READING 2 SWINDON TOWN 0 (Half Time: 1-0)
Swindon Scorers: ---
|Date: 19 August
Robinson, Viveash, Hunter, Gurney, Newman, Caskey (Henderson), Parkinson,
Hodges, Butler (Igoe), Rougier.
This was the perfect first home game of the season - a controlled victory over local rivals, Swindon Town, in front of the biggest crowd at the Madejski Stadium for quite some time. Although Swindon showed a couple of bright spells this was a deserved two goal victory for the Royals who played not only with dedication and determination to win but also with a decent bit of flair when needed. Man of the match Tony Rougier, signed just before the season kicked off from Port Vale, was outstanding and set up both goals - scored by two players who should regularly appear on the scoresheet throughout this season. This was the ideal result against a side just relegated from the first division, and hopefully the kind of performance and result that should see Reading promoted come the end of the season.
The first half was quite a niggly affair with Swindon picking up an impressive five bookings and Gurney getting booked for the Royals - however it was still more than entertaining with Reading creating plenty of chances up front and Swindon also trying, unsuccessfully to find the net. Off the pitch the Swindon fans had truly lost the plot by an attempted invasion of the West Stand, on the pitch a couple of heavy tackles flying in from both sides, in true local derby style, meant the play was quite frequently held up by the referee's whistle. Reading took a good five minutes to find any kind of pattern in their play but filled the gap by determined tackling across the team and making sure Swindon didn't get a chance to test Whitehead in the Reading goal. Quite early on Swindon had a goal disallowed for offside - the ball was played forward and across into the box, but the Swindon forward was well offside before hitting it into the Reading net. And that wasn't the first time the Reading offside trap caught out the visitors whose forward play simply wasn't good enough.
At the other end Rougier was looking like a real star in the making. It was pure luck for Swindon that Rougier didn't stick home one of the three chances he had in the first half in front of goal. Firstly he fired wide and low to the left after being supplied with a cross from the right, secondly he headed over the bar from a cross. The third effort was something special after Rougier controlled the ball on the edge of the box, confused the hell out of his marker, and twisted to lob a shot just over the Swindon crossbar. It was no suprise to see Rougier creating Reading's first goal - and in quite some style. Rougier picked up the ball inside the Reading half with two Swindon defenders between him and goal. And off he went. Beating the first with ease and racing towards goal. With Swindon already recognising what a huge danger he could be, two or three defenders were drawn to him. Just before they closed in he knocked the ball forward and to the left to Martin Butler legging it towards the Swindon goal. Butler, his first game back from injury after missing the whole of the pre-season build up, made no mistake. With no one to pressure him on the ball he took it just inside the box and fired low into the bottom corner to the keeper's left. 1-0 to the Royals and just 17 minutes gone.
Whitehead was the saviour on two occassions as Swindon went hunting for the equaliser. As the away side fired in a whole series of crosses to the far post from the right it was inevitable that one would end up on the end of a Swindon forward's boot. As the shot came in from the centre of the Reading box, Whitehead made a superb reaction save to tip the ball over the crossbar as it flew in from a crowd of players. Later on in the half Robinson was found missing in the left back position, and Adie Viveash was beaten as he came to cover the hole. As Swindon broke down the side of the box Whitehead did well to push another shot on target over the crossbar. Although Robinson was beaten a couple of times as the opposition played balls into the box and didn't have his best half at the back in the first half, he was still responsible for a fantastic run down the left wing in the second half as Reading continued push for victory.
For those collecting their half time snacks and drinks it was most inconsiderate of Reading to hit Swindon right after the half time break and make it 2-0 just into the second half. Once again Rougier created the goal. Rogier broke down the left hand side just a minute into the half and crossed back across the face of goal. The ball drifted over the head of Martin Butler, who had drawn the Swindon marker in the middle of the box, to Darren Caskey on the right. Caskey, last season's top scorer, made no mistake and hit it home, off a player, into the right corner of the net. Just the start we needed to the half, and enough to effectively kill Swindon off. 2-0 to the Royals!
With Reading two goals up they continued to look more and more comfortable as time drifted by to the seemingly inevitable Reading victory. Right across the team there was plenty of effort on show. Parky looked back to superb form with a couple of great challenges - including a couple layed on the floor in which he still managed to win the ball back for the Royals. Ricky Newman was diving in all over the place. Darren Caskey, still hoping to continue contract extension talks with the club, played a couple of beautiful balls diagonally across the pitch to let people run onto them in space. Even Barry Hunter, not well known for his superb distribution, lobbed forward a couple of excellent balls. Igoe came on to rest Martin Butler on his return to first team action, and put in some great running down the wing.
It looked like Reading had made it 3-0 later in the half after Caskey crossed from the left and the ball was headed firmly into the right side of the net by a Swindon defender. Unfortunately that was disallowed too - either for a foul on the player of some bizarre offside decision. The referee, having given Swindon quite a rough time in the first half, eased off in the second - and Swindon were lucky to escape without picking up more cards for some very dodgy challenges on Tony Rougier. Rougier started taking the piss towards the end of the game with some brilliant first time touches and some great displays of skill that just left Swindon confused about what was going on. And being two goals up we started to relax and knock the ball around across the whole team with plenty of style. The first half had been a bit more frantic - the second we just played out time for the win.
This was a team performance, but it's hard not to single out Tony Rougier who ran over to the East and North stands at full time punching the air with delight. Lets hope he builds on this game and doesn't fade away in a similar manner to Mass Sarr. A very satisfying win in the end, with Reading looking far more likely the team to be at the top of the table at the end of the season. The defeat at Millwall is already well forgotten - provided we can repeat this kind of performance and put together a run to set us on our way for the season.
Report by Neil Cole:
After a poor start at Millwall last week, the season really got underway with this fantastic victory against Swindon Town. The performance, and more importantly the result, proved the qualities of Alan Pardew as manager. As we all knew he could, Pardew showed he is able to learn from his mistakes, and he got everything spot on this time. The formation was sound, the players gave everything, and the tactics worked perfectly to ensure a comfortable victory over local rivals Swindon.
The team line-up saw welcome returns for Andy Gurney at right-back, and Martin Butler up front. The return of Gurney made the world of difference to the line-up, as it allowed Ricky Newman to return to his correct position in centre midfield. The defence was much more confident that they had been the previous week at Millwall, and Swindon never looked like they were capable of getting past Barry Hunter and Adi Viveash. While Viveash/Williams is the preferable partnership at the back, Hunter had a very good game today and perhaps showed thats it no foregone conclusion that Williams will immediately take his place when available.
Matt Robinson still wasnt at his best defensively, but he showed some determination and creativity going forward, again something which was sadly lacking at Millwall. Caskey was far more active than he had been at The Den, and he looked like making chances for the Royals right from the very start.
But the star of the game was unquestionably Tony Rougier. He showed promise at Millwall, and in this match he started to deliver what we were all hoping he would. His pace and ball skills are exceptional, and in Rougier we have found the kind of player we havent had since Gilkesy was in his prime in the 80s. Rougier created both goals today, laying the first one on perfectly for Martin Butler, and chipping in a decent ball for Caskey to score the second.
It was great to see Martin Butler back up front today. He is understandably unfit after missing the pre-season, but he still managed to look sharp and his finish for the first goal was exceptional. The team still lacked someone to partner him, but hopefully this will be solved by another signing in the very near future. If Jamie Cureton is able to agree terms and sign in time for next week, it would give Reading the most exciting strike force in the division by a long way, and would signal that we really are capable of a title challenge this season.
The only downside of the match was that it followed the sad death of former player, manager, and scout Maurice Evans. He was one of, if not the, greatest servant to Reading Football Club in its long history and Im sure he will be greatly missed by everyone connected to the club. What made this news worse was the reaction of the Swindon fans in the minutes silence. They showed a complete lack of respect, and forced the referee to abandon the silence prematurely. This in unacceptable, and is a poor reflection on the fans of Swindon Town.
The trouble after the game was to be expected, and we are all getting sadly used to seeing the confrontation on the hill after the match. Yet again, the police were badly organised and seem incapable of doing anything to prevent the trouble, or stop it once the confrontation had begun. They made a few token arrests, but still show no sign of doing anything to stop it happening again in the future. The fact that it happens immediately outside the ground is always the worst part, because the genuine football fans get dragged into the trouble and are treated like hooligans. This kind of thing is likely to put many off coming to football, and we may find the number of families and young fans that watch Reading start to decline as people stay away.
Yet we shouldnt let these off-the-pitch events detract from a superb Reading performance, and a victory that gets our season rolling. While Swindon were very bad, at the admission of their own fans after the game, it was an assured and confident win for the Royals. The feeling of optimism amongst the fans has continued from the run we had at the end of last season, and is the strongest Ive ever known it at the start of a campaign. The chants of we are going up were a little premature, but lets hope were all still singing in May.
Post Match Opinions
What a great match today!
We have waited too long for this glorious moment!
Last week - Millwall. An underperformance by the whole
team (Rougier excepted) not explained away by the injuries and out of
all keeping with the last half of last season; the defence seeming to
be half a yard off the pace, the midfield out tackled and the forward
line (apart from Rougier) getting nose bleeds each time they came anywhere
near the opposition penalty area. This week - Swindon. The programme notes
were encouraging. The entire team and management appeared similarly puzzled
by the Millwall game and why we were so bad. There were no excuses. Well,
it happens. Even the soulless success junkies of Man U get an occasional
off performance. One sensed a determination to shrug it off, its all you
can do. Swindon did it. OK so we had one or two escapes but apart from
pretty passing football Swindon were never really in it. And Rougier looks
so good, why did Port Vale give him up for £300K??? Most of you were there
so don't need much detail but read Pard's notes.
Fantastic Game! The lads beat the scum without breaking
a sweat! As entertaining as it was, they were just ticking over at times,
Swindon had a few half chances and that was all. Their only form of attack
was the ball over the top that was easily mopped up by a well organised
Reading defence. Rougier was easily man of the match despite excellent
performances by the whole team. We missed Forster (it could have been
4-0!) but hopefully with Cureton and Butler up-front, Rougier will be
able to supply chances aplenty!
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