners as they threatened to take the lead before the break. Whitehead had it well under control however and the danger was never that intense. At the start of the second half Hughes got in two crosses from the right that gave us our two best chances of the game so far. The first went straight across goal and needed a defender's head in the way to stop it finding the target. Again Reading failed to maintain the danger though with only Salako looking dangerous with another shot that was well saved, this time after cutting into the area from the left.
Reading's other loanee Kevin Watson should be pleased with another solid performance
for the Royals. It seemed to be tactics to hang onto the 1-0 win when he was
replaced with Neil Smith shortly after we'd gone a goal up. Smith did well after
coming off the bench but the real heroes of the night were to be Forster and
Henderson who scored the goals that turned a 0-0 draw into a 2-0 victory. After
this showing it'll be interesting what front two start against Bristol City
on Saturday as Reading look to extend their good run of results. This was a
vital victory tonight and a reasonable performance - but we should be capable
of a whole lot more than this.
Following report by John Wells:
A typically determined challenge by Martin Butler proved to be the turning point in this match. Sadly Butler sustained a serious injury and had to be carried off. The enforced change produced the crucial goal. Nicky Forster came on and looked very sharp. Within ten minutes of his arrival he surged past the Wrexham defence and drove the ball with sufficient power to beat the keeper to record his 100th league goal. It is a pity the substitution had not been made earlier. Reading might have opened up the Wrexham defence sooner and he might not have been injured. Butler had looked out of touch again today failing to control a succession of good passes played in to his feet. For a forward his touch was awful. I hope he recovers soon and is able to recapture his form of last season.
I was puzzled by the other two substitutions. Watson was playing well and I suspect that he came off with the weekend fixture in mind. He may be needed for the full ninety minutes on Saturday. I was disappointed when Cureton was taken off, and when his replacement Henderson was set up by Smith with only the keeper to beat and made a complete mess of the chance, I was feeling quite agitated. I was still questioning the wisdom of the change when Henderson, in complete contrast, latched onto a Murty pass and steered the ball skilfully inside the far post to seal the victory.
The performance was not brilliant but I thought the important difference between this and other recent home performances against less talented sides was the patience shown by the team and the management. The temptation to change tactics must have been great but Reading continued to attempt to play neat passing football and took their chances when they came. The team did not start to panic and employ the desperate long balls they have resorted to in some games this season. From midway in the first half however, it looked as if an injection of pace up front was required to unsettle the Wrexham defence. We had to wait for Forster to provide that although Hughes came to life in the second half and had obviously been encouraged to take on his man and get behind the defence. Solako again looked impressive. He produced good crosses. He made intelligent runs was always looking to provide a passing option for the player on the ball. He also produced two good strikes on goal which the keeper had to work hard to keep out.
The result put us in fourth place and sets up this Saturday's game against
Bristol City perfectly. It will be a good test for the new look set up. Last
season City outplayed us twice. I don't think they will find it quite so easy
this time. A win will put us in striking distance of the automatic promotion
Post Match Opinions
The fact we have now reached the dizzy heights of fourth in the league
must only testify how crap the league this season actually is. Great to
get the three points but why can't I get excited, buggered if I can work
So, is it the job of the team to get the crowd going or should the
crowd lift the team? There was a very muted atmosphere at home last night.
OK so our home form has not been good, but we have had some tremendous
results away and it is not at all constructive to start with the negative
comments that came from some sections last night. The facts show that
we are fourth, despite the fact that Butler and Cureton have been at half
pace so far.
It's a move in the right direction... a home win! The first 10 minutes
showed we can play attractive passing football, however attempts on goal
need to come from these moves - and they weren't really forthcoming. Confidence
seemed to ebb slightly and a poor Wrexham side were buoyed by this and
started pushing the ball round themselves, and had a few attempts on goal
Apart from the three points not a great game. I got talking with
some Wrexham fans after the game. Quite a surreal experience. They didn't
seem all that bothered they lost. They don't expect do do well this year.
I think just staying up is their goal. One said to me "Jesus, what happened
to Reading this year? Where's your midfield gone?" They were looking forward
to seeing attractive, attacking football. (quite possibly a thrashing
too!) In the end, they saw Reading put on two players who got a goal each,
and that was pretty much it.
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