(Half Time: 1-0)
Reading Scorers: -
Northampton Scorers: Forrester, Forrester
Date: 26 August 2000
Attendance: 5,728

Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash (Mackie), Hunter, Caskey, Butler, Hodges, Parkinson (Cureton), Gurney (Murty), Newman, Rougier.
Subs not used: Igoe, Ashdown.

Northampton: Welch, Hendon, Frain, Hunt, Howard, Gabbiadini (Savage), Hughes, Hope, Forrester, Hargreaves, Green.
Subs not used: Hodge, Sollitt, Morrow.

This was by no means a terrible performance from the Royals, but it was bad enough to show that we have a long way to go before we can be real championship contenders. Northampton certainly aren’t one of the best teams in the division, but they were better than Reading on the day and deserved the 2-0 victory.

Pardew opted for the “never change a winning team” school of thought, and as such played the same team that had comfortably beaten local rivals Swindon a week earlier. This meant there was no place in the starting eleven for new signing Jamie Cureton, despite his much hyped arrival and his goal at Leyton Orient. In hindsight, I’m sure Pardew regrets this decision, because Tony Rougier looked out of place up front and failed to form an effective partnership with Martin Butler.

Caskey was again played on the right of midfield, with Parky and Ricky Newman in the centre and Hodges on the left. Most of Reading’s chances fell to Caskey, who looks like he should score a few goals again this season. Martin Butler failed to make a single decent attempt at goal, with Rougier also struggling to create any chances.

The first half started quite promisingly, with Reading looking very positive and passing the ball well. This encouraged the Reading fans, and the atmosphere at the start was one of those rare occasions when everyone in the sold-out stand behind the goal was singing. However, Northampton soon found Reading’s weaknesses, and soon became the likelier team to make the breakthrough.

Our biggest weakness was at the back, where are full backs showed their defensive inadequacies. Although Gurney and Robinson are both very good going forward, they were caught out at the back on numerous occasions, with the marking non-existent at times.

The inevitable came after 31 minutes, when former Utrecht striker Jamie Forrester was left with a simple finish after a knock down from a Gabbiadini cross. Reading were behind, and like so often when we play away, the goal all but ended our hopes of getting anything from the game. Reading have had this problem for a long time; when the home team scores first we very rarely succeed in getting back into the game.

We did make some chances in the match and on another day we may have found the break we needed. Hodges hit the bar with a looping shot, and Cureton also landed a header on the bar minutes after coming on as a second half substitute. Caskey wasted one glorious chance by blazing his shot over the bar, and also had a header excellently saved by Keith Welch in the Northampton goal.

But the game was all but over when Forrester scored his second of the game in the 76th minute. It was an excellent effort from the Cobblers striker which killed off any hope of Reading getting back into the game. The chances of a comeback were made even smaller by the bizarre tactics employed by Pardew towards the end of the game. In an attempt to bring some height to our attack which was woefully inadequate in the air, Barry Hunter was played as a striker with Butler dropping back into the middle. Cureton replaced Parkinson, which seemed a strange choice as the ineffective Hodges was kept on the left and Rougier up front.

These tactics failed to work, as even Hunter was unable to win anything from the Northampton centre backs. This tactical shift also left our defence vulnerable, since Hunter had been looking very solid at the back. Northampton had a couple of chances at the end to catch us on the break and make the scoreline embarrassing for the Royals.

The defeat means Pardew will surely change the side for the visit of Stoke on Tuesday. The logical tactics are to play Butler and Cureton up front with Rougier wide and Caskey in the middle. This will give us much more of a cutting edge and a greater threat up front.

Although the team let us down once again, perhaps the most positive thing from this match was the attitude and performance of the Royals fans. We sold out our entire allocation of tickets for the match, created a really good atmosphere, and most of us even stayed to acknowledge the players at the end of the game. This is very different to a couple of seasons ago, when any defeat would be met with a loud chorus of boos and abuse directed and the Reading players and management. I think this demonstrates the popularity of Pardew and Allen, and everyone is still optimistic that we are developing and will still succeed this season. We can’t expect the progress to be immediate, setbacks such as the Northampton game are bound to happen. What is important is that we get over them and bounce back with a win, starting on Tuesday night with the visit of Stoke City.

Report by Neil Cole.

Post Match Opinions

The verdict of this game was that it was a victory for the team over eleven individuals.
Northampton played to a pattern, exposed Reading's defensive weaknesses, and we simply did not put our chances away. We need to play as a cohesive unit which, understandably we are struggling to do at present. I am not sure about Caskey on the right, he needs to be involved more as he is a class act at this level. Butler worked hard and Rougier showed that he has the ability to create with his pace, but it was at the back that we really struggled. We won little in the air and were caught too square with the full backs not covering around the back sufficiently. The timing of the Cobblers goals were important for them, because I felt that had we equalised, and we did have the chances then we would have gone on to win. As it is we did not and the rest is history.
We need to take points from teams like these!

-- Ken

I expected us to stroll this game about 3 - 0,and judging by our performance so did the players.
We got our fingers badly burnt.
We have one of the best midfielders in this league,Caskey that is not Newman,so why did we just hoof the ball forward to the front 2 and keep by-passing the midfield.Their 2 centrebacks just lapped everything up, they were so much taller than our forwards. We had a good 10 minute spell in the second half when their keeper decided to play like Gordon Banks,and thus we failed to score. Again Rougier and Whitehead were the only bright spots. I can't accuse the team of lacking effort or commitment but we lacked ideas and craft.
A very frustrating day made even worse by the long walk back to the train station in the pissing rain.

-- Russ

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