(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (90 mins).
Brighton Scorers: Zamora (60), Melton (64), Lewis (88 mins).
Date: 11 February 2002
Attendance: 6,756

Reading: Roberts, Murty, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Igoe (Cureton 69), Hughes (Henderson 65), Jones, Salako, Forster, Rougier (N Smith 52). Subs not used: Ashdown, Robinson.

Brighton: Kuipers, Pethick, Cullip, Virgo, Watson, Melton, Lewis, Carpenter, Brooker, Zamora, Hart. Subs not used: Mayo, Rogers, Jones, Lee, Webb.

Bookings: Hart, Zamora (Brighton).
Referee: P E Alcock (Halstead)

This was a evening to savour - if you happened to be a Brighton fan! For the Royals fans it was a night to forget. We sat in swirling wind and drizzle some distance from the action under dim floodlighting and watched our team completely overwhelmed by a rampant Brighton team led by the outstanding Bobby Zamora. The conditions made good football difficult but not impossible and at half time I still felt reasonably confident that Reading could take a point from the game.

The first half was as competitive as you would expect it to be and Reading had a couple of half chances which quickly disappeared and I felt that we were trying to over elaborate. Players slipped at crucial moments and shooting opportunities were lost by taking an extra touch.In the conditions a snap shot through a crowded areas might have produced the goal we desperately needed. At one point Adie Williams went past his man on the left wing and slid an inviting ball across the edge of the six yard box. It was as if nobody could believe it and consequently nobody reacted and the ball drifted to safety. It was hard to see what Brighton were up to down the other end but the Royals defence looked as if they were coping well. Brighton forced a number of corners and the referee seemed to be awarding more free kicks to the home side.

The second half was a different story. Brighton took control in midfield as Reading struggled to put passes together. Brighton are a big physical side but they also play some good football so it was clearly always going to be a struggle to match them. They had players in midfield that were quicker to the ball and prepared to make incisive runs with or without the ball. Just after 50 minutes Pardew replaced Rougier and with Smith, as far as I'm concerned, that was the beginning of the end for the Royals. If Rougier was injured it made sense otherwise I think it was a major tactical error. In switching to a five man midfield Reading were admitting that they had surrendered the initiative. The defence and midfield only had the option of a long ball for Forster to chase to relieve the pressure.

The goal that opened the game up completely in the 59th minute was created with a clever back heel in the box and finished powerfully by Zamora. But if Reading thought that they were going to step up a gear and fight back they were mistaken. Brighton continued to stream forward and four minutes later Zamora flicked the ball on for Melton to lift the ball over Roberts. The Royals defence stuck to their task but the midfield looked as chaotic as it had on Saturday only today they were up against a side on top form who were able to take full advantage of their defiencies.

Brighton's third was created by - yes you've guessed it - Bobby Zamora. Having taken the ball past Roberts he laid on a relatively simple chance for Lewis. Apart from damaging morale, it was an irrelevant goal, as was Cureton's a couple of minutes later. The game was over as soon as Brighton had scored. The Royals never looked like coming back.

There will need to be some considerable thought put into the next team selection. The midfield is crying out for someone who can hold the ball and hit a decent pass, and the striker dilemma still remains for Pardew. He needs Cureton's goals, Rougier's strength, and Forster's pace but how does he fit them all into the team?

On this showing Brighton looked like champions but they were recently hammered four nil by Brentford and will find the going tough without the soon to be suspended Zamora. As for Reading will this result provide a jolt to remind them how they achieved that marvellous run in January or will it dent their confidence? We only have a couple of days to wait and see. Not only is win is needed against Swindon on Thursday, but also a good performance.
Report by John Wells

Post Match Opinions

The conditions, the state of the 'stadium' generally, the lack of time since our last game, and an air of 'we are top of the league' went a long way to making this trip to Zamoraland very forgettable. They play there every other week, (weather permitting), and coped far better than us with the Dr. Martens league div 2 facilities. A massive task to get back on track by Thursday, but we will do it. Nearly dry now, some 24 hours later. I think we need the others to keep slipping up. Either that, or we should get some real competitors in the side for the physical fight that winning Division 2 demands. Too many times we are blaming failure on 'big sides'. Thank God Parky's back for Swindon.
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Oh dear, I had a feeling this might happen. The last few performances suggested that a defeat was imminent. I am not saying we were bad against Bury or County, but we did not have the same authority we had showed in other games since Christmas. I listened to the game on TVFM and Brighton deserved it. It seemed like there was not much in it in the first half, but right from the kick off in the second, Brighton were rolling and we were rocking and on the ropes, before finally crumbling to the undisputed king (Bobby Zamora) of our division.
Zamora scored one and brilliantly set up two. Good night Vienna! I turned the radio off at 2-0 with five minutes left, and turned it back on at full time to be informed that Cureton had got an equaliser in the last minute. For a few seconds I leapt round the living room in unprecedented ecstasy, before it dawned on me that the commentator had got mixed up and said equaliser instead of consolation. A win tonight and I don't think anyone would have gained sufficient momentum to catch us, though the subsequent comprehensive defeat may have put an element of doubt in the minds of the players and could cause a wobble.
A victory at rivals Swindon on Thursday would put us firmly back in control, but an unthinkable defeat and its panic stations with several tough fixtures left. Let us all pray for a return to the high class pre Bury performances that would make it a canter to the finish, rather than a mad panic stricken dash for points. For some reason I think it will be latter!

-- Bob Lethaby

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