MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

Reading: -
Young (43 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 17,979

Pos Team P Pts GD
6 C Palace 46 73 +11
7 Wigan 46 71 +15
8 Sheff Utd 46 71 +9
9 READING 46 70 -2
Reading: Ashdown, Murty, Williams, Newman, Hughes, Savage (Morgan 56), Harper, Sidwell, Salako (Brooker 45), Goater (Owusu 56), Kitson. Subs not used: Hahnemann, Gordon.
Watford: Chamberlain, Ardley, Cox, Doyley, Mayo, Devlin, Hyde, Mahon (Vernazza 89), Cook (Young 19), Helguson (Fitzgerald 74), Dyer. Subs not used: Pidgeley, Bouazza.
Reading: -
Fitzgerald, Helguson.
Referee: D R Crick (Worcester Park)

It was always going to be a very tall order expecting Reading to scrape into the play-offs on the last day of the season, but in the end it felt like we hadn't even come close. Reading had to beat Watford and rely on Ipswich losing and Wigan and Sheffield United both failing to win. Wigan and Sheffield United produced results in Reading's favour but Ipswich managed a draw to secure their play-off position. A Reading win wouldn't have been enough as it turned out - but there was no danger of that happening with Reading ending the season with one of their poorest performances. To win at Watford would have meant winning three consecutive league games for the first time in the season and the fact that we couldn't do that underlines the fact that we were simply not good enough for the play-offs. Having said all that, this season, with Reading finishing ninth, is still our third best ever finish in the history of the club - quite some achievement considering the change over of managers.

WIth a play-off place still up for grabs the game attracted a decent away following that nearly filled the away end behind the goal. There was an excellent atmosphere in our end as the game got underway with random inflatables bouncing around the away end and the Watford fans very quiet. With so much still at stake and a decent away support you would have thought that Reading would have got more stuck in but they seemed strangely subdued throughout the whole ninety minutes. On a poor pitch that cut up very quickly the quality of football was not what you'd expect from two Division One sides and Reading looked the weaker side despite their lofty league position. We struggled to play the ball around and seemed to be opting for far too many long hoofs up the pitch. Bas Savage started again and did a good job of making himself the target of Ashdown's precise kicking, but despite his efforts still looked a bit clumsy on a pitch which every Reading player struggled to keep their feet. With players falling over and a series of mis-hit balls up field it really wasn't looking too promising.

Watford, with nothing to play for, were probably the more relaxed side and had the edge throughout the first half. Reading were losing out badly in midfield with James Harper having a poor game as he struggled to produce any creative play. Too often balls were played sideways and backwards until an eventual hoof up field led to a loss of possession. Watford seeemed to come off best from all of the 50:50 balls and were able to create the majority of the few chances in a scrappy opening forty-five minutes. Ashdown, maintaining his place in the starting eleven ahead of Hahnemann, showed why he's keeping his place with a couple of great stops to keep Reading in the game. He got down to save a low effort heading goalbound and did well to save a powerful effort heading into the roof of the net. With Watford starting to get on top he saved a strong header from close range by being in the right place at the right time when the ball was played in from a corner. Down the other end Murty had a good run forward before blasted the ball towards the corner flag with a hopeful shot. Adrian Williams was the other player to have a shot of note - his flying into orbit. Our strikers - Goater and Kitson were not really involved in the game at all.

Just before the break Watford took the lead when the ball was played in from the left in what was probably a cross rather than a shot. The Reading defence seemed to be missing and Ashdown was faced with too many possibilities to cover. A Watford player in the middle looked certain to make contact and slide the ball in at the near post, but somehow missed, and the ball hit the base of the far post and trickled over the line to put Watford 0-1 up. The goal was going to be enough to win the game and we could have probably guess that at the time.

The introduction of Paul Brooker after the break gave us some hope as Reading came out after the break looking a much improved side. Brooker was immediately involved down the left wing getting in an early shot that was blocked within a minute of the re-start. We also won a rare corner as we looked like clawing our way back into the game. Brooker looked capable of producing something and put in a couple of decent crosses - one of which saw Harper volley wide of the target. Brooker himself put in one of Reading's best shots of the game, again cutting in from the left, and firing in a shot that wasn't far wide of the opposite top corner of the net. Ten minutes into the half Owusu replaced the in-effective Goater and Morgan replaced Savage as Coppell tried deperate measure to find a goal from somewhere. Again there was a brief moment of brightness - but it fizzled out quickly.

With all three substitutions made and time running out we seemed to entirely run out of ideas and we never looked like scoring. Ashdown was again called on to make a couple of saves - holding a couple of on-target shots well as Watford looked more likely to increase their lead. Even with time running out we never looked deperate to get anything from the game and failed to push extra bodies forward. It was clear this was the end of our season. With the exception of Jamie Ashdown no-one really shone for Reading today - it was an awkward kind of game with a real end of season feel to it. At full time the players came over to take the applause from the travelling fans, which they were duly given. There was a feeling that no-one had really expected us to make it today. It was a poor performance today but at least we'd managed to keep the season alive until the final game. A ninth placed finish makes it not a bad season overall, despite having little to get excited about in the league. Coppell can now look forward to building up the squad ready for his full first season in charge.


Not a consistant season and fortunate in my view to finish in the top ten which only serves to demonstrate that this is a Division with no outstanding team.The two promoted teams put together a late run of results which secured their future in the top flight but I do not fancy either of them to avoid a quick return to our Division.Our priority next season must be to create an outstandig attack and secure really prolific strikers who are at home in this Division and have tenacity and experience to create problems for defences which in the main are well disciplined.Our goal difference this season said it all and it is the scring of goals and more than as early in a match which can seal a result and naturally take pressure off defences. On balance Steve Coppell should be given further time as he took over in somewhat of a "no win" situation and has had to experiment with little time to mold his desired squad of which he has had mixed success and this is a credit to him.If money can be made avaiable then he should look at out of favour strikers or players with no way of achieving first team places from the Premiership.James Harper is someone who will appreciate this policy and even may know of strikers at Arsenal?If we are to make a real challenge next season it must be with awhole new approach in front of goal coupled with a management strategy of desire to win fooltball matches from the heart on a week in and week out basis without a preoccupation to flatter the opposition and its managers. .Let us hope we will be playing West Ham again and believe in any event that each game is just as important! Have a good summer!
Terry, Isle of Wight.

Not the best way to finish a season by losing to a goal that wouldn't look out of place in a primary school playground. In a way I'm relived the season is over, all in all we've done well to finish in the top ten and now have to look forward to next season. Final league table never lies and ninth is as good as we are in a poor league . The season and team that promised so much at the start was hit with a bombshell when Pardew walked out on the club with the loyalty and stink of Nazi collaborator. There is no doubt at all, that those events rocked the club to its foundations, but we are not the little club we were before and we are now more than big and strong enough to bounce back . I've no doubt at all that Coppell will have changes in mind and will bring in some new players , we certainly need them . I'm not going to name them , but we all know which players are simply not good enough to get us at least into the play offs next season. Let's hope he also off loads the few who play on in the twilight of their careers taking naive clubs like us for a ride with their extortionate wages . I think we need quite a lot of change but that's for Mr Coppell to decide and why he's paid a huge salary most of us would only dream about. I have a couple of wishes, one, we have a home game for a change to start the new season (Leeds would be nice) and, even more, we get to play West Ham again next season in this league.... oh and England win Euro 2004... roll on August 7th... URZ!!
Nick Newbury

What a poor way to finish the season. We should have been playing some youngsters over the last 2 or 3 games, once wed lost any realistic chance of the playoffs at least Boucaud and Campbell should have been involved. Boucaud is good enough for the 2nd div at 19 so at 21 he could be very good, but I dont suppose well ever find out except if Posh get promoted. We really need a couple of decent wide player as we have had no outlets or creativity from wide all season.
Alan P

Shame we had to end the season with a whimper, but considering all that's gone on, the team's done well to come as close as they did. Good points from this season include the fact that the team have proved they can compete with other midfields without the need to play 4-5-yaaaawwwnnn...... all the time, the emergence of players like Ashdown, Kitson & Morgan, and the versatility shown by the squad to cope with the injuries suffered (especially the likes of Newman & Hughes filling in so well in a variety of unfamiliar roles when needed). Consistency has as ever been the main problem, as has scoring enough goals. Given an extended run in the starting 11 & with better & more consistent service I still think Goater can provide a decent number of goals, but his age counts against him doing so for more than another 2 years or so. If Kitson continues to develop as he has done, he too could be prolific but better service is still the key. And I'm sure there'll be the usual number of folk who'll continue to proclaim that Forster can win the league for us on his own blindfolded with his ankles tied together. At least the Summer gives the manager time to make some signings & start to really mould the team he wants. Time will tell. COME ON......
Caversham Royal

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