READING 1 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 (Half Time: 1-0)
Salako (6 mins).
Wigan Scorers: Haworth (57 mins).
22 December 2001
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Hughes (Igoe 66), Neil Smith, Jones (Parkinson 66), Salako, Cureton (Rougier 45), Forster. Subs not used: Harper, Ashdown.
Wigan: Filan, Green, De Zeeuw, Jackson, McMillan, Kennedy, Kilford, Cook, Teale, Haworth, Liddell. Subs not used: Nolan, Dalglish, McGibbon, McCulloch, Roberts.
Bookings: Kennedy, McMillan (Wigan).
With teams at the top dropping points this result does not have such a significant effect on the promotion race but it was an ideal opportunity to gain ground on some of our rivals. Once again I left feeling disappointed by the performance and the result. Alan Pardew claimed that the team performed better today than in the recent cup games. I'm glad I missed them! Given the injuries and suspension of Henderson I suppose a point against an improving Wigan side is not that bad, but when you're trying to close the gap it is not good enough.
The biggest concern for me when the teams were announced was the collective passing ability of the midfield. With the exception of Salako who could deliver the incisive passes? However those deficiencies were initially forgotten when Salako timed his run perfectly as Cureton flicked the ball past the last defender. The finish was an example of how easy scoring is for a player with ability and composure. As the ball dropped to him Salako first quickly checked to see if he was on side before controlling the ball. He then considered the option of finishing from outside the box before taking it round Filan and sliding the ball into the empty net.
The rest of the half was mainly a scrappy affair littered with careless errors. Wigan were showing a little more tenacity, spirit, and flair than the home side and consequently looked more likely to score. The Royals defence was performing well enough but the midfield was not working as a unit. They were defending too deep and not able to keep possession long enough to get a grip on the game, or provide any decent service to Cureton or Forster. Hughes was again totally ineffective. His performance prompted calls for Igoe in the second half. Forster as usual posed the greatest threat with his pace but Cureton does not have the strength or aggression to make something for himself. Having said that I still felt a win was still on the cards at half time.
Reading started the second half in more determined fashion. Rougier came on for Cureton and was looking sharp. The turning point in the game came following a comical mix up in the Wigan defence. Filan was suddenly stricken with doubt about the back pass law when the ball was at his feet. Rougier relieved of the dilemma by taking possession. At this point Filan completely 'lost it' and brought Rougier down as the Reading forward was dribbling away from goal in a wide position. Forster stepped up and hit a feeble spot kick to Filan's right and he was able to gather comfortably. At this point I had a premonition. I turned to my mates Andrew and Richard - "We aint gonna win this are we?" I'm sure all Reading fans know that feeling.
The equaliser, had it been deliberate would have been brilliant, but it wasn't. The ball broke kindly to Howarth off Shorey and the Wigan forward stabbed at the ball, it looped up it the air and dropped inside the far post with Hahnemann stranded.
The game sprang to life with both sides initially looking for a win. Pardew made the only sensible changes left open to him by taking off Hughes and Jones and bringing on Igoe and Parkinson. Eventually Reading mounted some pressure but it was not going to be our day. We needed a break but it didn't come and desperation increased as the fans trickled away.
We have got a squad good enough to take us up but we need to play like we believe it. If was a gambler, my money would be on a play-off place at the moment. Any chance of Santa providing the money for Watson?
Report by John Wells.
Post Match Opinions
What a load of absolute crap. No imagination, no skill, no flair,
no entertainment, no ideas, no will to win, no ambition and no midfield.
Total bollocks and over 15,000 suffering hypothermia . We're just a typical
old fashioned division two side without a blinking clue on how to get
out of this division. Pardew out!
It is an obvious thing to say, but the result turned on the penalty
miss. It gave Wigan hope and us doubts and the result became inevitable.
It was a strange game in many ways. Yet again I felt that we did not come
out quickly enough. It is important when we are at home that we get at
teams early on, but we continually fail to do so. It was a relief that
we got the early goal. Credit to Salako for a good finish and to Cureton
for knocking the ball to him. What we were unable to do was to push on
from there and to get a second and there were several reasons for that.
Firstly Wigan are a better side than their position indicates. They had
a disastrous start to the season, but they have bought in some good players
and I would not be surprised to see them make the play offs. We are a
team which is suffering from too many key men out. We do have a good squad,
but the limits of it were exposed today. If Cureton and Forster are to
play up front then we know that they are not going to hold the ball up.
They need the ball played to their feet, in the space between the keeper
and the back four or into the channels. Today we did not have a quality
passer of the ball in the side. It is the midfield that have given the
greatest concern this season. Whilst Salako showed class on the left,
Hughes showed himself to be a shadow of the player from the start of his
Reading career. Smith is useful but Jones does not create, and so in midfield
we were outplayed. I thought that Pardew did the right thing in replacing
Cureton with Rougier who had an excellent second half. He was able to
hold the ball better and won the penalty. When Igoe came on he produced
the best cross of the match, which surprised me that noone managed to
divert towards the goal. He also seems to have a better understanding
with Murty than Hughes does and so we see more attacking options with
Igoe that with Hughes. It might have been a bit more positive to bring
on Harper for Jones but nonetheless it was good to see Parkie back. However,
unlocking defences is not his skill and that is what we are struggling
to do. We only had six shots and that is not enough. A draw was probably
a fair result. The facts are though that we missed a penalty and, I think
that their equalizer was a bit of a fluke. Had we won two one, then we
might not have been overjoyed with the performance but the result would
have been good. It was just the penalty that made the difference!
A very poor performance. Great goal from Salako, but a dismal display
thereafter. Hughes just does not seem interested, Cureton did nothing,
Jones was a passenger, and frankly, the only reason that the whole team
were not substituted is that only three changes are allowed. The 8 that
played 90 minutes only survived on the pitch for the whole game because
the rules didn't allow any more substitutions. Our season in terms of
auto promotion looks over. It is not the fact that a draw with Wigan is
a disaster, it is more the way we under achieved. We are still in touch
points wise, but any optimism previously held was wiped away by a totally
inept display of negative football. Changes are essential. I do not think
sacking the manager is sensible, but something has to break soon, or the
play offs will become our only chance. The chairman must make up his mind
whether he really wants it. It is not good enough to say that he has given
sufficient funds to get us up, if things are still not working. We still
need a couple more qualty players, without which we will fail. It is pointless
doing half a job. Either Reading go seriously for promotion, or he might
as well lose the few quality professionals we do have and resign himself
to chairing a second rate football club.
The phone in to BBC Berkshire summed it up. Callers complained the
game wasn't even up to Park Football standard. We need a midfield. There
is absolutely no link up play from defence to attack. It's easy to see
why Cureton has gone off the boil, it seems nobody in the team has figured
out how to play to his strengths. Hughes was once again crap. I thought
Forster only looked useful when in the second half he started attacking
their full back. But as usual he refused to look around him to see what
options he had. And as for his penalty effort. PATHETIC.
Saturday was one of those frustrating afternoons, when for all our
possession we created very few goal scoring opportunities and worst still,
we continue to be prone to leaking a goal to a team who put up a solid
performance, but can hardly be described as dangerous. For most of the
game I thought we defended well, but there still seems to be occasions
when there is panic in defence, a lapse in concentration and confidence.
Readings problems are obvious to see, we lack any authority in mid field
and we create very few clear cut chances which I feel is down to our tactical
naivety. Poor old Cureton, no wonder he is out of sorts, he never gets
a sniff and is always chasing a hopeful or impossible ball. I am tempted
to state the obvious and call for Pardews head, as I feel tactically he
has made mistakes which we can ill afford. Given time Pardew will learn
and may turn out to be a great manager. Is the club however patient enough
to wait for this to happen, if so I fear we might have to right off another
season to his learning curve. With Pardew having done a reasonable job
so far and acknowledged to still be learning his trade, would it not be
better to speed up this process and bring in an assistant with some experience
to help him become the leader the fans crave. There are plenty of coaches
and managers with great credentials who could step in and help Pardew
secure automatic promotion. Thinking ahead, if by hock or crock Pardew
did get us promoted, how would he fair in the first division? Huddersfield
found it tough and are suffering now in the second division. Sacking Pardew
now would not guarantee anything as despite Reading having one of the
largest squads in the league, we are still deficient in a few vital areas
of the pitch. Mr Madejski may not have 100% confidence in Pardew, as he
has given him enough money already and allowing him to spend more may
just mean more signings like Hughes and Harper. Pardew will argue he has
brought in some good players like Shorey, but why did we have to wait
so long for him to get picked? When he did it was due to Robinson's injury.
I loved the quote from another correspondent about his taking "a kid
for a quid" and feeling cheated. The best passes that Wigan received during
the match came from Reading players - and something is seriously wrong
if professional players cannot do the basic skills of the game. There
was little bite or direction from the midfield until Igoe and Parky came
on - we cannot expect Fozzy or Curo to do the biz when they don't get
decent, regular ball. We are sorely missing midfield players with vision
who can also tackle and lay off good quality ball. Until we get those
players the defence will always be under pressure and the attack will
always be under resourced. It could well be that we do have those players
but leadership is the problem, whatever, it needs sorting and Pards has
had a lot of time and resources put his way .... If people took a kid
for a quid and felt cheated .. how must the Chairman feel?
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