MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

Reading: Forster (30, 42, 58 mins), Shorey (57 mins, pen), Henderson (90 mins).
Mears (83 mins).
Half Time: 2-0
Attendance: 14,012

DIVISION ONE  15 Apr 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
3 Sheff Utd 41 73 +20
4 READING 41 70 +14
5 Nottm F 42 69 +31
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey, Salako, Hughes, Harper, Little (Tyson 73), Chadwick (Cureton 59), Forster (Henderson 59). Subs not used: Ashdown, Newman.
Lucas (sent off 55), Alexander, Jackson (sent off 28), Lucketti, Mears, Cartwright, McKenna (Gould 56), Etuhu (O'Neil 84), Skora, Lynch (Lewis 38), Cresswell. Subs not used: Abbott, Edwards.
Reading: Brown.
Jackson. Sent off: Lucas, Jackson.
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt)

This was an impressive victory, Reading's biggest of the season so far, against a Preston North End side that continued to look good even with only nine players on the pitch. Reading took advantage of two red cards sustained by the visitors, one in each half, to turn this fixture into a big Reading win and look near certainties to finish in the play-off positions by collecting another three points. Reading had wrapped the game up by half time with Preston already reduced to ten men and Reading two goals up thanks to a Forster brace. If there was any doubt about the result it was pushed well aside after just 58 minutes when Reading were 4-0 up and Preston were down to just nine men. It was a little disappointing not to have gone on to increase the lead, but Reading lost their urgency and shape with a series of substitutions that gave Chadwick and Forster a rest ahead of Friday's big game. It was sensible tactics from Pardew with an impressive victory already in the bag. Cureton and Henderson both had chances to extend the lead with over half an hour on the pitch each - but they lacked the clinical finishing ability on show from Nicky Forster who secured his second hat-trick of the season just before his substitution.

Preston fans will be hugely disappointed with the result and the two sendings off after such a long mid-week trip, but they should be impressed with a other aspects of their team's performance as they stroked the ball around with just nine players and thoroughly deserved their goal that was scored with seven minutes left on the clock. The traveling fans will also be annoyed with the referee - with a full team they might have got something from this game - however, the two red cards were fully justified. Jackson picked up an early yellow card for hammering the ball away when Reading won a free-kick and went into the book again inside the half hour mark for clattering into Nicky Forster well after the ball had gone. Some referee's might have bottled it so early on in the game but the challenge certainly deserved the second yellow - which meant a very early bath for the Preston player. The straight red card for Lucas, the Preston goalkeeper, seemed a little harsh but was entirely correct. Little was clean through and had taken the ball well past Lucas when the keeper dragged him down inside the area. It was a certain goal denied and Lucas had to go. With Shorey stepping up to make it 3-0 from the penalty spot at that point, with well over half an hour to play against nine-men, the result wasn't in any doubt.

Preston nearly matched Reading during the opening exchanges and gave plenty of indication there were here to make a match of it despite their mid-table position. However the visitors failed to find the target despite enjoying plenty of early possession. Reading got the first shot in on target when the impressive Harper forced a save from the Preston keeper. Preston managed a couple of efforts during the first half and a couple of corners and had a shot narrowly over the Reading crossbar - but Hahnemann wasn't required to make a save. Chadwick had an effort on target but it wasn't until the first sending off that Reading seriously threatened. It was 1-0 almost immediately after Jackson received his marching orders, when the ball was put into the back of the net after Forster took advantage from a series of shots. Salako, who was all over the place and creating some excellent openings, nearly extended the lead when he hit the ball against the bottom of the crossbar from a tight angle. Moments after that Forster picked up his second goal when Salako went on an excellent run to get to the right and put over a cross that saw Forster make it 2-0.

It seemed unlikely Preston could some back from two goals down at half time and it really was all over with the second red card. The last defender made a right mess of it on the edge of the area under very little pressure as he collected the ball only to lose his footing and leave the ball free on the edge of the box. The very little pressure turned into Little pressure as Little gratefully took the ball into the area and prodded it past the keeper only to be taken down for the penalty. Forster must have been dying to secure his hat-trick at that point but following a poor run of penalties allowed Shorey to confidently blast it home from the spot. Immediately after the third it was 4-0 when Murty played a superb long ball over the defence and into the path of Forster. Forster headed it down on the edge of the area and took it wide before looping the ball deliciously over the advancing goalkeeper and into the empty net. A superb goal to complete his hat-trick and seal the victory. The Madejski Stadium erupted and for a moment we all thought we might be in for a ridiculously big win.

Straight after the fourth goal Forster was taken off, along with Chadwick, to give Cureton and Henderson a chance. Fifteen minutes after that Little was replaced by Tyson as Murty pushed forward to form an altogether different formation. On paper it looked very attacking but the pace had gone with Reading stroking the ball around and making sure we didn't do anything stupid to pick up an injury or needless bookings. It was a very sensible game plan but meant we didn't get the extra goals we would have liked - however we did have plenty of chances to extend the lead. Cureton missed a couple of excellent chances and will be disappointed to have not found the target - especially after completely failing to connect with the ball on one occasion.

Preston were also starting to enjoy themselves by playing the ball around and they showed some very neat touches to create a couple of good moves forward and retain possession. After one good move they put the ball into the back of the net with a shot from the centre, on the edge of the area, with the Reading defence looking a bit thin. Hahnemann really should have made the save but instead found himself pushing the ball into the side of the net. It was the first real shot of the game he had needed to save and he had failed. The Reading fans didn't mind though as they politely applauded the goal along with the Preston fans. The four goal margin was restored as the game ticked over the ninety minutes mark when a cross from Nicky Shorey was headed home by Henderson at the far post. A good finish from Henderson, and to the game, as Reading completed a very satisfactory scoreline.

Following report from John Wells
After a cautious start, the Royals romped to a significant high scoring victory and edged closer to the play-offs. Superb finishing from Nicky Forster and some rash challenges from the visitors which reduced their opponents to ten men after twenty-eight minutes and then to nine shortly after half time leave Reading with a six point cushion and a game in hand going into two very tough Easter fixtures.

Preston came to this game with nothing to lose and nothing to play for but in good form, and for the first twenty-five minutes presented Reading with a few problems. Reading were virtually playing 4-4-2 with Little pushing forward to support Forster. Preston looked dangerous on the break and Reading gave them some encouragement by giving the ball away on the half way line unnecessarily. Reading's best efforts were a thirty yard drive from Harper which Lucas saved comfortably, and a well placed shot across goal from Forster which the 'keeper could only palm away at full stretch. Forster was looking a bit rusty for the opening quarter of an hour but soon got into his stride.

The game burst into life when Jackson scythed down Forster as he skipped past two defenders on the right touchline. Two minutes later Reading took the lead. Hughes miscued badly but Preston failed to get the ball away and Forster reacted quickly to hammer the ball home from close range. Salako's inclusion was clearly justified. His passing, and ability to retain possession, were crucial factors in the first half. He was also moving inside and getting more involved. He almost increased the lead when Fozzy typically accelerated away and cut a good ball back. Salako met it well but his shot smacked against the bar. Moments later Fozzy missed a good chance when he finished tamely with only the 'keeper to beat. He made up for it three minutes before half time when Salako controlled a long ball on his chest and rolled the ball into his path. His pace gave him just enough room to slide the ball wide of the Lucas from the edge of the box with his left foot.

At two nil it looked safe, but the result was put beyond doubt in a two minute spell just before the hour mark. Little pounced on a defensive error and was tripped by Lucas as he went past the sprawling 'keeper. It was a penalty but the big man certainly made the most of it! Shorey calmly slotted home the penalty. A minute later Murty sent a long ball over the top for Forster to chase. (Forster had earlier complained about such service from the same player.) This time Fozzy outpaced two Preston defenders and lobbed Gould from a tight angle to complete his hat trick. They were three very different but well taken goals and encouraging in that he demonstrated an awareness and composure which has often been missing from his game. He was wisely taken off almost immediately in preparation for Friday.

Chadwick, who had been disappointing, was also taken off, and Cureton and Henderson were given their chance to stake a claim for a place in the team. The game became a bit untidy and Reading huffed and puffed without creating much. Credit must be given to Preston for keeping possession and defending in a disciplined manner. They grabbed a consolation goal when Mears hit a great drive from about thirty yards. Pardew correctly questioned how Hahnemann failed to stop it. It could only have been a lapse in concentration. In stoppage time Henderson reminded us of what we are missing by not having a forward who is strong in the air by comfortably converting a Shorey cross into a goal with a well placed header. There were few thousand Reading fans who were on their way home by then and were not around to see it. I felt tonight the players deserved much better support than they received. Some really good football, worthy of applause, seemed to pass unnoticed by huge sections of the crowd. These are exciting times and the fans can really make a difference. Shouldn't we all be there applauding them off the field at the end of a 5-1 win which virtually guarantees a play-off spot?

peter richardson
A great result, due to a little help from the referee, the sending off seemed a bit harsh to me but at this stage of the season we will take any luck that comes are way. Up until the sending off there seemed little to choose between the sides, and followed by the quick goal there was only going to be one winner. Once again though a pathetic attendance just over 14,000 for a side in the play off's is embarrassing. Both the chairman and the manager must wonder what they have to do to get people in the ground. And if they both walk away at the end of the season quite frankly I wouldn't blame them.
thatcham royal
There's only one Nicky Forster!
Well the red cards changed the game, but the truth is we were playing well already, without finding the breakthrough. I thought the fact we scored so soon after Jackson was sent off was vital. That ended the game for Preston. So many times I have seen Reading outplayed when they outnumber the opposition. The last time I remember us capitalising so much was at Elm Park 9 or 10 years ago when Stoke had players sent off and we thrashed them to! Can't remember if that was the championship year or the play off season. Last night was a thoroughly professional performance and a fantastic result. At times in the second half it was almost embarrassing to watch us toy with 9 men Preston. We had a spell when we held them in and around the box for ages. It was just a shame we couldn't convert more of the chances. We had a lot of players performing well. The back four looked good, Harper continues to dominate midfield. When we had our brief sloppy spell in the 2nd half he was screaming at players to pick the game back up. Salako looked very good. Did anyone else notice him cutting in a lot and feeding good crosses with his right (weak) foot?
As for Forster. I'm so glad he scored THAT goal against the North Stand where I had the perfect view. He showed all that is good about his play. He thrashed the two Preston players for pace, looked like it had got away from him when he took the keeper wide, instead of tripping over, he cushioned the ball with his head, before deftly lobbing the keeper. Beautiful. 4-0 and a Forster hat trick. For Pardew to be able to rest key players at 4-0 with 25minutes left should set us up nicely for Forest. We will need to defend well to snuff out their forwards, but their defence is their weakest link and I'm confident we will score.
Come on URZ's
ken c
Great result, very odd game! it looked as if it was going to be a very nervous evening for all of us at the Mad Stad. In the early part of the game Preston showed that they were technically better than us at the passing game but did look quite as likely to score. All was changed by the sending off when the tackle on Forster gave the ref. no choice given that the lad had already been booked. What was good was the way in which we capitalised on it so quickly and turned it to our advantage. Forster had been relatively quiet before his first, and it was a quality hat trick. Salako also deserves a special mention. Not only did he hit the bar, he made Forster's second and in the second half put in a tremendous block to keep out a shot which got a well deserved pat on the head from Williams. Something he did not offer to the keeper as he stood rooted to the ground watching Preston's consolation goal go in!
In many ways it was a perfect evening for Reading. The confidence of scoring goals, a relatively easy win and the chance to take players off and give others a run. Henderson took his goal well and worked hard. I thought Cureton's touch let him down, but as ever he was in the right place and Tyson looked lively. In fact Tyson was put through by a superb kick from Marcus who owes us a big game! Forest will be harder but this was the perfect warm up game!
As one of the FEW that watched the game live at the Mad Stad, I was obviously delighted with the result. I hate to be negative, but lads, what happened after the fourth goal, against 9 men it should have been a rout! Preston played beautiful possession football and totally deserved their (v. good) goal.
Reading ran out of ideas, sat back from tackles and when they did get possession played square despite good front runs from Henderson and Tyson. No wonder Reading fans started to leave the ground early and those left even started to applaud the Lillywhites' play! Let's just hope we raise our game for Forest on Friday - if we get a result then what a massive game it will be at Fratton Park on Monday - anyone got a ticket? I couldn't get one!
Another step closer to the play-offs on a very strange night at the Mad Stad, a game that was all about getting a result and discussion with my son on the way up had suggested a tight affair with one goal separating the teams. Night started without the usual rousing musical intro which seemed to mirror the lack of atmosphere in the stadium, not helped by the quietest away support I have ever seen, and the first twenty minutes of the game suggested this was going to be one of those nights, had Preston grabbed an early goal I felt the tension in the ground would have made it an entirely different ball game.
The sending off changed the whole game and gave Reading the lift that was needed and Nicky Forster's performance thereafter surely puts an end to the 'Curo verses Forster' debate, nice to see Pards react to going 4-0 up by resting some key players ready for Forest and Pompey, I can't ever remember Reading being in that position before - resting players ? surely that's for the likes of Arsenal/Man U!! How far have we come ? Preston looked a good side and it is difficult to judge our performance against their 9/10 men, but at half-time I couldn't single out a single Reading player who had had anything other than a good first half performance - now that doesn't happen too often and leads me to believe that Pards may have found the right 11 in the right formation, next two games will tell.
No need to book any hotels for Cardiff for me - it's 15 minutes up the road, I would offer bed and breakfast to fellow Royals but might struggle with 35,000 of them, where were 21,000 of those last night?
ian glendinning
Impressive victory?
Great result perhaps, but like Peter, I think Preston had no luck last night.
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