MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

28 December 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Tyson (5 mins), Cureton (90 mins)
Derby County
: Burley (8 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 16,299

DIVISION ONE  28 Dec 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Notts F 25 42 +16
6 READING 25 42 +5
7 C Palace 26 40 +12
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey, Igoe, Harper (Watson 23), Newman, Tyson (Salako 79), Butler (Henderson 71), Cureton. Subs not used: Mackie, Rougier.
Derby County: Grant, Barton, Elliott, Riggott, Mills, Murray, Burley, Bolder, Morris, Christie, McLeod (Tudgay 81). Subs not used: Kinkladze, Oakes, Holme.
Reading: Igoe. Derby County: Burley, Elliott, Riggott.
Referee: Michael Ryan (Preston)

It's impossible to heap enough praise on Alan Pardew at the moment. After his award winning November he has been faced with a run of four difficult fixtures that resulted in three defeats and not a single goal scored. His tactics for the season so far had worked a treat until the recent wobble and thanks to his tactical decisions and a great team performance Reading were able to bounce back against an average Derby County side. On the first day of the season Derby beat us 0-3 and looked a Division apart from the Royals. Today it could have been the other way round and Derby frequently looked lost and Reading always looked more dangerous and more likely to take the deserved victory.

Pardew made big changes to the line up to produce a far more positive Reading performance as we went on the hunt for goals. Salako and Hughes both found themselves out of the team and Watson was on the bench allowing Tyson and Shorey to link up down the left and Igoe and Murty to link up down the right. In the middle we had the famous Butler / Cureton partnership. Sammy Igoe, coming straight back into the team, played a blinder. Tyson also had an excellent game, but where he sometimes tried to beat one man too many and lost the ball, Igoe would also lay off an excellent pass forwards and keep Reading possession. Igoe was twisting and turning the Derby defence inside out throughout the entire ninety minutes and added an infinite amount to Reading attacking game.

After just five minutes of the game Tyson and Igoe paid Pardew off for their inclusion in the starting eleven. Igoe legged it in from the right side of the pitch, cutting past a few defenders to open up the defence. Butler ran through the middle and was probably in a perfect place to score himself - but he's done more than enough by drawing defenders. Igoe raced towards the middle and provided a low cross behind Butler to Nathan Tyson who had ran into the box on the left. Tyson, without any pressure on him, hit the ball firmly across the goalkeeper and into the bottom right of the Derby net. An excellent goal and the perfect start to put Reading 1-0 up. Reading could have increased the lead with a near repeat of the move just minutes later when Igoe again broke through and passed to Tyson who couldn't find the target. Reading's injection of pace and skill up front was a joy to see.

Reading's lead didn't last long when Igoe clearly handled the ball inside the Reading area. Hahnemann dived to his right for the resulting penalty kick and the ball was put low and to his left as Derby pulled level. In a game where the referee looked unlikely to book a single player despite Derby's rather rough game plan, it was fitting that Igoe would be the only Reading player to go into the book. Such was his performance in the game he appeared to be involved in everything of note that took place on the pitch.

It wasn't only bookings that the referee was strangely failing to hand out as Derby continued to hack down players with late tackles left, right and centre, he obviously only had a quota of one penalty per match. Having given Derby the penalty early on in the game he continued to miss at least two blatant penalties in the Derby area that would have been spot kicks for the Royals. One was given outside the box and another simply ignored as Reading continued to put more pressure on the Derby goal.

Other than the penalty Derby looked unlikely to score again against a tough Reading defence. The majority of the action was down the other end where Reading won a serious of corners and looked more likely to go back ahead. Igoe had an excellent shot when he picked a loose ball up just on the edge of the box. The goalkeeper did well to make a save from Igoe's powerful effort that was well on target. The second half continued in the same pattern despite a period of scrappy play where neither side were able to really put any pressure on either goal.

Reading always looked good for the win, but with time running out, we started to think we'd have to settle for the draw and the chances were few and far between. There was always a hint of hope with Igoe on the pitch playing some continually excellent balls forward. Butler did a good job of entertaining the Derby defence all afternoon and clearly was worked hard, but he remained ineffective and was beaten to headers every single time. He didn't look likely to score, and on the rare occassions he did win the ball he was unable to get in a decent shot. When Butler was replaced with Henderson up front we looked slightly more likely to produce something.

Salako came on for the worn-out Tyson and Reading launched an excellent attack in the dying minutes. Of course it was Igoe that started the move with a great ball from the centre of the pitch to Salako on the left. Salako did a great job of beating his man and put in a high cross that went well past the ball to Newman on the other side who knocked it back across. The Derby goalkeeper, who had otherwise had a good game, flapped at the ball, failed to hold it and it dropped in front of Cureton who was, in typical Cureton style, in the right place at the right time to bang it home from close range. 2-0 to the Royals and some belated Christmas cheer for another excellent Madejski Stadium crowd.

Following report by John Wells
After three consecutive defeats this was an important victory for the Royals. We were kept waiting until the last minute of normal time for the thoroughly deserved winner, when the visitors young 'keeper inexplicably fumbled the ball and it dropped to Jamie Cureton. It was the sort of chance the little striker thrives on, and he sent all Reading fans home happy by smashing the ball emphatically into the net.

Pardew clearly dissatisfied with recent performances made some significant changes and got his selection absolutely right. Watson and Salako found themselves relegated to the bench replaced by Tyson and Igoe. The game burst into to life in the opening ten minutes. Igoe burst through midfield and threaded an excellent ball through to Tyson in acres of space wide on the left. Showing great composure and skill the young forward drove the ball across the 'Keeper inside the far post to end a four game goal drought. The lead was short lived. Derby were awarded a penalty when the ball was driven at Igoe from close range and the ball struck his hand. (Please note Mr Ryan - the ball struck his hand - which according to the Laws of the game is NOT a penalty.)

Reading were clearly not in in the mood to succumb to another defeat and set about regaining the lead with an enterprising first half display which produced more strikes on goal than the previous three game put together. The passing was sharp, if a little erratic, and Igoe was providing the spark in midfield that has been lacking in recent games. Injury forced Harper off mid way through the half. He hadn't made any real impact on the game although he did produce a superb delicate chip on the right wing before he was replaced by Watson. Tyson was causing problems with his pace although at time he was not quite sure how or when to release the ball. Surely that will come with experience. Cureton came close with a header and also with an effort at the near post from a Tyson cross. Igoe had a good shot saved, and Tyson had a powerful shot saved just before half time.

Reading started the second half in the same aggressive style. A great ball inside the full back from Igoe released Murty down the right. Murty cut the ball back superbly into the path of Butler who didn't really look like a player who believed he could score, and the finish was feeble. With thirteen minute to go Cureton laid the ball off to Newman on the edge of the box. Newman's strike beat the 'keeper and flew to safety off the outside of the post. Reading had dominated the half but as full time approached there was just a hint that Derby might break away and score. With time running out Cureton gave Reading the three points they deserved. They had been the better team in all departments throughout the game.

This was a very entertaining game, and there were encouraging signs apart from the obvious outstanding performance from Sammy Igoe. I was particularly impressed with some of Reading's passing around the Derby penalty area and the way Cureton, Butler and Henderson were playing with their back to goal. There seemed to be a greater awareness and movement off the ball. Brown seems to have settled in quickly and looked very solid in defence. It was also good to hear the crowd trying to lift the team midway through the second half. It was a pity a few Reading fans decided to boo Salako. If you are a real supporter you never discourage your own players - not if you want them to play better. So, no more of that please lads. Get behind your team especially on Wednesday. It is going to be a tough game which we are capable of winning, although I must admit I'd be happy with a draw.

worthing royal
A great performance after three disappointing results. Sammy Igoe was an inspiration. Nathan Tyson looks capable of being a great player, although he is still a little niaive yet. He has superb pace, and is not afraid to take players on. He just needs to work out when to do that, and when to lay the ball off. Can't criticise him though, nor indeed any of the rest of the team. What Reading showed against Derby was a total commitment to win. John Gregory's team showed the complete opposite. Derby were lacklustre and looked very ordinary. Not a patch on the side that destroyed us at Pride Park on the opening day of the season.
Good to be back to winning ways. Very fitting for my mate Simon who went to his last game for some time, as he takes up a career move to New York. Simon has supported the Royals man and boy, and God knows what he slipped the Derby keeper to ensure a win on his departure to the big apple, but however much it was, it was worth it. It made our bon voyage party in some of the more seedy town pubs that bit more sweet. Leicester may be a different proposition, but with the commitment that we showed yesterday, there is no reason why we can't go from strength to strength. Lets hope for a big crowd, and support the same as yesterday.
thatcham royal
Justice was done in the end.
Victories don't come much sweeter when you are up against seriously dodgy match officials (borderline cheaters, definitely incompetent) and opposition whose game plan was DEFINITELY to cheat their way to points. I won't harp on about Bartons numerous hand balls. That would diminish the memory of Igoe skinning him and turning him inside out every time he got the ball. That was immensley satisfying. Gregory obviously wasn't impressed, so he switched Barton to play on the other side against Tyson, who still roasted him, though not as much as Igoe.
This was a great performance. For Pardew to be able to change so many players, and the formation, with so little time, speaks volumes about the ability at the club, both players and management. Though the whole team performed well a few individuals shone for me. Igoe. What a display. Forget the penalty, he gave us what we needed. Ambition, determination and pace. He should have scored, but for a great save. He has to play next week. Tyson. More or less the same as Igoe. They made the 4-4-2 work. He does have a hint of Rougier about him when it comes to beating players. He has time to learn when to use his tricks and when to just swing the cross in. Butler & Cureton. Simply brilliant. That's the best I have seen them play (together) for many months. That was the old pairing that scored 50+ goals 2 seasons ago. Some of their movement up front was beautiful. They zigged & zagged & overlapped so well the derby defence didn't know who to pick up. It was their movement as much as Igoe's great work that made Tyson's goal.
Newman. Made the midfield more solid & put in some great tackles. Lastly, Though he wasn't on for long, I have to compliment Salako. Not only did he set up our 2nd goal (credit also to their keeper for a great assist), but the way he kept the ball at the end to prevent an injury time equaliser for Derby (and give us a chance for many "OLE's") was very professional and ran down the clock nicely. I don't know if we can beat Leicester, but I do know they can expect a bloody good game from Reading. URZ's!!!
nick newbury
"He's f**cking dropped it " I screamed as the ball dropped to Jamie Cureton to slam home a glorious last minute winner. Thank you Mr Derby goalkeeper for a late Christmas present. About time we got a bit of luck. After three straight defeats I thought this was a gutsy performance from a Reading side that never gave up. Igoe shone like a beacon and had a stormer, how refreshing to see him and Tyson running at the Derby defence and prepared to take them on, more please. Tyson did very well, and though his inexperience let him down on a few occasions, I thought the lad did very well and bodes well for the future. Now I'm not Salako's greatest fan, but who were the wankers who saw fit to boo him when he came on as sub? That really is going to help the team isn't it and give the bloke confidence. How fitting he was to provide the glorious cross that set up the winner, bet the tossers didn't boo then! Sometimes, it defies belief the mentality and intelligence of some so called supporters. Three more points and I reckon we're safe, so AP should now throw caution to the wind and play 2-3-5 for the rest of the season, why not I say. We'll score tons of goals, lets loads in too and have a right laugh... don't think it's gonna happen though somehow... .bring on the bag of crisps... we owe them too! URZ!
chippenham royal
Well deserved Reading...Sammy Igoe was terrific today...Tyson had a great first half, with loads of energy and commitment, and bar the penalty our defence looked solid. Ricky Newman was probably the right call for midfield, but his distribution was, on occasions, terrible. We deserved to win against a Derby team who look completely lost... next up Leicester... urzzzz!
ken c
Terrific and just what was needed. after a series of difficult games where we had failed to create. The manager brings in Tyson and Igoe who started the game in an almost perfect manner. The move that resulted in Tyson drilling the ball into the far corner was a delight to watch and the key ball was played by Igoe. The game was very open right from the start. Harper gave us a few scares by giving the ball away, but this was a more creative Reading side, in which Igoe was outstanding. He gave us width on the right and also came inside to display passing skills which we have not seen enough from him. With Tyson offering pace down the left, everything looked set for an easy win till a handball by Igoe resulted in a penalty. We continued to press forward and it made for a much more entertaining game than recently.
The ref. gave a handball against Barton which was a dubious decision, but the offence was clearly in the box! The restored combination of Butler and Cureton told us nothing new, but it did mean that we pressed forward more. It meant that the defence had to be certain and all played well. Brown was assured, and special must be made of Williams who must have been our most consistent player this season after a somewhat hesitant start. Murty clearly enjoys playing with four in midfield and his link up play with Igoe was as usual good. the game seemed to be drifting to a draw as we struggled to open them up as much in the second half. Henderson replaced Butler and Solako came on for Tyson who will have learnt a lot from his performance. I hope the mindless idiots who booed Solako's arrival think better in the future as he went on to give a demonstration of how to use the ball well and then how to keep it. It was his cross which eventually the goalie spilled and Cureton who really is only worth his place if he is scoring, was there to blast it into the net and everyone was delighted for him.
The significant thing about the result was that it was achieved without Forster, Hughes, and Harper (after 15 mins) That should give the squad a great deal of confidence. the other thing was the crowd, much more animated than usual, but it was better entertainment than of late! Well done to all, but especially Mr. Pardew.
caversham royal
Glad that it's still worth living in hope. Couldn't get to the game, so had to rely on text up-dates and the highlights on Meridian on Sunday. From what I heard & saw, having Igoe back made a big difference with the quality of his performance. Hope he stays in the side and keeps it up. Also good to see Tyson getting another start and scoring a good goal. Again, I hope he stays in the side. A spell on the bench may serve to remind Salako he has to do more than just turn up earn his money. My friend doing the texting told me we had more balls into the box and shots in this game than for the last 6 or so. From the meagre highlights it looked like we finally had the width and balance we've been so lacking of late. Lastly, great to see Cureton finally doing what he does best, snapping up an opportunity in the box. Could see by his reaction it was a relief to him to be back on the score sheet and I hope this boosts his confidence and sharpness, and with a continued improvement in delivery into the danger area the goals may come again. Of course, he needs a run in the side to do that. When Forster is fit things may change again, although I still say they can play together effectively if the midfield is functioning properly. At least I can now do something I wasn't expecting... look forward to the Leicester game. Keep it going. COME ON...
emmer green royal
3 words: ooo Sammy Igoe! What a way to return to the team. For games I've felt we've been lacking on the flanks and this game showed what a difference two eager players out wide makes. Tyson and Igoe seemed to scare the life out of Derby and it was great to watch. It seemed as if we made more chances in the first half than we have in the last 3 or 4 games together. It was a very refreshing change to see two wide men wanting to run at the defence rather than constantly turning backwards. Throughout the whole game I felt we were capable of scoring and for once thought that if we did conceed (a second) we'd just go and score another, something I've not thought for ages. The football was exciting and effective, what more can you ask for?
I have to say that Derby looked a very poor side. However Reading showed more invension than they have in months. Rather than having only one outlet as we did with 4-5-1 we were attacking from all over the place and it rattled Derby. Admittedly some of the crosses weren't that good and Butler and Cureton didn't look that sharp but that's no suprise as both wide men and both strikers have been in and out of the team at best. Give them a few games and then we'll see what they are capable of. Having Forster (when fit) and Henderson on the side gives different options.
The more chances you creat the more chance you have of scoring and winning. It may have taken Pardew a while to change things but he has done now and i hope he sticks with this team for a while. Igoe and Cureton have both had to wait their chance and both took it. As for Tyson, he has to stay in the team. It's great to see a player with so much hunger for football. One thing I wasn't happy with was Salako getting booed. I have no problem booing the team if they show a lack of effort but booing individuals has never been my thing especially as they come on. Salako hasn't been producing and was rightly dropped but he hadn't even had a touch before he was booed and that's not on. What's more he actually did a good job.
Leicester is going to be a really tough game and I feel we won't have enough, but at least we might go down fighting.
Come on URZ!
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