MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

28 December 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Shorey (72 mins).
Leitao (30 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 8,089

DIVISION ONE 28 Dec 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
8 Preston 26 40 +9
9 READING 26 38 -3
10 Millwall 26 36 +3
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey, Hughes (Murray 31), Sidwell, Newman (Ingimarsson 68), Harper, Owusu, Forster. Subs not used: Watson, Tyson, Young.
Walker, Bazeley, Ritchie, Roper, Aranalde, Samways (Merson 83), Emblen, Osborn (Lawrence 81), Wrack, Birch, Leitao. Subs not used: Allaway, Hay, Vincent.
Reading: -
Referee: Anthony Bates (Stoke-on-Trent)

Reading put an end to their run of three straight league defeats with a much improved performance at Walsall on Sunday. Nicky Shorey become Reading's first player to score a goal in four games when he hit home an excellent free kick midway through the second half to secure the draw. Reading started the game looking much brighter with Owusu making his first start alongside Nicky Forster up-front as the Royals switched to a four man midfield. Owusu had an early shot not far over the crossbar but it was Walsall who took the lead on the half hour mark when Leitao headed home a Simon Osborn corner. Reading enjoyed much the better of the second half and were unlucky not to take the full three points away. Murray nearly equalised for Reading after the break with a close range header before Shorey made it 1-1 with his free-kick that flew into the top corner of the Walsall net. It looked like Reading might win the game when Forster got the ball in the back of the net with ten minutes left to play - but with Reading celebrating the goal was ruled out for offside. This was a much improved showing from the Royals who played some good passing football and showed some determination missing from recent games.


Anybody who has seen the three previous games will not have recognized the team who turned up at the Bescot today. Whilst they were a bit hesitant to start with, what they were able to do was to turn a deficit into a very creditable draw and an excellent second half performance. Individuals who have been underperforming, and we can all do that, showed what they can do. Harper was the epitome of that. He has had a very poor start to the season. The first half hour showed little signs of that changing. He was playing on the left (not wide), failed to tackle anybody and looked out of sorts. After that, he got on the ball used it well and showed what he is capable of. Murray came on and produced some good quality balls into the box.
We looked like a team again. We were away from home, drew and had two goals disallowed and two goal line clearances. We were like a red wine getting better as the game went on. Against Wimbledon we looked like a team who had been on the red wine. That was awful, this was good. With a bit of luck around the goal we would have won. It was the manner of the performance that mattered. This was the old Reading, this was a performance to have faith in. We may have thrown away a few too many points this season, but we have Kitson and Goater to come back. Strangely we looked vulnerable to the high ball into the box again but that will get better as Williams, who showed his captain's qualities again today, and Brown, get it together again. There is merit in playing the Iceman in the centre of midfield and then it is up to the players as to who else should play.
Today Harper and Murray staked a case for themselves, earlier in the season it had been Watson. We know what Solako can do, and Hughes who I thought was our only reasonable player against MK has credit in the bank. Have faith. Reading fans are incredibly critical. The play offs were a realistic target at the start of the season and still remain. We still do not know our best team, but all will have opinions. Today was the start of something better. I hope!
Ken C

Didn't fancy this one at all after Boxing Day - but what a difference 48 hours makes - plus some team changes. Owusu on from the start and I think he won every header he went for. Newman in the middle challenging and tackling. Brown back to help Williams with the shouting. Confidence still looked a little shaky in first half and when Walsall scored we thought we in for it but no - we got better and better.
In the second half we dominated them completely and utterly until they bought pyramid shaped Merson on with about 5 minutes to go - can someone explain how a fat bloke like him can run so quickly? We'd had ten minutes of the limited English language lot behind us shouting about Shorey and West Ham when he only went and spoiled it by scoring. Must thank him for that as they shut their gobs after that.
Fly in ointment is Mr USA. Waved his arms at passing balls so often I thought he'd take off. Can I suggest Nicky Hammond sits behind him next game, rather than with the rich lot, in order to see him on display. He doesn't just ball watch, he ball stares to the extent he loses track of where he's standing and who is in the box with him. He didn't dominate his area like the 4ft 6inch Walsall keeper did - he potters about like a fan watching the game. Yes, he saved the second Walsall header that would have given them a 2-0 lead but his confidence is obviously in bits. Must be some back four agreement about looking after him cos at times when any other keeper would pick it up on the edge of the area or take a pass back to kick clear Williams and Brown took it on themselves to hoof it away.
But anyway congrats to the whole team and Mr Coppell - whatever he put in their tea on the coach to the ground worked. If only we'd played like that 48 hours earlier Wimbledon would have been stuffed.
Tails of Woodley

Much improved. The players seemed to remember they are professionals with a job to do & showed much of the fight & pride so missing from the last 3 games. And unlucky not to pinch it with the 2 'offside' goals from Murray & Forster. More of this kind of performance (& better), and less (or rather none!) of the woeful displays of the last few weeks. No need to rant. Thank God for that. COME ON....
Caversham Royal

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