MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

29 November 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Cox (59 mins, own goal), Sidwell (88 mins).
Cook (60 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 14,521

DIVISION ONE 29 Nov 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Wigan 20 34 +8
6 READING 20 34 +4
7 West Ham 20 33 +11
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Mackie, Ingimarsson, Savage, Watson, Sidwell, Salako (Tyson 63), Hughes (Murray 73), Forster. Subs not used: Young, Harper, Newman.
Pidgeley, Smith, Brown, Cox, Gayle, Vernazza, Ardley, Hyde (Dyer 89), Devlin, Webber (Cook 45), Fitzgerald. Subs not used: Chamberlain, Dyche, Hand.
Reading: Savage.
Watford: -

Referee: P Walton (Winwick)

Without doubt this was Reading's best home performance since Steve Coppell took over as manager. Reading secured the points with a goal from Steve Sidwell with only a couple of minutes of normal time left. Although the Royals deserved their win, there was in my mind some doubt about whether the goal should have been allowed. The ball appeared to have gone out of play before Forster wriggled free inside the area and drove the ball goalwards. The ball was deflected upwards and dropped to Sidwell who gave Pidgely no chance with his venomous strike.

The first half was dominated by a Reading side full of running and enterprise. Watford had their moments and looked dangerous on the break. They passed the ball well and had players willing to run at the Reading defence, but whenever danger threatened Reading worked hard to get behind the ball. Mackie making a comeback after injury defended not only with his usual tenacity, but also with composure and discipline, especially when he was confronted by the pacy Webber bearing down on him. However for most of the half Watford had to work very hard to contain the Royals.

Pidgely was forced to make a save from a Hughes header in the second minute, and was sent scrambling after a good effort from Forster on eleven minutes. Watson's inclusion in the starting line up was clearly popular with the fans and his presence in midfield was the main reason for Reading's passing being more incisive and penetrative than in many recent home games. He kept the game moving with a range of short and long passes and rarely gave the ball away. (Lets hope he comes of the transfer list soon!) Savage was clearly unsettling the Watford defence with his intimidating physical presence and was winning a lot the ball in the air. He managed to get himself booked for a late challenge on Brown, who to his credit, did his best to persuade the referee not to caution him. Forster forced another good save from Pidgely on thirty-three minutes with a low drive which was making its way into the corner of the net. Watford created one clear opening just before half time but Hyde blasted over when he was set up by Webber. The half ended quietly but Reading deserved their applause at half time.

Watford came out in a positive manner in the second half and both sides were looking for a goal. Cook had replaced Webber and was looking dangerous with his pace. It was finely balanced contest. After fifty-seven minutes Hughes put Forster away and only a superb tackle from Cox prevented Fozzy from opening the scoring. A minute later Reading took the lead when Cox and Pidgely got in a tangle. The ball rolled into the empty net for what looked like an own goal, but Forster, who was involved in the mix up claimed to have made the crucial contact. Two minutes later Watford were level with a very good volley from Cook at the far post. However, I'm not sure that goal should have been allowed to stand either. I was sure Devlin controlled the ball with his arm before supplying the cross.

Coppell decided three games in eight days was too much for Salako and replaced him with Tyson with just under half an hour to go, and five minute later Murray came on for Hughes. Savage was switched to the centre to play up front with Forster and he seemed to visibly grow in confidence in his new role. Unfortunately he missed a golden opportunity to give Reading back the lead when he headed over from a couple of yards. Sidwell came close with a quick shot on the turn. Murty also came close after the ball had flown back and forth in the Watford area only to see his shot deflected wide for a corner. With two minutes left Sidwell finally settled the outcome with his fine strike. There was enough time for Watford to cause a moment of panic in the Reading area but Devlin hit he side netting and that proved to be their last chance.

The foundation of this win was the performance of the back four. Mackie played as well as I have ever seem him play, but Shorey, Murty and Ingmarsson also defended superbly and looked so composed on the ball. I was particularly pleased to see Shorey showing a bit more grit defensively. As for Ingmarsson he won everything in the air and when he carried the ball forward he seemed to glide effortlessly at pace. It might be interesting to see how he could perform in midfield when Adie Williams and Steve Brown come back. To have a really good crack at promotion though, I still think we need a goalscorer. Forster can't do it all on his own, and Goater, apart from his current injury problem, might be just past his best. Today Reading looked like one of the best teams in this division, and Watford looked far from a side destined to finish in the bottom half of the table.
Report by John Wells


Another game where the result was more important than the performance. we have seen many games at the Mad Stad, where there has been little to choose between the two teams and we have come out on top. We have not necessarily played well, but we have got the three points. Today was a better game. Watford moved the ball well and were good at running at our defence. We were resilient and had a better balance about us. There were many positives. Savage made his first start and added certain qualities that we have lacked. Firstly he has ability in the air. As he gets more experience he will win more than he did today. He has tricks and is unpredictable which is not true of many of our team. It was him that the others turned to at the end of the game to keep the ball. Tyson was reintroduced to the fold and showed one or two good touches and bursts of speed. If he had Solako's control he would be a world beater! The key difference though was the introduction of Watson. Whilst Harper may have more natural talent, and certainly more pace, Watson is able to pass the ball in a simple manner to another Reading player. Our new manager is learning to work out what is our best team. The key thing is to have the balance between the attributes that we have. Pace alone will not win you games on its own. You have to keep the ball and use it. We have not had many players, so far this season who have been able to ensure that we keep the ball. We won today and possibly just deserved it. The nature of the win with a winner close to the end, well struck by Sidwell made it an exciting game which had started quietly but with better quality than of late. another performance to build on which is constructive. There is more to come from our players. we still do not have a truly creative player but we are getting there. Nobody had a bad game today, Watson was good, Murty outstanding but all contributed and that is what we need.
Ken C

How we won this I'll never know, as a bloke said in the bar after, we had one shot all game and scored two goals! A win though is a win and it says how tight this league is that we somehow find ourselves in the play off positions. It's become very clear that the squad is down to the bare bones and is desperately in need of fresh blood especially up front and in midfield. As has been said a million times before, if this club has realistic ambitions it has to invest , not silly money, but on the likes of Harewood who signed for Patridge at West Ham in the week. Playing one up front at home is so predictable and all clubs now know how to defend against it. We are not going to do anything with the midfield we had today, Sidwell had a good game but can't do it on his own and Watson clearly demonstrated why it will be bonkers if we let him go. Watford played some good football in the second half and were very unlucky not to get a point. Their running off the ball and crisp passing up front was good to watch , thought they didn't really threaten our goal. Still three points it is and deep joy. After the game the primary school club at the back of the east stand were chanting bring on the Chelski , we've probably got as much chance of beating them as Ian Paisley becoming the next Pope, mind you we are Reading! Bring the Foreign Legion reserve battalion on...... URZ!!
Nick Newbury

I think it was Napoleon who once said 'dont give me good generals, give me lucky ones' well on the basis of this performance Coppell would certainly get a job with old 'not tonight Josephine'. As for it being the best home performance since Coppell took over, then the previous games must have been especially poor or perhaps I was at a different game. I think the guvnor of my local who happens to be a hornet and was at the game summed it up when he said he was glad he didn't have that watch that every week. Well, I do have to watch it every other week and I can honestly say if we dont start playing something a bit more entertaining then, the money I spend on a season ticket might have to go on something a bit more worthwhile like becoming a rugger bugger! At least at that you can take beer in! Which incidentally is 50p a pint cheaper than on footy days! Well, I suppose we have to pay Goaters wages somehow cos we aint gonna pay from the gate takings cos people aint gonna come and who can blame them after this showing. Our Waterloo must come soon surely.

At long last it seems as if the corner is beginning to turn! I wasn't at yesterday's game, being laid up in bed with flu. By rights I shouldn't be commenting now, so I'll keep this brief. I just thought how fitting it was that Sidwell got the winner. His season, and possibly his Reading career, turned the corner (after a dramatic drop in form) with an absolutely top class performance away at Watford last April, and now he seals what could be the same change of direction for the whole team with a very important late winner. But having said all that it is a team game, and credit should go to the whole team. It sounds as if, although there's a lot of work to do, there are a lot more "reasons to be cheerful" than there were 48 hours ago. Come on URZ....
Kris, Muswell Hill

Finally, some changes were made in the midfield. Whilst looking much the better for Watson's presence, I just couldn't understand the logic in putting Savage (centre forward) on the right of midfield in a position he obviously wasn't comfortable with. Have we decided that 'good old 4-5-1' is really the only way RFC can play, even if it means playing folk chronically out of position & losing the balance & shape of the team? Watford looked more than capable of dealing with it. Reading are certainly in danger of becoming a one-dimensional team who are easy to snuff out & contain. This formation may suit certain situations (Sheff Utd & West Brom away for example) but not ALL THE TIME when it obviously isn't working as consistently well as last season. The team looked much better balanced when it became 4-4-2 with Savage playing in a more suitable FORWARD role, & he looked more effective for it as well. I hope Watson's performance earns him a decent run in the side unless of course he farts at the wrong time or whatever he did wrong to keep him out of the picture previously. COME ON........
Caversham Royal.

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