MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

26 December 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: -
Small (9 mins), Lewington (23 mins), McAnuff (81 mins).
Half Time: 0-2
Attendance: 14,486

DIVISION ONE 26 Dec 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
8 West Ham 25 38 +10
9 READING 25 37 -3
10 Millwall 25 36 +4
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Murray (Owusu 54), Watson (Harper 69), Hughes, Sidwell, Salako, Forster. Subs not used: Brown, Newman, Young.
Banks, Lewington, Darlington, Gier, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Small, Nowland, Reo-Coker, Agyemang, Mackie (Gray 67). Subs not used: Chorley, Tapp, Harding, Worgan.
Reading: -
Agyemang, Reo-Coker.
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt)

Wimbledon's third goal, which sent most of the home fans scurrying towards the exits, underlined the basic difference between Reading and their opponents today. McAnuff carried the ball into a shooting position on the edge of the area and let fly. His shot was blocked, but he reacted quicker than any Reading player to fire in a second attempt which was also blocked. Again he reacted faster and hammered the third attempt past Hahnemann from twenty yards. The goal was a testament to Wimbledon's, speed of thought, confidence, skill and determination. They looked like they wanted the ball and were enjoying their football.

Reading could have taken an early lead when a Hughes cross had the Wimbledon defence in a tangle, but it was the Dons who opened the scoring when Agyemang dropped his shoulder and let the ball run past him leaving Ingimarsson looking confused and stranded wide on the left. His cross eventually broke to Small who beat Hahnemann with relative ease. Ingimarsson almost equalised minutes later but his powerful header was well saved by Banks.

Worryingly for Reading the visitors were moving the ball well and posing a threat by running at the home defence. Reading looked disorganised defensively and poor marking almost allowed Wimbledon to increase their lead when they somehow had two players free in space on the left of the Royals area. Luckily for Reading they lost control of the ball and then amazingly Sidwell gave it back to a Wimbledon player for a free shot at goal. He must have been extremely relieved when Nowland dragged his shot wide. It was only a temporary reprieve. Lewington rose unchallenged to head past Hahnemann in the twenty second minute.

Admittedly I missed the Palace game, but the first half performance must be close to the poorest for a long time. I was staggered that the same eleven came out to start the second half. Changes did eventually come, first in the form of Owusu (55 minutes), who produced the biggest cheer of the afternoon when he won a header with his first touch, and Harper (69 minutes), who took over from Watson. Nothing much changed. Wimbledon continued to look dangerous on the break and Reading continued to misplace their passes and make life difficult for each other with their inferior touch and lack of movement. Forster managed to use his pace to get into a great scoring position, but with only Banks to beat he struck the ball straight at the 'keeper.

With ten minutes to go Hahnemann made a good save to keep the game alive. Two minutes later it was all over when McAnuff's great strike gave the very small contingent of Wimbledon fans something to celebrate. Sadly, but justifiably, the few Reading fans left in the ground joined them in applauding the Wimbledon team after the final whistle.

Losing three games in a row is always worrying, but when those defeats are against teams in or near the relegation zone, and two of them at home, it really is time to try something significantly different. Coppell said that he does not understand why the results are so poor. I think it is more likely he does know, but is unable to say without further undermining the already fragile confidence of the players responsible. He must realise that some players are simply not good enough.

The contrast in the touch and quality of passing between Reading, and what was the bottom side in the division, was embarrassing at times today. There are certain aspects of Reading's performance that have been evident for some time now and need to be dealt with. I know a lot is expected of Forster up front on his own, but he simply is not causing the problems he was last season. He is slow to react to passes, hesitant in shooting positions, and doesn't seem to want to take players on anymore. Last year he was regularly opening up defences and making runs into wide positions. He seems more intent on moaning at his team mates or the officials. Salako has superb touch but far too often chooses to pass the ball sideways or backwards. Murray seems unable to go past players. Defenders seem to be able to send him inside where he runs into trouble. Hughes as we all know is inconsistent with his passing and often seems to 'switch off' during the game. If the club is serious about getting into the Premiership, Madejski needs to adopt a more ambitious attitude. If we want to be a Premiership club we must have Premiership quality players. I didn't see too many in blue and white out there today. Having said that, there are promising young players in the current squad. Owusu looked quite sharp in his brief appearance and was unlucky when his header hit the post. Maybe he can lift morale with a goal or two, and perhaps the arrival of Kitson will bring about something different. I'm not writing this season off yet, but Coppell has a lot to do yet to mould the team into serious contenders for a play-off spot.
Report by John Wells


So Coppell can't put his finger on why we are losing (deservedly) so heavilly and on a regular basis. Putting all emotion to one side, frankly we are lacking leadership, both on and off the pitch. Off the pitch, Coppell inherited Pardew's squad, and has persisted in attempting to mimic him. He has certainly reflected Pards' tactics, but he is missing his charisma and motivational skills. On the pitch we haven't had a leader since Parky. This is fine when we are winning, the players feed off each other. When things are tougher, they all shrink and start playing as individuals. Williams and Murty are not genuine captain material. Since Pardew's departure, we don't have any strong personalities anywhere in the club except the chairman. When you look at clubs where Coppell has had success he has had leaders around him that compensate for his weaknesses. To buy someone like this will cost a lot of money, but it needs to happen fast. He needs to show he can be merciless and ship out the players that still seem to be pining for Pardew. He clearly doesn't have the support of the squad, he certainly hasn't won over the fans, so he has nothing to lose. I'd like to see him take centre stage, publicly state his plans (am I alone in not knowing what the hell he is doing?) and perform major surgery on this squad.
Paul, Thatcham Royal

What can you say? Nothing really, although when you consider these are so called professionals earning money that most of us would dream about, you must only conclude that this was a disgraceful gutless, pathetic performance by a so called Reading team and in any other form of so called entertainment, the paying public would be demanding their money back. I've just heard Coppell say in the post match press conference, he takes total blame for the pre match preparation, what a load of chuffing bollox!! This was just so embarrassing, we are a laughing stock. When they scored the third goal many Reading fans cheered and clapped, how must the players feel about that? No point at all mentioning players names, everyone of them was a joke, the defence was simply pathetic, the midfield a fiasco and the so called lone attacker lamentable, that's unfair on Fossie, but the system of one up front sucks. Thank god we've got 37 points in the bag, because this shower of shite won't get many more points at this rate. If we can't beat the bottom of the league at home what chance have we got. I could go on but frankly can't be arsed, I just don't understand how the same set of players who looked so promising at the start of the season can self destruct and crumble so easily? Somebody has to take responsibility, somebody has to show some passion and somebody needs to ram some rockets up some arses! The lowest point at the Mad Stad without doubt.
Nick Newbury

An utterly horrendous afternoon. That was going back almost to the dark days of the Burns era, where we barely looked like scoring & our style was the most boring, predictable & unentertaining load of old rubbish you could ever hope (or not!) to see. Coppell 'can't put his finger' on what is wrong...... Our 'wonderful' 4-5-yawnnnnn..... system has NOT been working well & we've lost the last two games 3-0 to poor opposition. What shall we do?? Play the SAME SYSTEM AGAIN...and then lose 3-0 AGAIN to EVEN WORSE OPPOSITION. Great flippin' stuff, eh?!! There is a phrase "if something 'aint broke, don't fix it". Well how about "if something is totally knackered.....change it for crying out loud??!!" And after that pathetic display where the vast majority of the 'team' show no commitment & really don't look they care a stuff about THEIR JOBS (after all, they are paid to play footy aren't they??), all we hear on 'good old Berks' afterwards is how the poor dears 'find the battering so hard to take'. BATTERING??? I'll give them a flippin' battering!!!!! They can pay good money to sit up there & watch a bunch of so-called-professionals ponse about for 90 mins & do their best to throw away the season of the team they support. The players should start showing some of the loyalty & commitment shown by the fans to the club & then maybe they can feel justified to bleat if fans boo, moan, or even throw a few ironic cheers the way of the opposition as they are gifted yet another embarrassing win. The players need to grow up, get off their arses & show they care about RFC, this season, or at the very least the jobs they are paid to do.... Rant over, I need to go and lie down somewhere....
Caversham Royal

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