MATCH REPORT: 2005/2006 Season

Reading: Shorey (6 mins), Sidwell (17 mins), Lita (55 mins), Convey (69 mins).
Norwich City: -
Half Time: 2-0
Attendance: 21,442

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 READING 31 76 +50
2 Sheff Utd 30 66 +29
3 Leeds 30 55 +17
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Sidwell (Gunnarsson 71), Sonko, Little (Oster 60), Lita, Harper, Ingimarsson, Convey, Doyle (Long 74). Subs Not Used: Stack, Hunt.
Norwich City: Green, Drury (Jarrett 45), Fleming, Doherty, Colin, Charlton, Hughes, Etuhu, McVeigh (Henderson 64), Thorne (Johansson 64), Huckerby. Subs Not Used: Gallacher, Rehman.
Reading: -
Norwich City: Doherty, Jarrett, Charlton.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

It was back to business as usual as Steve Coppell once again recalled his starting eleven to record yet another comfortable league victory. The latest Championship demolition saw Norwich City leave the Madejski Stadium with a four goal to nil deficit and saw the Royals stretch the unbeaten run to a round thirty matches. Once again, this was a straight forward win that was never in doubt. As soon as Nicky Shorey blasted home a free kick after just six minutes to put Reading ahead, it was always going to be a case of how many we'd win by rather than what the outcome of the game might be. Reading stretched their lead back to ten points over Sheffield United and a silly twenty-one over third placed Leeds who dropped points again tonight. There really does seem to be nothing capable of stopping Reading marching towards next season's Premiership football.

Norwich offered little resistance, despite creating a few good chances of their own. In defence they looked weak and every Reading attack caused panic that suggested more Reading goals. Reading were in good form across the pitch - much as usual - with every Reading player having a good game and no one out-shining anyone else. Doyle, Little, Convey and Lita all caused continually problems with City and they were probably relieved when the final whistle went. The writing really was on the wall from the start when Doyle burst through to be taken down by the last man. The referee gave the free-kick and therefore should probably have pulled out the red card rather than the yellow, but then the demolition would have been even greater. The free-kick was perfect for Shorey, on the right, just outside the area, and his kick was perfect too, curving into the near side of the net between the post and the keeper to make it 1-0. Leroy Lita was busy up front but struggled to stay on his feet - he might have had one good claim for a penalty at least. The most likely claim saw the referee play advantage as Lita went down and the ball came to Doyle on the right. Somehow Doyle failed to score as he blasted the ball at the advancing Norwich City keeper.

Just after fifteen minutes Little crossed from the right and Sidwell met the ball in the middle as the Norwich defence remained static, and it was 2-0. The visitors might have got back into the game before the break but put the ball across the face of goal and then hit the outside of the post as they looked for a way back. Reading appeared to have taken their foot off the pedal for a while, but ten minutes after the break and the win was wrapped up when Doyle caused more confusion in the Norwich defence. With two men on him he turned one way and then the other before somehow creating plenty of space to put in the cross. Lita met it in the middle for a simple goal from close range. Again, Norwich might have sneaked a goal but headed wide from a yard off the goalline. It clearly wasn't going to be their night. But resistance was futile against a Reading team that could seemingly score at will.

Convey netted the fourth with a great run from the middle of the pitch. Doyle ran across him and pulled the defenders away and Convey neatly broke through the defence to fire a low shot into the Norwich net. Substitute Gunnarsson had a good shot on target and Long came off the bench and might have scored but Lita was keen to shoot himself - into a crowd of players - as Reading hunted the fifth. A free-kick in the last few minutes was straight off the training ground as a low cross saw an equally low shot from Lita just inches wide of the post. Another routine win. It's been thirty games without defeat in the league and there's still absolutely no sign of it ending. Premiership here we come?

Having endured the ridiculous attempts to whip the crowd into an artificially induced frenzy, the home fans were treated to a display of football that needed no hype at all to sell it. Reading simply overwhelmed City with a an exhibition of superb passing, movement and high quality finishing that surely confirms their credentials as champions of this division.

Little issued the warning in the fourth minute with a run which took him through a cluster of City defenders before curling in an inviting cross which Lita perhaps should have converted into a goal. Three minutes later Doyle's pace took past a sluggish City back four and was hauled back by Doherty who clearly should have been sent off. (When are these referees going to get some consistency with these decisions!) Justice was served when Shorey stepped up and buried the resulting free kick in the net past a startled Green. Clearly rattled City almost conceded another immediately. Lita wriggled past three defenders in the box and appeared to be fouled but the ball broke to Doyle, who may have been surprised that a penalty had not been awarded. With only Green to beat he hit his shot tamely at the 'keeper. Reading almost paid the price for missing when Etuhu was not picked up on the edge of the area and found himself with a great chance to equalise. Hahnemann had to come out quickly and did enough to put the City midfielder off and sustained a knock which required treatment.

SIdwell increased Reading's lead, finishing off a superb move down the right involving Murty and Little, with a diving header. 'We're just too good for you' sang the Royals fans and the team went on to prove them right. Reading strung together several flowing moves with a superb range of short one touch passes and long sweeping passes leaving their opponents chasing shadows. At every opportunity players were looking to penetrate their opponents defence, only passing square or back to retain possession when absolutely necessary.

Reading decided to have a collective nap after half time and Jarrett wasted a good chance to pull a goal back when he dragged his shot horribly wide. Given the warning Reading pressed on to increase their lead. Doyle came close with header and soon after created the chance which effectively ended City's hope of a revival. With apparently no option but to play the ball back, Doyle suddenly spun and went past his marker and whipped in a low cross which Lita claimed to have bundled in, but looked very much like an own goal from where I was sitting. Either way it was a amazing piece of skill and imagination from Doyle. Only Etuhu and McVeigh seemed to have any chance of creating something for Norwich and Worthington upset his fans by replacing McVeigh midway through the half. Little was removed for a rest and was replaced by Oster who was not quite as good as he was on Saturday. Convey had been kept quiet for most of the game but on sixty-five minutes Shorey released him with a subtle chip down the left. The American set off on a run which took him from the half way line to the edge of the area, and with half the defence left in his wake he scored with the aid of a slight deflection.

City never really looked like scoring, wasting several good chances to grab a consolation goal. With every miss a few more City fans drifted away until there were hardly any left to witness Reading celebrate another three points at the final whistle. The win was important and I will be delighted when we clinch promotion, but at present I am simply enjoying some of the best football I have ever seen from a Reading team. Lets hope for repeat performance against Southampton next week but without the environmental disaster of thousands of huge pieces of card wrapped in plastic!
John Wells


This is turning into one of those seasons that, years down the line, we'll look back on and think "yes, everything came together, the teamwork, the management, the lot - it was a sight to behold!" Tonight, in the first 20 minutes, we took Norwich apart. Glen Little must have experimented with some strange substances last Summer because now I see a magician at work when last year I saw a plodder. Convey likewise, Sonko and more, all vastly improved. And of course Doyle has surprised the entire Championship and beyond. Today we are told Norwich are paying 3m and more for Earnshaw; Sheff Utd have paid close to 2m for Akinbiyi. Presumably, they looked up and down Ireland and found nobody left going for a song! I think I might be so bold and say that for once we shouldn't lose at Crewe on Saturday.....they won't surely!
Tony, Hook

So good at times tonight it was almost beyond belief. First twenty minutes was quite breathtaking such was the quality of our football. Norwich were simply overwhelmed. Every Reading player had a great game with Little again surpassing all that's gone before him, Shorey too had a blinder capped by a great goal from the free kick. Bring Crewe on!
Nick Newbury

Another top drawer game of football. Reading looked a league above Norwich City, and they will be next season. It was a shame the night was nearly ruined by a truly sad and humiliating crowd co-ordination attempt. It made me cringe. What idiot thought of the chant "Bring it on" anyway?. Please never, ever again. Luckily, once the game got underway that was soon a distant memory, although the Norwich fans will be taking the piss for years to come. Excellent performances all round, but special mention to Doyle who worked his socks off.

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