MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

23 November 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Watson (61 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 17,465

DIVISION ONE  23 Nov 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Sheff Utd 19 32 +8
7 READING 18 32 +8
8 Watford 20 31 -3
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Upson, Shorey, Hughes (Tyson 88), Watson, Harper, Salako (Igoe 71), Cureton (Rougier 70), Butler. Subs not used: Mackie, Ashdown.
Chamberlain, Cox, Doyley, Gayle, Ardley, Nielsen (Tommy Smith 69) , Hyde (Glass 77), Hand (McNamee 73), Robinson, Pennant, Helguson. Subs not used: Mahon, Lee.
Reading: Rougier. Watford: Robinson.
Referee: F G Stretton (Nottingham)

Reading deservedly took another three points from a well organised and competitive Watford side today. Although Watson scored the only goal with a strike from outside the box which took a heavy deflection to deceive the 'keeper, Hahnemann's first half penalty save was crucial in this tight game.

Forster's injury forced Reading to revert their old 4-4-2 formation with Butler and Cureton leading the attack and looked far less threatening than they have in recent games. Having said that, the pair almost produced a goal after two minutes when Butler swung the ball in from the right and had Cureton had been an inch or two taller he would surely have scored. Watford seemed to sit back and invite Reading to attack in the opening quarter of an hour and although there were some moments of panic in the visitors defence there were no really clear cut chances.

Midway through the half Reading appeared to have conceded a goal but the referee gave a penalty that neither the crowd or the players seemed to have noticed. There were no protests from the Reading players who were probably relieved that a goal was not given. The penalty was well struck but Hahnemann made a good diving save to his left.

Seven minutes later Butler flicked on a Salako cross and the ball ran away from Cureton in the six yard area. It was a very sharp chance but one that the little man was capable of tucking a way. Cureton then produced a defence splitting ball to Harper on the right who delivered a good low cross which Watford managed to clear for a corner. Reading had another scare just before half time when Watford had the ball in the net again. This time it was ruled out due to an offside decision.

Reading began the second half brightly and created pressure with some good passing and movement. They had to wait for the sixty-first minute for the goal. Watson having had three spectacular misses from outside the box let fly and the 'keeper was completely wrong-footed by a vicious deflection. Watson can hit a ball really well but today his shooting had been awful.

This inevitably opened up the game as Watford pressed for an equaliser but it didn't really look on the cards. Their finishing had been woeful all afternoon and when they did create chances the resulting strikes on goal were more of danger to their own fans than the Reading defence. Igoe and Rougier replaced Cureton and Salako presumably to freshen up the attack. It was disappointing to see Cureton come off just when he was looking likely to create chances and had hit the bar with a header. I think he should have stayed on. I was less impressed with Butler who gave the ball away far too often with poor control or passing.

The referee through some amazingly poor decisions, and adding a ludicrous amount of stoppage time, managed to create an ill-tempered climax to the game. Rougier was a little unlucky to be booked and then was fouled blatantly right under the referee's nose and nothing was given! I seem to recall Mr. Stretton putting in a similarly inept performance here last season. Let us hope we only get him once a season!

Pardew rightly cited the back four as the difference between the two teams today - they were superb again. It was noticeable not only in the way they snuffed out danger but also their composure on the ball and distribution gave the Royals crucial edge. Shorey is looking more confident every game and for a small player won a very high percentage of balls in the air with his excellent timing. The formation did not look as effective as the 4-5-1 of recent weeks. Not only did the attack lack pace, but I felt Hughes and Harper were less inclined to push forward with only four in the middle.

Only three goals concede in the last nine games is an impressive record, and indicates there is a solid base from which to mount a serious challenge for a play-off place. I still think a big strong front man with good touch and the ability to score with his head could make us more than hopeful contenders for that spot. The Portsmouth game promises to be a cracker!
John Wells

nick newbury
The mighty Royals march on with another solid performance against Watford , one of the so called top teams in the division ! I'm not sure if many of us realised it before the game , but here we had the classic six pointer , and we came through with flying colours . 1-0 flattered Watford , Reading had the vast majority of possession and took the game to Watford with some exciting build up play , Forster was sorely missed , and hopefully returns soon . Butler and Curo worked hard and gave their all , but both looked a little jaded and lacking match fitness , something which Pards must be aware of . As this season continues to develop and we continue to pinch ourselves , a few gems are starting to emerge that could bode very well for the exciting future of this club . Marcus Hahnemann is turning into a very good goalkeeper , solid as a rock under pressure and possess great distribution skills , Shorey gets better every game , just needs to go on a fast food diet and bulk up , Hughes is close to being a midfield maestro , Forster just gets better and for me the real diamond has been James Harper . Yes , he's going to have off games when he gets lost in a game , but have no doubt , this lad is going to be very special . His workrate and engine is phenomenal , he posses great skills and as his confidence grows you can see the lad oozing class and being at the heart of all our play . Ade Williams had another stormer and it goes without saying that Matty Upson again gave a performance that looked like he was playing for his shirt not soon to oh so sadly depart . There was a rumour yesterday that he may be available to buy for one and a bit million . Well , I'm not sure myself if that is true , but if it is , then we should all dig into our pockets pawn the wives and buy him ourselves . Everybody played well yesterday , and even the pillock in black couldn't spoil our day by giving the most bizarre penalty I've ever seen , or see nearly 2000 away fans so shocked at the decision too . The twerp even had the gall to play nearly 8 flipping minutes of added time just to show he was in charge . Twat !! We now enter a massive run of games that will determine our destiny this season , most are above or near us in the league and most are so called big teams . Bring them all on I say , because you know what , we're not worried ,they all will be at playing "the" inform team in the league .We're not going down , we're almost certainly not going up , but we can all look forward to each game with great excitement and real pleasure . Happy days indeed !!
ken c
If anyone wondered why we had switched to playing 4-5-1, then this game provided the answer. A line up that missed the aggression of Newman and the speed of Forster meant that our back four had to play out of their skins to ensure that their remarkable record continued. Behind them, Hahnemann showed why he had been brought to the club. His penalty save was the reason why we won this. Cox did not strike the shot badly, but Marcus leapt to his left to bring off a remarkable save. Reading started brightly and might have gone ahead in the first few minutes as Cureton just failed to get to a good ball played across the goal by Butler. It really is a sign of the development of the team that with Butler and Cureton starting you just felt that this wasn't our strongest eleven. Both had good games. Butler worked as only he can, and Cureton showed that he can create as well as score. Having said that our offensive play just lacked a bit of quality. Watford came into the game more and more and their passing and movement were just that little bit better than ours.Where we were strong was in defence and they were just outstanding. Had Watford gone in at half time a goal up we could not have complained. Fortunately the ref. blew for a penalty very quickly when Harper handled the ball, otherwise a goal would have stood. The penalty save changed the game. When the Reading goal came it had an element of luck to it. Watson had tried a couple of long shots already. With both of his previous efforts he had tried to hit across the ball rather than just hitting it. The result in both cases was that he missed by more than a goal's width. This time he just tried to hit it straight, it hit a Watford player and Chamberlain had no chance. The game did get a bit scrappy at times but it was terrific entertainment. Watford just couldn't breakdown a resolute defence in which Williams was outstanding, and had we chosen better options we might have scored on the break. In the end we held on. It was a team that showed fantastic resolve and who wanted to win. A team that had great belief in itself. Had I been a Watford fan I would have felt robbed, but I'm not! It was great!!
caversham royal
A very tight game against a Watford side who looked quite useful in patches. I thought we were fairly average in the 1st half, but much improved in the 2nd. A shame Pardew couldn't resist the urge to revert to his favourite 4-5-1 when it looked like we could possibly get a 2nd with 4-4-2. I'm sure it could be argued that we needed to bolster the midfield in a tight game and try to ensure the win, but we seemed less effective as an attacking unit. Also a shame it meant the manager doing his usual and removing Cureton. Fair enough, he doesn't fit into 4-5-1 as well as Butler. But comparing their performances;- Cureton worked quite hard, linked up play well, and some of his passing was excellent, where as Butler worked hard, but his 1st touch was poor, and his passing atrocious. Shame, because I've always liked Butler as a player but he seems permanently out of sorts at present. I'll probably keep banging on about this all season or until Cureton gets fed up and goes to Norwich or wherever, but I could still see him and Forster working as a combination up front. Some of the balls Cureton was playing though would've been perfect for Forster's pace, and Forster's ability to create chances for himself or others out of nothing would be something Cureton could feed off. Our most dangerous player and our best finisher playing together, but Pardew doesn't seem to think they can play together or just wont do it. It seemed to work when they played together for a while last season. Ok, enough of that. Glad to see the manager showing a bit of passion when the ref was being such a twit towards the end of the match, just hope he doesn't get into trouble over it. The defence again looked pretty solid (still worry about how it will be post-Upson), but the midfield seemed to miss Newman or someone of his like putting themselves about, particularly in the 1st half. Still, we've often lost tight ones like this and instead it's another 3 points and still in touch with the top teams. Well done. More of the same at Palace, And I really hope we can show Brighton & Zamora Albion how wrong they were to gloat at the end of last season next Sat. COME ON.......
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