(Half Time: 0-2)
Reading Scorers: Hughes (25 mins), Forster (42 mins).
Wigan Scorers: -
Date: 22 January 2002
Attendance: 5,546

Reading: Roberts, Murty, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Igoe, Jones, Hughes, Salako, Rougier (Cureton 88), Forster (Henderson 88). Subs not used: Robinson, Gamble, Ashdown.

Wigan: Filan, Green (Haworth 45), McGibbon, De Zeeuw, Croft, McMillan, Dinning, Brannan, Teale (Dalglish 76), McCulloch, Liddell. Subs not used: Kilford, Roberts, Mitchell.

Bookings: Jones (Reading); Liddell (Wigan).
Referee: M S Pike (Barrow-in-Furness)

The amazing run continues. Who could have predicted this before Christmas? After the boxing day draw at Cardiff City, the Royals have been unstoppable. The record since that match now reads as six games, six wins, eleven goals scored, and not a single goal conceeded. It's an incredible record that's seen Reading rise from fifth in the table to six points clear after tonight's 2-0 victory over Wigan. The most impressive thing is Reading have deserved every single victory. Once again tonight Reading were the better side to deservedly take three points. On paper this was going to be one of the trickiest games of the season with Wigan on a great run, but Reading brushed them aside to continue the march towards Division One.

Reading started with a single change over the team that made it five straight wins on Saturday, with Phil Parkinson missing out and Keith Jones coming into the centre of midfield. Parkinson was superb on Saturday, but Reading worked as a team tonight and continued where they'd left off on Saturday, playing some decent football and taking the game to Wigan. The Royals got off to another good start putting the home side under plenty of early pressure and forcing the Wigan keeper to come a couple of times to push the ball clear with the Reading front line looking dangerous.

Despite Wigan's recent record it was Reading that went on the attack - clearly looking to take the three points from the fixture. Early on we could have twice taken the lead after extended pressure on the Wigan goal. Jones was playing an active role and did well to set up Tony Rougier who put the ball into the area for Salako. Salako looked likely to score and it needed a sharp Wigan defence to block the effort at the last minute as Salako came steaming in. The ball went out for the corner, and as the ball was pumped back into the box Williams headed towards goal and the ball was cleared off the line.

The first goal didn't take long in coming. On the break, Salako exchanged passes with the determined Andy Hughes. Hughes knew exactly where he was going and pushed the ball forward as he ran for goal with a defender hot on his tail. Hughes did a great job, keeping the ball taking it wide and shooting low across goal to beat the keeper and put the Royals a goal up. There was to be no way back for Wigan. With Reading making all the dangerous play it was 2-0 just before the break when a bit of luck allowed Reading to extend the lead. Forster got the ball on the edge of the box and found an average shot deflect off an unfortunate defender and find the net.

To Reading's further credit they didn't sit on the lead and could have gone further ahead before the break when a Hughes cross found Forster inside the Wigan box. Forster's header was just wide of the target. The second half saw a controlled performance from the Royals with the game already won. Wigan failed to put a massive amount of pressure on the Reading goal and when they did they found Roberts holding the ball well when the odd dangerous cross penetrated the Reading area. Any goal would have been a consolation, but it didn't come with Reading retaining plenty of possession and looking solid as anything at the back. This was another superb tactical display from the Royals. The only way seems to be up this season, and Alan Pardew deserves all the credit that should be heaped apon him right now.

Following report from James Hilliard:
Why didn't we do the same in the home tie!? A thoroughly convincing victory against an 'in-form' Wigan side having a rather 'off-day'. Just before Christmas I watched us struggle to see this Wigan side off, but last night we showed more than a touch of class and fully justified our league position.

The first half was full on Alan Pardew - soak it up and hit them on the break. True to form we looked very good moving forward, passing the ball well with speed and accuracy. Particular mention to all four midfielders who I thought controlled the game throughout by keeping the ball when we had it and using it wisely. Igoe has rediscovered the attacking flair that cemented his position last term. Hughes was inspirational once more and looks far more comfortable in the centre of the field than out wide. His just desserts came with a typical Reading break, out-stripping the defence before slotting the ball to the right of John Filan in the Wigan goal. Filan had a good game and can be rightly pissed off with his defence for both goals. He made a couple of tidy saves that kept the score down for most of the first half.

But then came the nail in Wigan's coffin. Forster picked up the ball on the edge of the box out on the left with his back to goal. Running across the edge of the area, Forster created enough space to let the slap shot go. Goal bound one way it took a wicked deflection leaving Filan stranded at the right post as it trickled in on his left. 2-0 and spark "Top of the League, Top of the League". Then there was even better news to come with Cardiff seeing off Stoke at Ninian Park.

Wigan huffed and puffed in the second half whilst Reading soaked up pressure and looked solid throughout. We created a few chances on the break through Hughes and Igoe but were unable to capitalise. But hey - 2-0 away to Wigan, that'll do me.

My special praise for last nights game go to all the subs who sat and cheered the team on throughout. Only Henderson and Cureton got on (88th minute) and by then it was all over as a contest. Can't be easy travelling the best part of four hours to do a good warm up and a few sprints up and down the touchline. Well done Cureton, Henderson, Gamble, Ashdown et al. Can't wait for the weekend and a stuffing of the Layer Road lay-abouts. Come on Urzzzz!

Post Match Opinions

Was at the match last night, superb performance from the whole team. I have to admit that I fancied the Royals to sneak a win last night, however I never expected it to be so comfortable against an inform Wigan side. The whole team were, as reported very professional, with special praise going to the midfield. For me Sammy Igoe was man of the match. I've never liked Jones as a player in the past, but last night he was superb and showed what good player he really is. Hughes again looked much better for playing down the middle and took his goal well, 'A great finish.'
Salako had a decent first half but was not so effective in the second, though he's a crowd pleaser and always first to come and acknowledge the supporters.
The defence are looking more and more accomplished every time I see them play, it's funny how a few injuries to key players can throw together a winning combination! Up front I would still like to see Curo in the starting line up, yes I am a fan, but I still think we would score more if he was playing. Did anyone at the match notice his body language after the final whistle? He didn't come over to the supporters as I have noticed him do in the past and I observed Pardew having a word in his ear. Even though he's not starting matches maybe we the supporters should sing his praises, after all lets not forget the 30 odd goals he scored for us last year! Who to drop? Maybe simply rotate a bit! Forster and Rougier looked a bit jaded to me in the second half!
On a more upbeat note to finish the last two games I've been able to go to lately have been Huddersfield and last night against to of the fancied teams, boy did we outplay them both, my Oldham supporting Father-in-law hates me a the mo, especially my smug 'told you so' expression!
We really are the team to catch now. Come on URZ!

-- Paul (Rochdale)

I was at this match, and despite a nervous first 10 minutes, Reading were not seriously threatened. Wigan were so bad, it was hard to believe at times. Nothing seemed to go their way. When Hughes got the ball, in his own half, and ran towards the Wigan goal, I felt he could go all the way and score, and that's exactly what he did. He had a good game, and so did all the Reading players. Forster's goal was a bit lucky, but it was one of those evenings where luck was on Reading's side. Salako was a bit quiet in the second half, but as we watched the minutes tick away, I don't think anyone thought Wigan would cause any problems. Ben Roberts in goal was confident, and dealt with the few crosses etc pushed into the box, and the only tricky one he punched away well. All in all, a very pleasing result, another clean sheet, and Stoke and Brentford slipping up again.
--Adrian Hillcoat

Listened to the whole match on BBC Berkshire and without having seen the play it sounded another professional performance as the Royals rose to the challenge to bring Wigan's 12 match unbeaten run to an end. Further more this impressive away result was achieved with the absence of our captain who has been a key player in the recent run of form. I have to confess that when this was announced just before kick off and Jones was named as replacement, I thought Pardew had lost the plot and missed the chance to throw Gamble into the line-up to prove himself. Pardew and Dillon got it spot on though as Hughes and Jones were hailed as Reading's best players on the night by the BBC commentary team. As I predicted in my match preview comment, Reading are not the team Wigan faced back in December and perhaps need the challenge of a tough match to bring the best out in them. This bodes well for the fixture against Stoke coming up, but will mean that Pardew and Dillon will have to keep the players feet firmly on the ground for the fixture against Colchester when Reading will need to show true professionalism, because every sportsman knows that it is easy to get yourself up for the big occasion, but the easy matches can sometimes be hard to put away if you are not quite right on the day. A note of caution as Reading post a 6 point advantage at the top of the table - not to get complacent and show boat, but I am sure that Pardew and Dillon will not let the players forget what has put them at the top of the pile, and that is hard work and determination. Reading seem to be enjoying themselves now and I reckon that the squad has never been so focused and together. Pardew and Dillon must be happy men tonight and long may the good work continue. Well done lads: a huge victory and just the type of result which is the trade mark of a championship winning side. Roll on Saturday, but remember Colchester can play a little as well!
-- Paul Finch

Another excellent result.
I too listened on BBC Berkshire and it seemed the Royals cruised through this "difficult" encounter at the JJB stadium. Its great that Pardew can afford to rest Forster and Rougier towards the end and bring on 2 strikers in Cureton and Henderson that would grace most division one sides yet alone division two! It is great being a Royals fan just now but theres a long way to go and I just hope the boys will keep their eye on the ball and their foot on the pedal against the so called "weaker" sides. Please lads no more great days out at the millenium stadium, my heart wouldnt stand that!

-- Micheal Garland

I cant believe this is happening. What a result away to a good, and on form Wigan side, and judging by the commentary on BBC Berks, a deserved and comfortable one too. I would have been more than happy with a draw tonight, and my friend predicted a narrow defeat (Stand up Kevin Mitchell). With Brentford and Stoke slipping up again, it seems that promotion is becoming a formality.
Huge praise to Pardew who I am ashamed to admit, I rubbished in the Autumn (Please forgive me Alan). We have quality in depth that is now beginning to pay dividends, and only cock ups of major proportions can lose us promtion, either that or the re-instatement of 'Martin Who' at the expense of Kevin Dillon! What chance a Reading championship season followed by England winning the World Cup thanks to a Nicky Forster winner. After all in his post match summary Alan Pardew did challenge that Nicky Forster is, and I quote, "Faster with the ball at his feet, and I include Michael Owen, than anyone". Look out next week for "Parky is better than Becks".

-- Bob Lethaby


-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

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