MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

Reading: -
Stoke City:
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 14,132

DIVISION ONE 13 Mar 2004
Pos Team P Pts GD
7 Sunderland 33 55 +12
8 READING 36 54 -3
9 Ipswich 36 53 +4
Reading: Hahnemann (Young 55 mins), Murty, Shorey, Williams, Ingimarsson, Hughes, Sidwell, Harper, Salako, Owusu (Kitson 68 mins), Goater (Brooker 77 mins). Subs not used: Murray, Newman.
Stoke City:
De Goey, Halls, Hall, Taggart, Thomas, Svard (Henry 87 mins), Russell, Clarke, Hoekstra, Noel-Williams (Asaba 72 mins), Akinbiyi. Subs not used: Foster, Hill, Commons.
Reading: Harper
Stoke City:
Referee:G Hegley (Bishop's Stortford)

I can understand why Steve Coppell claimed that this game will be remembered for Jamie Young's outstanding save from a Carl Asaba header. He would probably want to erase from his memory the appalling hat-trick of missed chances which came Lloyd Owusu's way and almost certainly cost the Royals the game. Owusu also avoided the finger of blame in the BBC teletext report which claimed Goater 'spurned' several chances.

The game got off to a sluggish start. Reading couldn't get out of their own half during the opening minutes and Hahnemann sustained quite a bad injury when his attempted clearance was charged down. Although he played on, he was unable to kick, and was eventually substituted early in the second half. Not that Reading needed him in the first half as Reading gradually took control of the game against a rather uninspiring Stoke side. The first of Owusu's misses came on seven minutes when he swooped to whip the ball away from De Goey. Having taken the ball away from the grounded 'keeper, and with goal completely unguarded, he prodded the ball into the side netting from a tight but not impossible angle. Soon after Goater sent a tame shot wide. Murty burst through, shrugging off two strong challenges, and worked a good opening with Owusu who held the ball up well in the box. His shot was blocked and Harper narrowly missed when the rebound fell kindly for him.

In spite of some wayward passing from Sidwell and some dreadful crosses from Hughes, Reading dominated the first half. Harper was finding space well in midfield and was looking to play the ball through to his forwards with some urgency but was occasionally being frustrated by a lack of movement. Several good situations came to nothing because the final pass was misdirected, but Reading were looking far more likely to score. Just before half time Hughes hooked the ball back across goal and Owusu mistimed his jump and got under the ball and sent his header over the bar when it looked easier to score. Reading should have been ahead at half time. The home crowd were doing their stuff again even drowning out a chorus of Delilah from a slightly smaller than usual Stoke contingent.

The second half was a different story. Having threatened the corner flag with a couple of attempts Stoke suddenly produced a flurry of attacking play which brought Hahnemann into action for the first time. He made a good block from a fiercely driven shot from Taggart and them almost immediately dived to his left to gather a header from Noel-Williams. Having been protected all through the game Hahnemann was suddenly put under pressure by his own players with ridiculous back passes and found himself quickly substituted. His replacement, Young, only had few minutes before he was forced to make a save which must have boosted his confidence.

Shorey was pushing forward constantly and was making good runs at the City defence. On sixty eight minutes he broke into the box and saw his shot blocked. the ball fell to Owusu who had another great chance to put Reading ahead but he lost his head and blasted the ball high over the bar. Coppell thought that was a good a time as any to bring on Kitson, his probable replacement for the next few games. Kitson showed some promising touches but was on the receiving end of some dreadful refereeing decisions. He was elbowed in the head as soon as he came on, and later was blatantly pulled back right under the referee's nose and nothing was given on either occasion. Brooker came on for Salako and looked sharp, and Young made his blinding save from a powerful Asaba header. (The like of which we never saw when he played at Reading!) Apart form that it was a frustrating day for the fans who once again were a credit to the club doing their best to lift the team.

We will not have an easier opportunity to pick up three points again this month, but there is a degree of consistency beginning to show in the results and performances and, although the next few fixtures are tough, I still feel quite optimistic about our ability to pick up points. Having said that, I'd be more than happy with a point at Cardiff!
Report by John Wells


As nil nils goes I thought this wasn't a bad game at all. If we'd have had a bit of luck and took the chances we had , we may have run out comfortable winners. I can't recall Stoke having a clear chance. Poor Owusu really should have done better early on when rounding the keeping with the empty net at his mercy but unfortunately panicked and whacked it into the side netting. If ever you want an example of the difference in class between us and the premiership it was that chance, just think what Henry would have done. I thought the lads could not be faulted for effort today with Murty, Harper, Sidwell and Iceman all playing well. Murty was a welcome return to the team and I thought had a good game. We still miss something, I'm not sure what but just that little something extra which would see us up in the top six. Maybe a couple of new quality players would help? Yet again a typical set of results in this poor league means there's just four points separating third and eighth. It's still all to play for but the next couple of weeks will decide the destiny of those teams who are to make the play offs. I don't think we will be one of those teams, mainly due to our lack of quality strikers. With Owusu out for three games we really are going to struggle up front with the continuing loss of Fossie really starting to hurt us. Must mention our debutante keeper Young who did well when he came on and not forgetting the crowd today, great support, good noise, good backing for the boys. Very tough run of games coming up, we normally play well against the so called better teams, let's hope we do well... URRZZZ
Nick Newbury

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