MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

24 September 2003: LEAGUE CUP ROUND TWO
Reading: Salako (52 mins), Forster (66 mins), Harper (90 mins).
Oxford United:
Louis (78 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 9,870

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Brown, Williams, Shorey, Murray (Daley 74), Harper, Hughes, Newman, Salako, Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Mackie, Savage, Tyson.
Oxford United:
Woodman, Ashton, Crosby, Bound, McNiven, Whitehead, Hunt, Townsley (Hackett 62), Robinson, Rawle (Scott 69), Alsop (Louis 74). Subs not used: McCarthy, Brown.
Reading: Newman, Williams
Oxford United:
Referee: B Curson (Leicester)

An easier game this season we're unlikely to get - there was never any doubt about this result despite the score-line might suggest as Reading cruised to a straight forward victory. How the Royals went in at half time with the score still standing at 0-0 I will never know. With the huge billing of this game for the home team and supporters it must have been a massive anti-climax as the home time hardly managed to touch the ball during the opening 45 minutes. Oxford's main involvement in the match from the start was to hoof the ball clear as they attempted to keep the Royals at bay. Reading on the other hand were playing the ball around the park, player to player and patiently keeping possession and Oxford entirely out of the game. Reading crushed Oxford in the second half - but the last 45 minutes saw a big improvement from the home side as the game came more to life.

A changed Reading formation and line-up saw Newman and Salako back into the starting line-up. The new look side appeared to give us a real touch of class above Oxford who could only watch as Reading made use of the full pitch to play the ball around. We looked good down both wings with Murty and Shorey getting plenty of the ball to bring it forward. Salako looked good back out on the left and Harper had a much improved game as he played some great long balls wide that continually found targets. In defence we coped well as Oxford pumped some long high balls forward to their tall men up front hoping for a break away goal. That was the only way the home side might have sneaked the lead but both Williams and Brown were in fine form - not only to win the headers but keep it in play to allow Reading to build forward again. Up front it was a bit disappointing we didn't make the most of all our possession and create a few first half goals. We didn't great a massive number of chances but still should have gone in at the break well ahead. The best chance of the half fell to Scott Murray who received an excellent forward cross from Shorey from the left. Murray found himself deep in the area with just the keeper to beat but somehow blasted it hight over the crossbar. We thought we'd scored twice - once the ball was just wide to the left after a great move down the right and after that we did get the ball into the back of the net - but it was disallowed for a corner.

Nicky Forster has continually looked dangerous during the first half, cutting in on a number of occassions and he clearly knew that the Oxford defence simply didn't know how to cope with him. He took full advantage of this in the second half and with a touch a greed continually ran and the defence causing all kinds of problems. Forster was clearly loving the way he was such a threat and helped score or create all our second half goals. Not long after the break Forster cut in from the left and his shot came out off the keeper to John Salako in the middle of the box. Salako flew into the ball and the ball was in the back of the net. Relief at last and 1-0 to the Royals. The goal seemed to bring Oxford to live as they enjoyed their best spell of the ball forcing Hahnemann's first real stop of the game. It was Reading that remained on top and a superb Forster effort on 66 minutes made it 2-0. Forster weaved in and out of the Oxford defence - straight through the middle and blasted it home. 2-0.

At this point it might have been game over with Reading so much on top and looking likely to score shed loads more. Oxford realised they were losing the chance to impress in front of a big home crowd of nearly 10,000 and pushed forward. Their best move of the game deserved a goal as the Reading defence was broken for the first time in the game. A quick move down the left saw ex-Royal Robinson involved as the ball was crossed well deep into the box. The finish was excellent - a firm header past Hahnemann and it was 2-1. For a brief moment the home fans got excited thinking a late comeback was on the cards - but that soon evaporated as Reading got the game straight back under control calming playing the ball around and leaving United with hardly a touch of the ball as the game came to a close. Daley came off the bench and must have seen Forster at work. All of a sudden Daley was dancing with the ball leaving Oxford player's bewildered with his skill. With Forster and Daley causing that many problems the third was always on the cards. It was an excellent third goal. Daley got down the right and left poor Matt Robinson as a heap in the floor as a swift touch allowed him to get free to supply Forster in the middle of the box. Forster took it to the line with the defence in panic and cut it back to Harper - who blasted it home from a few yards out. 3-1 to Reading and a fairer reflection of the scoreline.

There was only really one team in it tonight and Reading avoided any kind of upset with ease all through the game. This was a great result for Kevin Dillon as the Royals management race hots up. Oxford might not have been the best side we'll play all season, and it was clear that there's two Divisions between us, but Reading played some excellent football and looked an excellent team unit. Lets hope the third round draw is kind!


This was a much better team performance. Despite a lapse for the Oxford goal, Reading looked pretty comfortable for most of the 90. Having Salako on the left provided much needed width, and his presence seemed to have a positive affect on Shorey's form which has been uncertain of late. It also showed that, despite the usual collection of stray passes, Hughes is much more comfortable & affective in the middle, and he played an important role in the 1st & 3rd goals. Daley, too, looked much more affective coming on as a sub than his previous outings and he too had a major part in goal 3. All in all, it was nice to come away from a game not fuming & feeling the need to call the players all the names under the sun, a stark contrast to Saturday's rubbish! This result may go some way to re-establishing Dillon as the leading contender for the manager's post. Let's hope this form continues at Sunderland on Sat. COME ON......(Thank God!!!)
Caversham Royal.

Job well done. Good performance against pretty mediocre Oxford side where our class clearly showed and proved too strong in the end. Salako did well and provided more decent crosses than have been put in the box all season . Forster was on fire and played well as did Omar Pornstar when he came on , may be worth a start soon . Not sure what this did for Dillons cause , but can't have done any harm . I find it quite surreal with our club being associated with all these so called big names for the vacant job , Adams certainly risky but a born winner , Twoddle a brilliant player but crap manager , who knows, but I think this time next week it will be decided. Let's hope for a decent home draw in the next round , West Ham at home?
Nick Newbury

Nights like last night can be a real reminder of how far we have progressed. This was the most one sided derby game (Oxford, Swindon even Wycombe) I have ever seen. There has never been such a gap in class (in Reading's favour) It was certainly a long way from some of the recent crap games we had to watch between the two sides. Nowhere was this more obvious than with Matty Robinson. We all know how good he is and he used to fit in to our side perfectly. Using him as an obvious reference point (I'm not sure how many of their side we have played before) they just couldn't compare. We were fitter, faster, stronger, more skilful in every part of the pitch. These were two teams separated by two divisions. On the night, the gulf looked even bigger than that.
Apart from a little burst of enthusiasm after their goal, Oxford were never in the game. Dillon changed things last night and we looked much better for it. Hughes in the middle, Newman to shore things up and Salako on the left. For the first half Salako was supreme. Looking very strong for man of the match. In the end Forster probably shaded him though. But didn't we look better with a winger who took people on and launched some fantastic crosses? Oxford were very lucky we couldn't finish any of our chances first half. Second half was a different matter. Some of our build up play was a joy to watch. Forster kept taking them apart. My move of the game had to be the first goal. Hughes pinged a perfect crossfield pass to Forster, he took it beautifully on his thigh and had a shot which got deflected to Salako who buried it. This was the old lethal Reading in full flow.
Where does this leave Dillon? Well he proved he can change things (OK it's the successful Pardew formation) but he recognised what wasn't working and fixed it. How we get on at Sunderland will be very interesting.... Come on URZ's!
Paul, Thatcham Royal

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