READING 1 WIGAN ATHLETIC 0 (Half Time: 0-0)
McIntyre (69 mins)
Wigan Athletic Scorers: -
|Date: 9 March
Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash, Whitbread, Murty, Parkinson, Caskey, Harper, Cureton (Rougier), Butler, McIntyre. Subs not used: Howie, Hunter, Igoe, Newman.
Wigan Athletic: Carroll, Balmer, Bradshaw, (McGibbon), De Zeeuw, Brannan, McMillan, Sheridan, Bidstrup, Liddell, Ashcroft, Roberts, McCulloch, Green. Subs not used: Stillie, Nicholls.
Bookings: Parkinson (Reading); McCulloch, Roberts, Sheridan (Wigan).
The Reading promotion charge continues, as a tenth game unbeaten moves the Royals back up to third in the league and sees another promotion rival leave the Madejski Stadium empty handed. The Sky cameras were there to see it, and its fair to say the game was disappointing from their point of view. However that didnt bother the twelve thousand Reading fans who turned out, and saw a second half Jimmy McIntyre goal earn the Royals another three points.
Reading probably deserved the win, on the strength of their second half performance. The first 45 minutes was dominated by Wigan who tried to take advantage of Readings inability to string two passes together. However the Royals came out for the second half looking a different side, mainly thanks to a brave half-time substitution by Alan Pardew. The service to Jamie Cureton had been awful, so Pardew replaced him with Anthony Rougier, whose strength and pace helped turn the game around.
In Rougier and James Harper we now have two of the most exciting players in the division, and they were both superb in the second half. Harper had returned to the side at the expense of Ricky Newman, having missed the draw at Wycombe through illness. Other than that, it was the same side that had rescued a point at Adams Park, with Igoe remaining on the bench and Darren Caskey keeping his place on the right of midfield.
Its hard to tell what was wrong with the team in the first half, but they managed to go the whole 45 minutes without creating a decent chance. The only attempts on goal came from a weak long range effort by James Harper, and a Caskey free-kick that the Wigan keeper had no problems saving. A well worked corner close to half-time almost created an opening, as Jim McIntyre was found unmarked at the far post. He opted to head back across goal though, and nobody was able to get the final touch that was needed to score.
Wigan on the other hand, had numerous attempts on goal as they desperately tried to end their goal drought. They hadnt scored from open play in five matches, and their caretaker manager had obviously told them to shoot on sight in an attempt to improve things. However, often they took this too far and the Latics were shooting from all over the place instead of looking to pass their way through the Reading defence. The closest they came to scoring was early in the game, when a handball was missed by the referee and the ball broke to Roberts, who shot wide from close range. Later in the half Sheridan shot narrowly over, but this was the closest any of their long range efforts came to the goal.
Fortunately the second half was much improved from a Reading point of view, and the Royals fans finally began to find their voice. Anthony Rougier made an obvious difference to the side, and just three minutes into the half he made a great run down the left. His superb cross found the head of Martin Butler, but the header was put wide. Shortly afterwards Rougier was put through on goal himself by a superb Caskey pass, but he could only shoot tamely at the keeper.
Wigan then had a spell were it looked like they might snatch the opener, which included a goal disallowed for offside, and a strong penalty appeal turned down by the referee. The Reading defence coped with the threat admirably though, as Whitbread and Viveash combined superbly in the heart of defence once again.
Reading finally broke the deadlock on seventy minutes, as James Harper found some space on the right after turning his marker well. His cross was low and quick across the face of the goal, and Jim McIntyre was there at the far post to sidefoot in from a narrow angle. The goal was reward for Pardews tactical change, which had switched the game into Readings favour. In the second half Reading looked like a side that could challenge for the title, and was a welcome sight after the very poor first period.
The Royals could have built on the lead, as Harper forced a great save out of the keeper after he had been put through by Butler. Jim McIntyre should have got his second right at the end, after being given a clear run at goal with all the Wigan players in the Reading half looking for an equaliser. However, McIntyre ran out of legs and tried to set up Butler instead, but the chance was wasted.
Wigan failed to create much in the second half, and promotion is going to be a struggle for them unless they find a scoring touch somewhere. Although Reading arent scoring freely at the moment either, were still winning plenty of games and the pressure is now really on Millwall and Rotherham. Neither of them can afford slip-ups, with Reading in such great form. The players now get some time to relax a bit before the Wrexham game next Saturday, and its all they deserve after winning seven points inside a week.
Report by Neil Cole.
Post Match Opinions
This was the first game I had been able to make for some time and
from low down in a packed East stand I was very impressed by the Royals'
determination not to fold in the face of some very competent play from
tough and well-organised opponents. With better finishing, Wigan could
have been 3 up at the break, but for the most part the chances were long
range and to me suggested the Royals were shutting down the openings despite
being driven back much of the time. Probably the most notable feature
of the first 45 was Roy Carroll's kicking from the Wigan goal - he always
seemed to get 10 extra yards, putting the Reading defence under pressure
several times, but eventually I realised Wigan had few other attacking
options despite their territorial advantage and neat passing.
Dreadful in the first half, magnificent in the second! The first 45
minutes saw Reading fail to string any passes together. The midfield played
too deep and offered no support to the front men. Without service, Butler
and Cureton just could not get into the game. We were lucky that Wigan
could not score. The back four did well but we could have had no complaints
had we gone in at half time at least a goal down. Wigan dominated by playing
wide and passing to each other, all we did was to hoof it up in the air.
Credit to the manager. He took off his leading scorer to bring on someone
who was stronger and offered a different option. Rougier responded well
and had a superb half. It was like watching a different team in the second
half. Better passing and a gradual domination which lead to the goal.
A bit of class from Harper turning the defender one way then another,
a good cross into the box, and there was Jimmy Mac, who had made up a
lot of ground, to squeeze the ball home. After that it was comfortable,
and although Wigan had a goal disallowed for offside, they did not look
a threat. So the run continues. It needs to keep on continuing. We want
an automatic spot. We were a long way from that a few weeks ago. We have
to keep winning to keep the pressure on the top two, who still have to
play each other!
A brilliant result over a very strong Wigan side. I was absolutely
delighted that we came in at 0-0 at half-time. Wigan seemed to have 90%
of the possession. Every time we got the ball we gave it straight back
to them. That said they didnít create too many clear chances but we could
have been down at this point. The second half was like watching a different
game with the Rs well on top and it could have been two or three by the
end. Why couldnít we have changed our tactics a bit earlier, rather than
wait until half-time?
As an RFC exiled supporter in Scotland, TV apperances are my only
opportunity to wartch the R's. What a dire 1st half...thankfully Wigan
shots were truly awful. Much better 2nd half and major credit has to go
to Pardew, who so often seems to have brought about a 2nd half improvement,
and Rougier who changed the game. Harper looks a good signing and should
be able to stand out in this league...and next year in Division 1 he will
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