(Half Time: 0-1)
Reading Scorers: -
Colchester Scorers: Johnson (38 mins)
Date: 11 November 2000
Attendance: 11,549

Reading: Whitehead, Gurney (Rougier, 45), Viveash, Mackie, Newman, Caskey (Igoe, 45), Jones, Parkinson, Cureton, Butler (McIntyre, 82), Hodges.
Subs not used: Howie, Murty.

Colchester United: Woodman, White, Johnson, Stockwell, Skelton, Fitzgerald, Gregory, Dozzell, McGavin, Duguid, Conlon.
Subs: Walker, Dunne, Lock, Keeble, Morgan.

Bookings: Cureton, Newman.
Referee: M D Messias (York)

After last weekend's disappointing away defeat at Walsall we were all hoping to bounce back at home against a Colchester United side just six positions off the bottom of the Second Division table before kick-off. On paper this was the perfect match for a home win that could have seen the Royals climb back into second spot - but after ninety minutes not even close to some of our home performances this season, Colchester United had done all they needed to do to take the full three points back from Essex - leaving the few hundred travelling supporters with a happy trip back home.

Reading may have had far more of the ball, and created a few more chances but Colchester's game plan seemed to work a treat as Reading found the away defence near impossible to break down, and we spent far too much time working the ball around without creating a real chance at the end of it all. After Saturday's defeat Pardew started Cureton and chose to leave Rougier on the bench - but Butler and Cureton suffered from a big lack of service up front. Colchester won the game with their only real shot on target, a blinding first half free kick, and the single goal was enough to inflict Reading's first home defeat of the league season and push the Royals down to fifth place in the table.

The first half was almost entirely forgetable from the home fans perspective. The away side got off to the better start but Reading seemed to be gradually getting warmed up as the half got underway. Reading had most of the play during the half but failed to do much with it, and the best efforts didn't really ever look like generating a goal. Gurney prodded the ball well wide after having time to do a bit better on the left, and Jamie Cureton drove a long range effort on target but it was easily saved by Colchester's on-loan goalkeeper Andy Woodman. We could have created something from a couple of corners on the left - but each time we failed to make contact and came off second best to the defence who were able to clear.

Meanwhile Colchester United took full advantage of their limited posession after earning a free kick just outside the box left of centre on 37 minutes. The resulting free-kick was driven into the top right corner of the net with some style - giving Whitehead no chance - and after that Whitehead hardly got another touch of the ball as Colchester played it tight looking for the single goal victory. Caskey had a similar chance from a free kick after the away keeper took the ball in his hands too far out of his area, but his effort was fired straight into the defensive wall. The first half was summed up by a long move by Reading passing the ball all over the park, taking plenty of time, and then finishing it off with a long range Gurney effort that screamed miles over the crossbar. The first half couldn't have ended soon enough for the silent Mates Day home crowd.

With things not going Reading's way Pardew took to drastic measures at half time to start the second half with a much more attacking formation that featured Rougier, Butler, Igoe and Cureton. Rougier replaced Gurney with Hodges moving back to full back, and Igoe replaced Darren Caskey who had had a disappointing first half. Reading's weakness remained in midfield though with Parky not in the same form as his blinding performance at Walsall last Saturday, and Jones looking uninspired. As the second half got underway we looked a lot brighter for a while before fading off. After throwing men forward at the start of the half we managed to put Colchester under a lot of pressure with some balls into the box from Rougier and Igoe on the wings - but a couple of goalmouth scrambles later and we still were a goal down.

For a while it looked like we might get back into the game with Rougier and Igoe causing the defence some problems - but the visitors quickly settled down into a controlled defensive game. After a couple of superb tackles from Colchester as Reading came forward we slowed right up again. Firstly we took too long on every move trying to work it around a packed Colchester defence and then with time running out hings started to get more and more desperate as the rain starting bucketing it down reducing the game into even more of a mess. Passes started missing targets and our best efforts were well wide of the target as we couldn't get in close enough to shoot.

Reading's best effort of the game came midway through the second half when Igoe crossed the ball deep into the box from the left. Newman ran onto it and found himself in a rarely unpopulated Colchester box. He dragged it past his marker to the left and into the middle of the box. The shot looked good for a moment, but with the keeper beaten it slammed onto the crossbar and out to safety.

McIntyre game on for Butler up front but made no impact at all - I can't even remember a shot from him during his ten minutes on the pitch - and that was when you would expect us to be fighting for that last gasp equaliser. The three minutes of stoppage time were never going to produce a Reading goal - and Colchester were 0-1 winners. Interviewed after the game on Radio Berkshire Pardew summed it up: "I felt we looked a bit short of ideas and lacked a spark today. We've put a lot of work in recently and maybe it caught up with us today." The Royals now have two weeks without league action, but we can't afford to lose many more matches - especially at home - if we're to meet that target of automatic promotion to the first division. Lets hope Grays Athletic aren't in the mood for a bit of giant killing next week.


Following report from Neil Cole:

This performance against one of the league's weaker teams wouldn't have been out of place last season, but this year it came as a severe shock as Reading surrendered their unbeaten home record. The team failed to produce anywhere near the standard of football we have become accustomed to seeing at Madejski Stadium, and lowly Colchester left with a deserved three points.

After five away defeats out of nine, it has become increasingly important that we pick up every possible point at home. Until now, that hadn't been a problem, as six successive home victories and bags of goals had put us on top of the league. But now, Reading lie in fifth, and recent results suggest the team is looking ever more vulnerable. Now five points adrift of new leaders Wigan, the championship dream is starting to fade as instead find ourselves trying to hold on to a play-off position.

While some of our away defeats this season have been a result more of bad luck than bad performances, today luck had nothing to do with it. The team looked dreadful, struggling to string more than two passes together at a time, and showing a complete inability to get through the determined Colchester defence.

Alan Pardew has admitted he has made selection mistakes away from home, notably at Bristol City and Walsall where Jamie Cureton was left out of the side. Yet today he picked the team that 90% of the fans would have picked, with Cureton and Butler together up front. The rest of the side was as it had been at Walsall, with John Mackie continuing in defence and Parky and Keith Jones in the centre of midfield. It was a strong looking side, but the fact that two substitutions were needed at half-time showed how ineffective the performance in the first half was.

The warning signs were there as early as the second minute, as hesitancy at the back allowed a Colchester player through one-on-one with Phil Whitehead. Fortunately, the striker got his shot all wrong and ended up missing the target. If we had been playing a stronger side, we could have 5-0 down by half-time, as the mistakes at the back continued to come and Colchester missed chance after chance. The only goal of the game came from a free kick just outside the penalty area. The ball was laid off for Johnson to fire in a stunning effort which flew past Whitehead.

The changes came at half-time, with Pardew completely re-shaping the Reading midfield. Tony Rougier came on for Andy Gurney, with Lee Hodges dropping back to play on the left of defence. Caskey was taken off after one of his worst performances for a long time, with Sammy Igoe coming into the midfield.

The changes worked to the extent that Reading were the better side in the second half. However, they were still a long way short of their best, and as Colchester clung on to their lead the defeat looked inevitable from early on.

Tony Rougier was clearly unfit, and playing him for the whole of the second half is surely an unnecessary risk. It seems that while the Reading management keeping rushing players back as quickly as this, the injury situation is only going to get worse. Both the management and Rougier himself have admitted he should not be playing, so giving him 45 minutes in this game is likely to have done more harm than good.

On a positive note, Sammy Igoe looked very good in the second half, and seems to be continuing the good form he showed before his injury. On today's second half performance, Pardew should surely start Igoe next week. The obvious candidate to miss out is Keith Jones, who has struggled to have an impact in the last few weeks. That would allow Darren Caskey to return to the centre of midfield, with Igoe playing out on the right. Rougier needs to be rested from first team football, so either Hodges or McIntyre should play on the left.

The chances did come in the second half, notably through Ricky Newman who came close to one of the goals of the season. A brilliant bit of control was followed by a ferocious shot from outside the area, but the ball rattled the bar with the keeper completely beaten. A dubious offside decision denied Jamie Cureton the chance of a goal as he raced onto a through ball, while Sammy Igoe was causing plenty of problems with his accurate in-swinging corners.

Yet despite these chances, Colchester always looked favourites to hang on to the win, and dent our impressive home record. There is plenty of work for the management to do following this disappointing result and our first back-to-back defeats of the season. Next week sees a break from the league, and a chance to re-discover our scoring touch against non-league Grays Athletic. The following week, a win at Bournemouth is now a necessity if we are to keep touch with the teams at the top.

Post Match Opinions

Today I took three Mates - one had never seen a match (the Amateur), one who was a Watford supporter (the Expert) and one who has been to about four matches in his life (the Dilletante). The Amateur asked before the match whether it came with a commentary that could be listened to, found the match itself dire, the Madjeski hot dog revolting and won't come back. The Dilletante enjoyed about 15 minutes (beginning of second half) and won't come back.The Expert thought the whole team effort was without idea and could not see that any particular player could be blamed. The quietness of the fans was also a surprise since Watford also play this badly occasionally (yes, even in their exalted position) yet get more committed support. Support for Watford has not been dented but may come back if there is a good match (nice stadium) and Watford aren't playing. And me? Well I'm just a fan who will keep coming back all by himself and that doesn't look like changing. Oh, Reading, I should be used to this but it still depresses.
-- Bucks Royal

The first half was as bad as the weather from the Royals point of view. Colchester took control of the game as they passed the ball around in a neat style without threatening, but starving us of possession. We did not close them down quickly enough, and when we had the ball, we gave it back to them. This did not look like the fault of any individual but just a general 'team thing'. It was perhaps best summed up by Guerney who looked frightened every time he managed to get to the half way line and simply gave the ball back to the opposition. It was no surprise when Colchester took the lead, although it was probably their only shot on target. It was a good strike from a free kick.
We lacked cohesion, commitment and pace. The front men were starved of good service, though on another day Cureton might have scored two or three. Butler had a disappointing day, but he is allowed that one. What was clear was an inability to keep the ball. This is something that has been happening even when we have had big victories. Both Swansea and Wrexham may have been at the wrong end of big defeats, but both had as much possession as us. If you push our midfield back, the gap between the frontmen and the rest of the team becomes too big.
We then hit aimless high long balls and we do not play with a traditional target man. The ball is just given away. With Parkie and Jones in midfield, there is noone prepared to run into the box to support the strikers and chances go begging. These facts were there for everyone to see today. We have some outstanding individuals at this level, what we do not possess is a team that is able to perform with sufficient consistency that is necessary to win us automatic promotion. The effort and performance at Walsall were excellent, the result harsh.
Yesterday we probably deserved a draw, based on the second half, but we were only playing a team, who, had they lost, would still be in the drop zone. Igoe, Viveash and Cureton should have all scored but did not. We have lost too many games. There is too much talent in this side not for then to produce week in week out. Back to the training pitch!

-- Ken

How unfortunate that we chose this game as Mates day.
I travel from Sussex for every game, where people think I'm totally mad. I'm just glad none of my mates could make it. We created nothing, and looked second best throughout. Auto promotion looks a long way off. Perhaps we should let Caskey go, if there is any truth in the rumour that a higher division club is interested? Why does he have one excellent season, and then perform like he is now? Perhaps complacency and laziness will deny him the opportunity that his natural talent should otherwise allow him. I suggest we sell him, take the money, and get a commited playmaker on board. One who realises that fatness and fitness dont mix.

-- Kevin (Worthing Royal)

How are we expected to win when we have one player that is not fit to wear the hoops! Get rid of Keith Jones now before he does irreparable damage. We should not have to carry lazy good for nothing players that are not up to the fight. We lost today because everyone else wore themselves out covering for him. P.S. when are we going to get a referee that actually watches what's going on in the game, or was he as dumbstruck as the East stand with the posturing of his equally blind linesman. He was hilarious?
-- Headley

I do hope HEADLEY who sent comments about the game was not the same mindless burk who was shouting obsceneties all through the match, just three rows in front of me. He pointed out the linesman was a cripple with the disabled seats not far away from ear shot and seemed to get on Jones' back right from the start because of his colour! Shouting rubbish like this man did does not do Reading credit and neither did the "booing" at the half time whistle. Sure we not good in the first half but come on - have you seen how far we've come in a year!! As for the team I think we mus remind ourselves of the experience Pardew has - namely none aprt from the last year and this does show itself in poor tactical decisions. Caskey is a tart but a talented tart and should feature in the middle where he is most effective whilst Parkie And Jones are too similar to be in the same team. Igoe has pace and directness which should be utlised down the right while surely Hodges proved a far better left back (namely left footed) than Gurney. Teams will come to us a defend and this sort of result will happen but perhaps Pardew And Allen should work out who there best team is because I am not sure they know. Finally...if someone wants him SELL Caskey....and give the captaincy to Adie Williams...the best player in the Reading side by far when he is fit.
-- David Spencer

Oh dear, has the bubble burst or was it just one of those games that every good team will have once in a while?
It was depressing and I echo all that has been said above, so I'll keep my remarks short so as not to make myself feel more down! Their goal - did our wall break up and give him a clear sight of goal? In conditions like they were, we should be drilling in more shots and follow them in - I would like to have seen Cureton hit one or two first time rather than always try to bring it down which was not easy in the conditions. However, that said, the problem I think is midfiled and I've said it before on these pages. I've read that AP believes the squad is strong enough....I disagree.
We need more class.
We looked without craft or guile on Saturday and never looked like scoring. Caskey is our main provider and no he didn't have a good first half but he needs to play more central and given the platform to create with passes to feet for Butler and Cureton ( the ball up in the air is no good) and it needs to be quick. As for his commitment, his contract is up in the summer and with no news of a new one, does he get the feeling he's not wanted? In any event, Caskey alone isn't enough, we need midfielders to get behind the opposition defence and into the box. And as noted above, I also felt uneasy with our control over the matches with Wrexham and Swansea, it didn't relfect the scorelines. We all have offdays but we shouldn't be losing to Colchester or at least losing and not deserving much more from the game.

-- Chris.

I don't want to be too critical of a team that had an off day but our full backs (or are they called wide defenders these days?) need to practice the art of the well timed tackle and not the surreptitious tugging on the opponent's kit. If that had been the case on Saturday then, not only would the free kick which led to the goal not have been conceded, but also their forwards would not have been able to go at our defenders with the confidence they showed in the first half. In the second half only Conlon was up and doing his best to out muscle Adi Viveash. That proved a fairly even contest with Adi just winning on points (at least they didn't score again!).
-- Eddie - Shropshire Royal.

Look before we all start losing it, just stop and reflect on our record so far this season. Who wouldn't have bitten the arm off anyone offering us a 7-1-1 home record after 9 home games? So be honest, no problems there. Now about the away record. Sure 3-1-5 is not good enough for a championship chasing team - but hold on a minute. Just look at who we've played away from home so far.
Check out this list:

Wigan (currently 1st) drew 1-1, possibly deserved a win?
Walsall (currently 2nd) an unlucky 1-2 defeat
Rotherham (currently 3rd) an impressive 3-1 win
Millwall (currently 4th) OK a dire 0-2 defeat
Northampton (currently 7th) ditto?
Bristol C (currently 8th) a dire 0-4 defeat
Peterborough (currently 10th) an unlucky 0-1 defeat
Bury (currently 11th) a 2-0 win
Port Vale (currently 20th) a 1-0 win

To summarise, we have already played all the top 4 teams away.
8 of our 9 away games to date have been against teams in the top 11
Of our remaining 14 away games, 11 are against teams in the lower half of the division.
Even allowing for teams scapping against relegation, I would be surprised if we didn't 7 out of the 14 games left, meaning 10 away wins for the season.
That Ladies and gentlemen, assuming home form doesn't deteriorate TOO badly, is Championship winning form!!
Let's no lose sight of reality in our search for a utopian season. We simply aren't going to win every single game between now and the end of the season!

I agree with the comments made about our midfield, we do have a problem.
Before I start I would like to add I rate Caskey highly if we played to his strengths.
In my opinion if Pardew refuses to play Caskey in the middle then sell the lard boy now as Igoe is by far a better winger and we also have Murty who I'm told is class ! When Caskey plays wide right he doesn't give us any width as he naturally strays in field to get the ball and he makes us weak defensively by not tracking back, and his attempts at tackling which seem to involve him tugging at shirts are pathetic. But that isn't what makes Caskey a good player, we know he is slow and can't tackle but what he can give us is his passing and good footballing brain so what does Pardew do stick him out wide ?
The way we ended on Saturday with the two wingers is the way I would like to see Reading play although it may mean we get exposed away from home, especially if Caskey plays in the middle as I'm not to sure whether Igoe and Big Tony will fancy defending to much.
What we need in the middle is a young fit player with a good engine who likes a tackle but also has the pace and skill to run at players get in the box and score goals, someone like Keiron Dyer. I know players like this are not easy to find but surely we can find a better player then Keith Jones, what a waste of wages that is. He and Parky are very similar players but Parky tries twice as hard and as we all he know can tackle ! Jones is obviously one of Pardews favourites and we are stuck with him as long as the gaffer believes you need two holding midfielders in your side.
I don't like to criticise too much as we have been playing well this year especially at home and Pardew has really turned things around with some great signings, I just think he has got the midfield slightly wrong.
-- Towner
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