MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

29 October 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Shorey (71 mins).
Bradford City:
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 12,110

DIVISION ONE  29 Oct 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
9 Rotherham 16 23 +8
10 READING 15 23 +4
11 Gillingham 16 22 -5
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Upson, Shorey, Salako (Tyson 78), Harper, Watson (Butler 64), Newman, Forster, Hughes.
Subs not used: Ashdown, Mackie.
Bradford City:
Banks, Myers (Emanuel 45), Bower, Molenaar, Uhlenbeek, Gray, Warnock, Reid (Evans 72), Jacobs (Juanjo 79), Ward, Cadamarteri.
Subs not used: Davison, Standing.
Reading: -. Bradford City: Bower , Ward , Warnock.
Referee: S W Mathieson (Stockport)

Perhaps the biggest question hanging over the final result tonight was how did Reading not manage to win by more? Despite working Nicky Forster into countless scoring chances it was left to Nicky Shorey to claim the win with less than a quarter of the game remaining with his first ever Reading goal. Reading again started with just Nicky Forster up front and concentrated efforts into providing him with a lot of the ball to see what he could do with it. The only change saw the injured Tony Rougier replaced with James Harper and the results were Forster sometimes stranded up front by himself in the first half - although the service was pretty good.

The game got off to a scrappy start until it was clear that the visitors weren't going to pose much of a threat. The pattern for most of the rest of the game developed quickly with Nicky Forster getting in an early shot that needed the goalkeeper to tip it over the bar. Forster was going on some great runs with the whole final third of the pitch to himself. This was good with Reading outrunning Bradford in midfield and with Nicky Forster having plenty of room to find some space to pick up the ball and cause problems in the Bradford defence. The downside was Forster seemed to seriously lack support at times. A couple of times he took the ball wide and fired a low shot across the face of goal - perhaps with a few more players in the box he might have been able to cut it back to generate a goal. However, with both Cureton and Butler on the bench Forster seemed restricted to shoot each time and was having problems finding the back of the net. Forster deserved massive credit for working himself into some great opportunities but is bound to be disappointed about not scoring despite having several million shooting chances throughout the first half.

Reading's defence coped with the Bradford offering up front mostly without problem. Williams looked in control and Upson continues to look more and more like Premiership quality with each game. We were excellent at clearing any danger with Upson winning everything in the air. In truth, Bradford seemed short of ideas up front and took far too much time planning each move resulting in a packed Reading defence coping with most of the attacks. Hahnemann didn't have too much to do but had a good game in terms of controlling his area and keeping a clean sheet - his kicking was a big disappointment tonight though with a whole series of balls flying out of touch for no good reason. He continually tried to target Hughes but the ball never seemed to make it to him and in the second half balls seemed to fly randomly all over the place. Despite this he had a good game - although poor distribution was the reason Whitehead originally lost his place in the starting eleven wasn't it?

In midfield Salako couldn't really manage a full game. Meanwhile, Harper had another determined game running all over the place and working hard to keep involved. Things didn't always work out for him but he set up a couple of nice moves and couldn't be faulted for effort. The strength of the Reading midfield explained the number of chances up front - but this might have been down to the sheer volume of numbers behind the ball we had. On several occassions we were left thinking that we might be more likely to score by playing another player up front alongside Forster. Hughes had the odd moment up front, but it was a lonely battle for Forster until the introduction of Butler in the second half added a bit more to our attacking play.

Butler instantly made us look more dangerous - adding another dimension to our attack. Bradford didn't seem sure how to cope with the added player - I wonder if we might have scored a few more of the first half chances with another man in the box? Butler troubled the defence but looked low on confidence and had two opportunities to put Reading ahead but failed to take them. Once he was clear through and fired a weak shot straight at the keeper when he should have buried it or at least taken it closer and picked his spot. Moments after that he knocked it wide to Forster when he should have stuck it home himself. Reading continued to hunt for the goal - and it looked like it might come after Forster went down in the area under the challenge of two players. It might have been a penalty or it might not have been - but it didn't matter with Forster putting a weak penalty low to the keeper's right which was well saved. We couldn't do anything with the rebound as Bradford hung on.

Forster had yet another opportunity as the ball spilled to him unmarked on the edge of the area with just the keeper to beat. The keeper raced out of goal and again forced Forster wide of the target. It was enough to give Bradford's keeper a clear man of the match. Despite his excellent performance in goal we was eventually to be beaten with nineteen minutes left to play as the Reading pressure continued. Nicky Shorey found himself forward on the left and inside the box with the ball and plenty of time and space. Rather than shoot he prodded it forward in the direction of Forster, but instead the ball came bouncing back out to him. He seemed a bit shy to do it but eventually worked out he really should have a go and blasted it back towards goal leaving the ball in the back of the net and the keeper, at last, beaten. 1-0 to Reading.

The single goal was always going to be the only goal of the game unless Bradford managed a cheeky late equaliser. However one of the most entertaining moments of the match was still to come when a Bradford player was caught offside. I've never seen a protest like it - after a good few seconds of stamping feet, shouting and waving arms about he got a yellow card for his performance. A well deserved one for certain. Reading hung on in traditional style at the end. We really should have been several goals up but nearly lost two points after two shots flew just high and just wide of Hahnemann's goal in the dying minutes. Typical Reading, but a welcome three points in the end.

Following report from John Wells:
Nicky Forster was the latest player to receive the Alan Pardew accolade of 'almost the best player in the division' after missing half a dozen good chances including a penalty. I can only assume the statement was designed to lift his confidence. His pace certainly made him difficult to contain, but either by chance or through good defending, most of his chances were on his left foot and he clearly has a problem in that area. I still find it hard to believe the header he missed in the first half - in front of goal a couple of yards out and completely unmarked. If he had been anywhere near the form he showed against Ipswich, victory would have been comfortable. Never mind we won!

It was good time for Nicky Shorey to get off the mark with his first goal for the club. The game seemed to be stuttering to a goalless draw (mainly due to poor finishing) when the little man struck a typically accurate but tame shot which rebounded back to him and with considerably greater assurance he stabbed it into the net. It was enough to give the Royals another deserved home victory even though the performance did not match the high standard set in the last home game. The goal will give Shorey confidence and I'm sure he will now go to score a couple more this season because his technique is good. Over the past year or so he has only failed to find the net because his shooting has become increasingly tentative.

This was another victory based on a very secure defence, or should I say secure defending, because once again the five man midfield gave the back four good protection. I was again impressed with the way players got behind the ball and defended in a disciplined way. Few free kicks were conceded, and some that were given, were the result of poor refereeing - notably a superbly won header by Upson in the second half. (I do find it irritating when good defensive play is discouraged by officials that can't distinguish between a strong fair challenge and a foul.) Most teams in this division are going to find it hard to break them down, which is just as well because scoring goals does not seem to be coming quite so easily. The system works well but the problem is that only Forster is capable of filling the lone striker role, and if he is having trouble hitting the target, or if he in injured, the whole shape of the team has to change. Perhaps reverting to 3-5-2, which also seemed quite effective earlier this season, is an option when things are not going well.

Striker selection has been a problem for a long time now and will not be resolved with the players currently available. The other issue Pardew has to wrestle with is the situation created by the emergence of Harper as a better all round player than Hughes in the attacking central midfield role. Harper was superb again tonight. He was full of energy, strong on the ball and rarely gave it away. He also hit some very good early long passes to Forster. If anything he was let down occasionally when he was in possession by a lack of running off the ball by others to give passing options. With him, Watson, Salako and Newman moving the ball quickly and accurately Reading looked capable of keeping possession. Hughes in my opinion was the weak link tonight and no doubt there will be cries of 'he can't play wide on the right'. The truth is, he can run with the ball and he can shoot, but his passing has a long way to go yet. He put one good ball through for Forster but that was his only significant contribution. On the subject of distribution- I thought Hahnemann's throwing and kicking were excellent again tonight.

It has been said that Reading looked more dangerous when Butler came on. I think this was in part due to the change in formation rather than his contribution. He looked low on confidence as he has for a long time now. He missed a good chance and later delayed his shot long enough for a chance to disappear completely. Cureton would have been better option to support Forster and certainly more likely to score goals.

It is tempting fate to say so, but we are having a pretty good season so far. We are playing better teams and a lot of players have raised their game and proved they are good enough to play and win matches in this division. I'm looking forward to a win on Saturday - nothing personal Mark!

caversham royal
Good result, and overall a deserved 3 points on the night. But it could easily have been 2 points dropped with the chances missed in a game we should've won much more comfortably. Although Forster's pace caused Bradford problems all night, it was blatantly obvious he just didn't seem to have his shooting boots on. Bad luck to my mind didn't come into it. He just wasn't going to score, and this seemed clear even before the penalty miss. His general contribution warranted him staying on, and his pace could still have been used on the right in place of the somewhat subdued Hughes with Butler and Cureton up front. Many of the clear chances we spurned tonight were tailor-made for Cureton to bury and yet he was kept on the bench. Pardew bringing him on for less than a minute at the end is taking the p*** out of him to say the least, and his walking straight off at the final whistle summed it up. It reminded me of the back end of last season, and if this continues he's bound to leave. Our loss would be another Div1 team's gain, and more fool you Mr Pardew if that happens. After that little rant, I reckon Harper was excellent & bettered his Ipswich performance. It would be difficult to leave him out, but having him in the midfield seems to leave Hughes on the right where he is less effective. Don't know the answer to that really..... The defence looked pretty solid with Williams & Upson forming a pretty decent partnership. And Nicky Shorey has done very well at this level so far this season and thoroughly deserves to be a match winner with his first goal. Nice one. Revenge on Sat vs Millwall for that 3-4 home defeat two seasons ago would be lovely. COME ON....
finchampstead royal
I think the solution of where to play Harper is to move him wide on the right to enable Hughes back into central midfield in place of Ricky Newman.
nick newbury
Phew, cor blimey Charlie, thank goodness for that! How many of us after Fossie missed the pen thought bollocks, here we go! We could easily have won this five or six nil with the golden chances we had. Forster had most of them and though he took a bit of stick for missing some sitters the bloke work his socks off and in my opinion only deserves praise. If he only had the finishing ability and prowess of an Owen he could easily perform in the Premiership, his pace is superb it's just his vision that needs working on. It will come. One thing I would question is Pards tactics in playing Forster as lone striker at home? When Butler came on we looked much better up front and I reckon in games like this we could even play Curo up there as well. Rest of the lads played well and we continue to look strong at the back even though Ade Williams continues to fanny about on the ball and think he's Rio Ferdinand, all said and done though, he's playing as well as he has done for a long time and hopes of playing again for Taffland may not be unrealistic. So we continue to exceed all our expectations, we are in a solid top ten position and appear not to be overawed by any of our opponents. Millwall should be fun, but a vain appeal please, McGhee is history, the man did nothing but good for this club. Let's show the man a bit of respect and not waste energy and time sing the same old boring song, and get behind the lads instead! Fat chance of that happening!
robert hall
Tonight Reading looked superior over a very average looking Bradford side who seemed to lack any real pace or flair. After a scrappy start the royals really took hold of the game and in the end we were unlucky not to score a couple more goals. Harper looks to be working hard to try and give himself a starting place every week and never stopped running. Forster, although he failed to score, managed very well as our lone striker. His ability to receive the ball and work himself into a goalscoring position is incredible and he was probably our best player tonight. The defence looked solid and on the couple of occasions that Bradford managed to breach it Hahnemann was more than a match for any shot their forwards could manage. Tyson came on with 10 minutes to go and showed the great pace he is blessed with, if he can just take the ball with him a bit more often he'll be a great prospect for the future! One thing that really annoys me though is the habit managers have of bringing a player on with seconds to go in the match. I know it wastes a little more time but think of how embarrising it must have been for Jamie to come on for 20 seconds, surely he'd rather not come on at all. Anyway only 3 points away from a playoff position, well done you RRRRrrr's.
thatcham royal
This was a game where I think on balance we deserved the three points, but in reality, we could have been mugged by Bradford and finish with none.
The first half was played with fantastic pace, and was all about Nicky Forster. He was playing brilliantly. He really seems to enjoy being the lone front man, taking on defenders, sprinting at goal, drifting slightly wide then lashing the ball across the face of goal towards the far post. If he can force more of them in he could trademarks those. Being critical, I felt he could have had more support from midfield. If only a player had followed him, all it needed was someone sliding in on one of Forsters efforts, and we could have been scoring for fun. I also feel we could have varied it a bit. OK the first half was played at a hell of a speed, it was mainly 2 touch football. Control - Pass, Control - Pass etc Forster was the only man turning defenders and running with the ball. 2nd half saw Bradford getting used to this & thankfully Pardew changed things and brought on Butler at about the right time. Strangely Bradford seemed convinced we still only had a lone striker and decided to mark either Forster or Butler, but never both at the same time. When Forster got the penalty, then missed it, it seemed to sum up the night. we were creating but our finishing was soft. (I'm choosing to ignore the keepers Barthez antics. It was a poor penalty)
When we finally managed to score, after at least 4 players attempted to "pass" the ball into the net, Shorey decided to show the forwards how its done. The celebrations were more relief than ecstasy. It shouldn't have to be this difficult, but at least we got the 3 points. URZ's
binfield royal
Well done Alan Pardew and Kevin Dillon. I really look forward to going to matches - no sense of dread because we play attractive football and we play well as a team - something we haven't really done consistantly since 94/95. If we do lose a match you know its not because the players only gave 90% on the day and thats value for money. Would like to see Forster and Curo start up front though (if you're reading this AP)!
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