(Half Time: 1-2)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (3 mins), Butler (9 mins)
Bournemouth Scorers: Defoe (2 mins)
Date: 10 April 2001
Attendance: 6,603

Reading: Whitehead, Newman, Viveash, Whitbread, Robinson, Igoe (Caskey), Jones, Parkinson, McIntyre (Gurney), Butler, Cureton (Forster). Subs not used:  Rougier, Howie. 

Bournemouth: Stewart, Broadhurst, Howe, Fletcher C, Jorgensen (Feeney), Hughes, Tindall (Eribenne), Defoe, Hayter, Elliott, Fletcher S
Subs not used: Smith, Purches, Bernard.

Bookings: C Fletcher (Bournemouth); Parkinson, Viveash, Butler (Reading).
W Jordan

Report by Neil Cole:
Another superb defensive display, combined with lots of good luck, gave Reading the win they needed to overtake Rotherham at last and move into second place.  Bournemouth had a penalty saved by the once-again brilliant Phil Whitehead, and hit the woodwork three times as they tried to close the gap between them and the play-offs.  Reading held out this time though, and our early goals from Butler and Cureton were enough to win three valuable points.  The win makes the draws at Luton and Cambridge more acceptable, as nobody can really complain at taking five points from three successive away matches

All the goal action came in an incredible first ten minutes, which saw Bournemouth take the lead but then lose it within a matter of seconds.  It was the Cherries' on-loan star Jermaine Defoe who gave them the lead on three minutes, after Sammy Igoe made an awful mistake.  Igoe, who had retained his place at right midfield after impressing at Cambridge, sloppily gave the ball away to Defoe who had a simple finish. 

Given our awful record in games where we have gone behind this season, the early goal could easily have dented the players' confidence.  Fortunately though, Reading found an equaliser almost directly from the re-start, as Jamie Cureton scored his 24th of the season.  The ball was worked out to Jim McIntyre on the left straight from the kick-off, who swung in a great cross that was perfect for Cureton.  The Royals' top scorer doesn't miss when he gets service like that, and Cureton made no mistake in drawing the scores level.

It got even better than that for Reading, who took the lead just five minutes later.  Cureton and Butler are arguably the league's best strike partnership, and they combined once again to make it 2-1 to the Royals.  This time it was Cureton who put in the cross, and Butler was in the middle to score with a diving header.  Our two strikers are now just four goals away from making it fifty for the season together, and with both of them in form they have a great chance of doing it.

After seeing three goals in nine minutes, the action packed opening to the game continued as Bournemouth were given a penalty five minutes after Butler's goal.  Ricky Newman can't have too many complaints about the handball decision given against him, as even from the away end it looked like a penalty.  Richard Hughes took the spot-kick, but he saw it brilliantly saved by Phil Whitehead in the Reading goal.  It got even worse for Hughes, as he skied the rebound after Defoe had knocked it back to him.  Hughes' double miss was reminiscent of the play-off final when Archie had his penalty saved and then missed an easy rebound, but this time it was the Royals who benefited.

It's hard to believe there were no more goals in the game, after such an end-to-end opening to the match.  Alan Pardew continued with his tactics of all-out defence as soon as we were in the lead, and it was virtually all Bournemouth for the rest of the game.  These tactics may be a good idea if it is towards the end of the match, but this time the players had to hold out for seventy minutes, and they only just managed it.  Reading didn't have a notable shot on goal after Butler's goal, giving an indication of how one-sided the rest of the game was.

It's easy to say Reading were lucky to hold on for the win, but a lot of credit has to go to the back four and the keeper.  Phil Whitehead was immense once again, producing a display every bit as good as his match-winning performance at Swindon.  He made two fantastic stops in the second half, pushing one shot on to the post, and tipping another effort over the bar.  If it hadn't been for Whitehead's display, man of the match would have gone to Adrian Whitbread, who impresses more with every game.  The biggest worry is that he still isn't a technically a Reading player, so his loan move must be made permanent as soon as possible.  Whatever division we are in next year, we're going to need Whitbread's presence in the back four.

Other positives to come from the game were the performances of Keith Jones and Parky in midfield, who are now producing the kind of determined and powerful football that every team needs at this time of the season.  James Harper is undoubtedly a great talent, but it's going to be hard for him to win his place back in the team when he recovers.  It may be worth Pardew saving him for next season, as it will be a gamble putting the relatively untried Harper back in the side at such a crucial stage of the season.

The win finally sees us move above Rotherham, and back into the top two for the first time since November.  A win at home to Bury on Saturday will keep the pressure on the Millers, who are looking increasingly nervy as the title run-in progresses.  What is certain is that this will be the only championship race in the country that goes to the last day, and will be the most exciting end to a Reading season in a very long time.

Post Match Opinions

I'm not sure I can last this season out much longer. Tonight just the first fifteen minutes with three goals and a penalty save had me going. The next seventy five minutes with Defoe and his buddies turning our defence inside out just about finished me. Choose your comfort from the following: it's important to grind out results like these, our luck just evened out over the season, it's a great result against the in form side, we've now gone 11 away games without loss. In truth, we were that close to being beaten I do not know how we did it. Looks like the nerves of the players and the fans are completely in harmony - stretched to near breaking point.
-- David

There is a God!
Any of the couple of thousand tremendous Royals fans who witnessed this game tonight saw what nearly amounted to a miracle! A bloody miracle we didn't lose to a very tasty Bournemouth side, who not only missed a penalty but must have hit the woodwork so many times there's probably no paint left on the posts.
Not only that, when they did hit the post, the ball tantalisingly rolled along the line much to the nervous aghast from the Royals fans.
This was a massive win for Reading tonight.
It's yet another miracle, following some very dire performances of late, that puts us in an automatic promotion place for the first time since November. Although a brilliant win, yet again Reading produced a display that has us looking more like a relegation side not a promotion one. This was different from Luton though, because here we were playing a very good side in good form and had to defend for our lives. Jones , Parky , Butler, Newman , Whitbread and Viveash all produced heroic displays . Unfortunately Matty Robinson was not only the weakest link but Anne Robinson could have defended better than he did! Looks like his confidence is shot away and a rest may prove a blessing. Sammy "Lofty" Igoe done real well as did poor ol Jamie Cureton who must wonder what he has to do to play the full ninety minutes . Whitehead of course must finally get a mention for another tremendous display capped by a fine penalty save. As the watch seemed to be going backwards as the second half wore on, even the complete tosser of yet another ref from the planet Zog, who wouldn't have looked out of place on Prospect Park, could fail to deny us the priceless three points.
Roll on Saturday, though one final thought, with this Bournemouth side to come to us for our last game of the season we may want to have things wrapped up by Colchester. It's once again in our hands.
Come on you mighty lucky RRRZZZZ!

-- Nick Newbury

Thank God Phil Whitehead wasn't injured as was reported before the match. Not that Scott Howie is a bad keeper, but even the Premiership's finest would have struggled to match Phil's form. What still worries me is why we are having to rely on his heroics to stay in matches where we should at least be on a par with the opposition. Bournmouth won every loose ball and ran us ragged for 75% of the match. I wonder what would have happened if Cureton had not replied immediately to Igoe's ridiculous early error. Defending deep, long hopeful balls, holding on for 75 minutes of the match. Not the sign of a confident promotion chaser, is it? Still, another win I suppose. I just hope the remaining performances don't frighten me as much as this one did. God knows what blood pressure readings you would have got in the away end last night!
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Being a Royal in exile in Bournemouth I have been looking forward to this clash all season. Following 2 previous postponements I was conviced this game was never going to happen. Well, the game was certainly well worth the wait and I must say it was one the most exciting games I have had the plesure of watching. After the first 9 minutes I liturally couldn't believe my eyes ! Goals flying in all over the place ! Yes, Bournemouth were unlucky to lose, but at the end the day its down to goals and attitude and on the day Reading got it right. No words can describe Phil Whitehead's performance. He was simply sensational ! Jones and Igoe also had particularly good games too. I am sure during the course of the season the Royals had had their own fair share of bad luck, so its nice to see some luck come our way for a change. With the end of season awards coming up it will be interesting to see who gets player of the season in such a mermorable season. Phil Whitehead gets my vote!
-- Simon, Bournemouth

This wasn't a game for anyone wearing a pacemaker. I got there late and missed the first 2 goals. Just as I walked in Butler nodded one in the top corner. Then I watched us defend for the rest of the game. Those goalposts come in useful to keep the opposition out, four times I think. The home support did their best to indimidate us but it was more like a creche in the home section, I felt more intimidated in mothercare. Some do or die performances tonight from the back four, not helped by a bad referee who gave a dreadful penalty against us. However justice was done when Whitehead saved it. Not the most convincing win ever but 3 more valuable points.
-- Russ, Essex Royal.

Do you remember in the glorious 94/95 season when big John used to walk around the pitch giving the thumbs up before each game towards the end of the season? Well he nearly did it again last night, but he kept his distance from us all, choosing to stay by the players tunnel whilst waving etc. His charms worked, because we were lucky to win this one.
Perhaps next game he might be brave enough to do a lap of honour, waving madly and grinning before the game - go on JM, you know you want to!
Great result, poor performance for Reading. 3 things are needed for any successful team: an excellent keeper, a couple of prolific strikers and a bit of luck along the way. Reading had all 3 in this game, which may be the most significant in the final few games. AFCB were the better footballing team and how they failed to win this was one of those great footballing mysteries.
This game had the makings of a classic with 3 early goals, penalty saves, dodgy refereeing, dodgy pass-backs, woodwork being hit on many occasions and opposition players getting it in nuts! Unfortunately the second half was crap and Reading resorted to hoofing tactics. How many times did RFC put 5 consecutive passes together in the second half? How many times did they lose possession? Answers on a postcard. Even the notorius yellow-shirted cheerleader fan gave up after half an hour and was no-where to be seen trying to get us to "sing our hearts out for the lads". After the game I wandered back into the ground near the tunnel while the car park traffic cleared. Parky was out there with Mad Dog. "Well played Parky" I nervously muttered, "he was crap!" replied Mad Dog. Harsh, but true words.
Pards gave his interview to Meridian while I watched 10 yds away. Basically he was delighted with the result and he wanted a fantastic atmosphere for Saturdays game because "the players deserve it". If Reading can avoid launching it all the time and play some pretty footy at ground level, he may get his wish. Up the Rs!!

--Telford Royal

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