MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

2 February 2008: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: -
Bolton: Nolan (33 mins), Helguson (58 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 21,893

Pos Team P Pts GD
16 Sunderland 25 23 -21
17 READING 25 22 -22
18 Birmingham 25 21 -13
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Cisse, Shorey, Doyle, Harper (Sonko 73), Matejovsky, Hunt, Lita (Long 76), Kitson (Oster 67). Subs Not Used: Federici, De la Cruz.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Andrew O'Brien, Cahill, Gardner, Guthrie (Cohen 75), Nolan, Campo, Taylor (Samuel 67), Helguson (Diouf 67), Davies. Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Rasiak.
Reading: Lita, Kitson, Ingimarsson.
Bolton: Davies.
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).
We were expecting January to be a barren period for the Royals but the home game against fellow strugglers Bolton was the ideal opportunity to pick up some valuable points and move away from the relegation places. Steve Coppell, in his pre match press release, made it clear that he wanted a good result more than a good performance but, disappointingly, he got neither. It was hardly an inspired performance from the visitors either, but they did enough to win comfortably in the end.

Reading made a very positive and promising start with Doyle, Hunt and Matejovsky closing players down and winning tackles in the first ten minutes. Prompted by Matejovsky, clearly the creative midfield player Reading have been looking for some time, Reading put Bolton under pressure in the opening twenty minutes. He was hungry for the ball, and produced passes of a quality sadly lacking elsewhere in the team. Kitson, having just recovered from 'flu did not look as sharp as he has been in recent games. The first clear cut chance fell to Bolton in the twenty-third minute when Helguson headed just wide, and then two minutes later Matejovsky lunged at Steinsson in the box. Hahnemann saved Taylor's penalty well and the ball was scrambled away. From that point on Bolton took control of the game. Reading finally succumbed to the long ball which they had problems with all afternoon. Davies headed across the across the box and. with Murty absent and Harper either outpaced or caught napping by Nolan's run, Bolton were one up. Reading appeared to be stunned by the goal and played out the half without troubling Bolton's back four.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Reading started brightly and might have equalised when Lita's header from a Shorey corner was hacked off the line with Jaaskelainen beaten. Ingimarsson poked a shot just wide as Reading continued to look likely to score. In the fifty-eight minute Bolton went two up as Reading stood waiting for an offside decision which was never going to come as Heguson slipped the ball past Hahnemann under no pressure whatsoever. Shorey came close to bringing the Royals back into the game with a well struck free kick which was well saved by Jaaskelainen low to his left. Kitson, not surprisingly was replaced by Oster and Doyle moved up to play alongside Lita who was soon to be replaced by Long. Sonko came on for the out of sorts Harper giving Cisse the chance to push forward into midfield. All sensible changes but they didn't produce the desired effect. Reading pumped crosses into the heart of the Bolton defence which they dealt with comfortably apart form allowing Doyle one header but that went wide. It was not to be their day as the disloyal contingent of Royal fans confirmed by leaving the ground even earlier that usual. I suspect most of the 10,000 or so left at the end (who did not boo their team of the field) were also around the last time Reading experienced a relegation struggle in 1998/99.

It is hard to understand why the team which played so well throughout December is finding it so difficult to pick up points. The recent poor run of results has made the rest of the season a very tense period. I know the responsibility lies with the team but it would really help if the fans could get behind the team when they are down. Unfortunately the next two games don't look likely yield any points either but this squad has surprised us all on many occasions over the past eighteen months.

As the manager says, the team has responded every time he has asked them. So let's see what you can do now! Yes we're lacking in confidence but raise the intensity again and talk to each other, guys! Several passes yesterday went astray.
Leroy tried had yesterday, Kits still looked to be ill and Doyler tried his best with little supply. When you get near the goal chaps, have a shot! Cisse looks good with Ivar and Marcus did everything he could. Marek had a good full debut although he tended to be a little conservative. So it's not all doom and gloom. We just need to get back to playing with intensity for 90 mins - we did this for first ten mins really getting in to Notlob but as soon as they began to attack us, the heads dropped.
And a word about us, the so called crowd. We made a noise when Marcus saved the pen but sitting in the South Stand, it was like a morgue. I tried making some noise but the people in front stared at me as if I was an alien. All those pleas from Steve and Murts in the programme. Ridiculous. If you don't want to make a noise, watch the bloody thing on televison! Team needs to raise the crowd but the crowd needs to do its part too. Number 13 were largely awol yesterday.
Worzel, West Sussex

Without doubt the lowest point of our short Premiership adventure. We all knew the importance of this game and you could sense the nerves before the game , the players didn't seem up for it and they too appeared very nervous. With a few exceptions it was men against boys .Reading were dreadful and even the joy of a penalty save could not spur us on. There's no point at this stage dwelling on the reasons we find ourselves in the bear pit of the relegation zone, the transfer window is closed and whatever we achieve now has to be done with what we've got. It's now one hard dogfight from now on, no time for flowing football, simply scrapping for every point, hoping for the odd goal then clinging on for dear life. We look so fragile at the back it's desperately worrying how we can prevent goals, I find it so hard to find any positives and reasons to be optimistic, only one I can find is Matejovsky who was different class yesterday. He really does look a great player and I just pray he's not come in too late.
Nick Newbury

So perhaps the last performance last season against Watford was, after all, a sign of things to come. So much for giving MU their toughest game of the season. So much for signing players for the long term - are we planning for the Championship already? The Christmas programme was a wake up call we haven't heeded. We needed Prem experienced rugged players - Savage would have been a good buy. Maybe we don't pay enough, maybe no one wants to come to Reading but the team need a lift and having failed to deliver it, it's hard to see where the next point is coming from. And I think the players are beginning to believe that as well. The peformance against Bolton was as bad as we've seen for a long time. Nothing there at all. Virtually no attempts on goal. And sad to say, but where's the commitment - at least go down fighting. And it's teams like this we need to do well against. Clubs that have been here before, like Bolton, or Pompey a season or two ago, have added dogs of war to their squads and preserved Prem status and they've then built from there, bit by bit. Better to build in the Prem than outside of it. However, without such additions we're now down to our own bottle and yesterday it was missing. Finally, why did we think long balls in the air was going to do for Bolton who, um, do that year in year out themselves?
Nick Tilehurst.

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READING have now lost their past six Premier League games, while Bolton achieved their first away win of the season despite missing an early penalty. At Stamford Bridge last week, Reading came to life in the second half after their first-half torpor. Yesterday, after a brief spell at the beginning of the first half and another at the start of the second, they relapsed into dull mediocrity... As for Coppell, he admitted: “It was poor. I can’t really explain why. We didn’t look sharp from the first whistle. In the second half, we had a few things flying across the goal, but not any kind of performance that would give us comfort for the future... “What a great challenge,” said Coppell of the task of staying in the Premier League. “We’ve got to rise to it.” But can they?
Brian Glanville, The Times

Both of these teams are in the sludge. Neither of them having won since Christmas, they dropped into the primordial swamp that begins just above Birmingham. But after a game that Bolton won despite missing a penalty it is Reading who have slipped deeper into the quagmire. They are not a bad side, but they showed little heart and will need to show plenty more spirit if they are to struggle to safety.
Will Buckley, The Observer