Match Report: 2010/2011 Season

24 August 2010: LEAGUE CUP ROUND 2
Reading: Mills (16 mins, 113 mins), Robson-Kanu (62 mins).
Northampton: Holt (20 mins), Thornton (64 mins), Mills (120 mins, own goal).
Half Time: 1-1.
Full Time: 2-2.
AET: 3-3.

Attendance: 6,986

Pos Team P Pts GD
17 Preston 3 3 -5
18 READING 3 2 -1
19 Nottm Forest 3 2 -1
Reading: Hamer, Mills, Williams, Pearce, Kelly (Taylor, 50), Howard, Karacan, Robson-Kanu, Antonio (Kebe, 46), Hunt (Long, 94), Church. Subs not used: McAnuff, Federici, Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson.
Northampton: Jansson, Hall, Beckwith, Rodgers, Thornton, Holt, Osman, Wedderburn, Purcell (Konstantinou, 109), McKay (Guinan, 83), Herbert (Jacobs, 62). Subs not used: Walker, Harris, Slowe, Death.
Reading: Howard, Mills, Williams
Northampton: Guinan, McKay, Purcell
Ref: R East (England).
The majority of the six thousand loyal Royals fans who turned up for this Carling Cup encounter must have left the ground with mixed feelings of anger and disappointment for a number of reasons. It was a game Reading should have won comfortably and, in spite of Northampton's spirited performance, in fact deserved to win. It is a long story but essentially the game was lost due to extremely poor goalkeeping and incompetent refereeing. Three times Reading took the lead and on each occasion surrendered the lead far too easily. They finally succumbed to inferior opponents in a fiasco of penalty shoot out where the least experienced player (Jake Taylor making his debut as substitute) was put under incredible pressure to keep his team in the competition. It has to be said the manager should never have allowed that to happen and raises questions about the character of some the more experienced players in failing to sep forward to take responsibility.

Reading made six changes from the starting eleven from the league game on Saturday choosing to rest their three most effective attacking players in McAnuff, Kebe and Sigurdsson. Everything looked to be going to plan as Antonio tore into the Town defence and although he still lacks the composure to deliver a good cross or controlled strike on goal he was keeping the visitors on the back foot. Town looked edgy and were easily hustled off the ball. Mills turned in a Howard free kick after seventeen minutes to give reading a deserved lead. The lead lasted three minutes when Hamer came out to gather the ball and somehow managed to drop the ball when under no pressure, not once, but twice! Holt probably couldn't believe his luck as he poked the ball into the net unopposed. From that point doubt began to creep into the minds of the Reading players and Town caught a whiff of their anxiety and began to play with greater confidence. Reading almost found themselves a goal down almost immediately but Town were unable to convert a good chance from close range. Williams was looking particularly vulnerable at left back. He seemed incapable of preventing his man from going past him or crossing the ball. Fortunately Mills and Pearce dealt effectively with the danger often at the expense of the corner. Howard struck the bar with free kick and Church had a header saved. Mills was just wide with header but by half time the mood had changed and the result was still in doubt.

Kebe replaced the injured Antonio at the interval and Reading started positively. After a succession of shots blocked in a goalmouth scramble Robson-Kanu finally found the back of the net to restore Reading's lead. Once again Town equalised within a couple of minutes courtesy of Hamer who palmed a cross out to leave Thornton the simple task of putting the ball in the net past a grounded 'keeper. Town were now looking far more assured than the Royals and Hamer made a good save to keep out a low shot from Thornton. Taylor filling in at right back for the injured Kelly made a good tackle to prevent a late winner for Town. The visiting fans went wild when Guinan scored in the last minute but fortunately for Reading the goal was disallowed. It was worrying how Reading were allowing their opponents so much time and space on the flanks.

The home fans did their utmost to encourage their team as extra time began but the Royals were struggling now and the game was likely to go either way. Once again Mills gave Reading the lead with a powerful header and with seven minutes to go it should have been all over. Town looked a beaten team as the game went into three minutes of added time especially when Long was brought down as he closed in for a tap in as the ball rebounded from the post. Everyone could see it was a clear penalty including the Town players who stopped playing a waited for the whistle. Referee East had to urge both sets of players to continue the game as they stood and looked in disbelief at the decision. Even if Reading had missed the spot kick there would not have been sufficient time for Town to come back. Almost immediately Williams finally stopped his man, but with a foul and was promptly given a yellow card. Reading were made to pay for his desperate lunge. As the game moved into the fifth minute of added time (after three minutes had been announced!) Town's 'keeper joined the attack for last desperate attempt to save the game. Once again Town were given an unbelievable amount of time on the ball and a cross was deflected past his own 'keeper by Mills. The generosity of the referee and the Royals defence had given Town a lifeline they must have been surprised to receive.

Church had an awful game and rounded it off by missing the first Reading spot kick in the shoot out, and poor Jake Taylor sealed Reading's fate by missing the fourth and crucial penalty. I am sure McDermott will be quick to re-assure the young player about his ability but his confidence will also need re-building. Hamer missed his chance to redeem himself as Town converted four successive kicks and won without needing to take their final kick. It ended a distressing night for Reading and raises real concerns about the strength of the squad. Brian McDermott has got his work cut out lifting morale after this very poor display.

John Wells

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