MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

Reading: None
Lee 61, Ravanelli 63, Christie 72.
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 33,016

DIVISION ONE   10 Aug 02
Pos Team P Pts GD
21 Watford 1 0 -2
22 READING 1 0 -3
23 Grimsby 1 0 -4
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Watson (Parkinson 86), Igoe (Cureton 59), Harper, Hughes, Salako, Butler (Henderson 81). Subs not used: Ashdown, Rougier.
Poom, Barton, Riggott, Higginbotham, Boertien (Jackson 74), Bolder, Lee, Murray, Morris (Twigg 80), Ravanelli, Christie (Evatt 85). Subs not used: Grant, Strupar.
Reading: Butler, Henderson, Mackie. Derby: Barton, Boertien, Lee, Ravanelli.
Referee: G Laws (Whitley Bay)

Reading's much anticipated return to Division One was a disappointment, but not a massive disappointment. It wasn't an unexpected result by any stretch of the imagination - few Reading fans would have realistically expected the Royals to take anything from a trip to Derby County. Derby have mostly retained the strong side that took part in last season's Premiership campaign. Reading have retained the same squad that hasn't won a league fixture since March this year - and that was in Division Two of course. We couldn't expect to break the run at Pride Park, and when we didn't there were still plenty of positives to be taken from the game.

Picture by Gary Paice - Click for full screen versionReading took a huge away following up to Derby and the stadium was filled to near capacity with the biggest crowd to watch the Royals since the 2000/2001 play-off final. The stage was magnificent in the summer sun - it was impossible to forget we were back in Division One. It could have easily been a Premiership game until we were reminded that Reading remain so inexperienced even at Division One level. It was a crash down to earth and a reminder how strong this new Division will be for the Royals, but we worked hard and did well to hold the home side to 0-0 at half time. There was also plenty to be said for our tactics and performance playing away against one of the Division's favourites, that shows Pardew will be the man to ensure we remain in Division One come the end of the season.

Pardew's approach to the game was to start with the much talked about 4-5-1 formation, with Martin Butler playing as the loan striker. We didn't alter from this formation or starting eleven for the opening sixty minutes of the game - and during that period we kept the score at 0-0. We would have all settled for a goalless draw at the final whistle. We didn't really look like creating much up front and Derby found the single threat of Butler all to easy to deal with, however, they struggled to create many chances for a long period against a Reading side determined to defend and keep hold of the ball. There was no faulting Reading for effort as we chased everything down and put in plenty of tackles. Reading's approach to the game must have frustrated the home side who were restricted to virtually no shots on target during the first 45 minutes play.

Derby were restricted to a couple of dangerous crosses into the Reading box that were cleared each time, and they seemed to find no way through the middle against a packed Reading midfield and defence. Whitehead had to make no real saves of note during the first half. Reading on the other hand didn't really look like finding the net themselves but had their best spell midway through the half when Hughes connected with a cross to send the ball just over the bar and into the Reading fans packed behind the goal. Watson also got a shot in on target which posed no real danger - it was to be Reading's only effort on target of the half. A couple of rather dodgy penalty appeals, one for each side, were both quite rightly ignored, and it was 0-0 at the break.

After the break it was a different story as Derby stepped up the pace of the game straight away and immediately looked a class above the Royals. They were knocking the ball around with such ease all around the pitch and on the floor that Reading struggled to contain the attacks in the way they had in the first half. Murty and Shorey had impressed in the first half, and although their positioning remained strong they were being run ragged as the home side surged forward at speed. Right after the break Derby could twice have been ahead. First Whitehead made a great reaction have from a close range effort and that was quickly followed up by a Derby corner from the left which was connected with and set towards goal, on target, only to find Watson on the post to clear off the line.

From this moment onwards it was always going to be case of Reading desperately trying to hang on for a draw - but there was far too much of the game remaining. The game changed dramatically on the hour when Jamie Cureton was bought on and Igoe left the field. From that moment onwards it was just a question of how many Derby would win by. In the end we perhaps relived to have only lost by the three goals. The substitution seemed to upset the 5-4-1 formation that had been holding Derby, with Hughes pushed wide and with two strikers we immediately lost the midfield battle and Derby found it even easier to storm down the wings with little resistance. Two Derby goals were followed within two minutes of each other putting the game past the Royals. Both were similar - the first was a cross met from the Derby right in the middle by Lee who had far too much time to pick his spot. The second made a joke of the Reading defence as Christie ran straight past the Reading defence with ease, cut in and looked to be going all the way without a tackle. Eventually he prodded it along to Ravanelli who stuck it home from well inside the box to make it 0-2.

There was little for Reading to complain about but special attention should be paid to Ravanelli who did himself no favours at all. Quite why a player of such obvious skill needs to resort to all that rolling around on the ground in faked agony is beyond me. He made himself look like a complete idiot on more than one occasion and in the end was lucky to stay on the pitch. After picking up a yellow card he was guilty of a dreadful deliberate hand ball in the Reading area as he tried to push the ball on with his hand. The referee totally bottled it when he should have produced the second yellow. Down the other end Butler was given no favours from the referee and every Reading attack ended with Butler conceding a foul or being caught off-side. After the introduction of Cureton it was easy to forget we had any strikers out there at all when we just couldn't work the ball forward at all with Derby having all the play.

The game was wrapped up for Derby with 18 minutes still to play when another fast passing movement from the Derby left saw the Reading defence offer no real resistance. A whole series of quick Derby passes saw the ball worked well into the box with the Reading defence clueless how to prevent the goal. It was played into the middle and again driven home giving Whitehead no chance. 0-3. Reading had a good closing five minutes when Derby were content to settle for the three goals with Cureton getting a rare bit of action after picking up the ball from the left. Cureton got to the edge of the area before firing a low effort well wide of the left post. It was a rare attempt on goal for the Royals though who were well beaten by a superior Derby side. Pardew will probably be disappointed at his choice to change the formation on the hour. We can only guess it was an attempt to win the game and that was probably far too optimistic. We probably still wouldn't have sneaked the draw, but that was always going to be best thing to aim for against opposition of such quality. Tuesday night at the Madejski Stadium will of course be a different story.

nick newbury
Welcome to Division One! There's no real point going on about a poor performance against one of the top teams who will no doubt be there or there abouts come the end of the season. We did well in the first half but Derby simply stepped up a gear or two in the second half and easily exposed our weaknesses at the back and in midfield. I would question the logic in playing a lone striker up front at places like Derby where we are undoubtedly going to come under severe pressure. Unless we are going to score goals we wont win games, simple.
Our lack of creativity in midfield was obvious for all the magnificent travelling supporters to see and needs to be improved quickly. I know all teams have money problems but to think we can step up to Division One and do well without making one new signing is both arrogance and naivety of the type that takes your breath away. Four points from out next two games would be great and set us up for the coming weeks, I do believe that we do have the heart of a good squad but there is a need for that little bit of extra class and experience in a few vital positions.
Still, 45 games to go, so no sweat, think how those morons at Millwall are feeling tonight!
telford royal
Reading will have few harder games this season and today they were outclassed. 3-0 but could have been 6-0! Two divisions separated these teams last season and it showed. Derby already look like taking this division by storm. The class divide was obvious, especially in the second half; Ravenelli v Williams, Morris v Murty and Christie v Mackie were just three of the one sided contests. Reading are in for a long, tough season. Reality hits on Aug 10, welcome back division 1!
muswell hill
Not really much to add to what Graham or the others have to say, as this game was always going to be very, very tough. I only ask whether Warren Barton should also have been allowed to complete the 90 minutes, after his retaliatory kick at Butler who was lying on the ground after their first half tussle. The referee seemed to suggest, however, that Butler had used his elbow (and should therefore have gone off as well). Anyone get a better view of this than me?
However, at the end of the day, we lost to a better side. I do wonder if we could have held on for 0-0 by sticking to 4-5-1, but Pardew and the team will learn from yesterday's defeat and I have every confidence we'll be stronger as a result.
crowthorne royal
After having read not only the reports in this section but on the boards aswell my match preview (spookily to be found in the 'Match preview' section) appeared to be fairly accurate (not meant to sound as I told you so because I was so hoping I'd be wrong!).
At half time we had competed and I honestly thought looked good. Playing with 4-5-1 which in my opinion was the correct decision had worked. Whilst we didn't really look like finding the net a 0-0 would have been an excellent result. This obviously begs the question of AP. Why did you introduce Jamie on 60 minutes? We were under the cosh and let's be honest Derby were looking more and more likely to score, but the midfield were just about holding their own and who knows if Derby had become increasingly frustrated we may well have got the 0-0.
Let's not be too judgemental at this stage however as there were signs we could perform. For a lone striker I though Butts did well. Igoe was impressive in midfield but we without doubt lacked ' a midfield ball winner who has good distribution'. Whitehead was superb between the sticks and deserves praise. Shorey looked like he could compete at this level and I disgagree with some others who said that Christie walked through our defence for the 2nd goal. The way I saw it was Christie looked like beating Mackie for pace and then Mackie recovered and forced him wide.
Unfortunately every other Reading defender was absorbed by the contest and allowed Rav' time and space to slam the ball in from close range.
A video of the game should be played to the players and they could learn an awful lot. One final criticism is about Murty. I love Murty as a player however, when showing the attackers the inside path he allowed them far too much room and they were able to slot a pass in to a number of players. Why didn't he show them the line as he is pacy enough to stop the cross from the by-line?
Anyway, not too judgemental I have to keep remembering!
99% of the fans were absolutely brilliant. The noise was deafening. I loved being part of that moment and was very proud to be there and a Royal. The 'scum' that threw a) the flare and b) caused trouble with the police should be banned immediately. RFC should have no problem identifying who they were as the police were clearly filming every incident. We are new boys in a higher class of football. Let's not let 'oiks' and 'hooligans' spoil our reputation and good away days like this. Tuesday is a big one. We have to beat teams like Sheff Wed at home if we are to stay in Div1.
Final thought for the day - If we had drawn at Derby and then drawn on tuesday people would be saying, look at Reading, a decent start to the season with 2 points. If we win on tuesday we have 3 points and will have lost one game against the probable champions. This I believe could be considered a GOOD start.
worthing royal
I cannot disagree with any of the comments so far. Ravenelli is on 40,000 a week though, more than our whole team. They would have been a bit cheesed off if we had given them a game! Survival has to been our target. Sad, but true.
Got an opinion? E-Mail us at
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages

Quick Links:
  [Match Reports Index]   [Match Previews Index]   [Current League Table]

Link to Hob Nob Anyone? Home Page
Copyright Hob Nob Anyone? © 1994-2003
The Original Reading Football Club Internet Site