MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

Reading: Aranalde (32 mins, own goal).
Walsall: Wrack (7 mins).
Half Time: 1-1

0-1  Aranalde (Walsall) Scored
0-1 Butler (Reading) Missed
0-2 Zdrilic (Walsall) Scored
1-2 Cureton (Reading) Scored
1-3 Simpson (Walsall) Scored
1-3 Harper (Reading) Saved
1-4 Bazeley (Walsall) Scored
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Mackie, Brown, Shorey, Igoe, Harper, Newman (Hughes 75), Tyson (Salako 75), Butler, Forster (Cureton 95). Subs not used: Viveash, Henderson.
: Walker, Bazeley, Hay, Roper, Aranalde, Wrack, Carbon, O'Connor (Corica 45), Sonner (Simpson 41), Leitao, Junior (Zdrilic 90). Subs not used: Ward, Matias.
Reading: Brown, Harper, Mackie.
Bazeley, Carbon, Hay, Junior, Roper, Wrack.
Referee:K Hill (Royston).

What a frustrating and disappointing night this turned out to be. A small and subdued crowd witnessed a game that was not worthy of this great competition. Walsall eventually took advantage of the Royal's poor finishing going through by virtue of being able to strike the ball firmly and accurately over a distance of twelve yards, a challenge which appeared to be beyond the majority of the Reading squad. Reading were the better side and could and should have won. On this performance, neither side deserved a place in the next round.

Reading were awful for the first half an hour. Passes went astray and although Forster looked lively up front we had to wait until the twenty-seventh minute for our first attempt on target. (A tame header from Forster.) By then Reading had already fallen behind following a rash decision by Hahnemann to go for a deep cross that he was never likely to, or indeed needed to reach. When he did lose possession Walsall took full advantage with a simple cross which Wrack was able to nod comfortably past the defender on the line while the Reading keeper was floundering several yards out of position.

An equally scrappy goal brought the scores level. Tyson looked to be going nowhere down the line when he was hauled over. Newman sent over a decent cross from the free kick, nobody seemed to want it, and the ball dribbled over the line off Aranalde's shin. This sparked the Royals into life. Butler timed his run well and slid the ball across perfectly for Forster who somehow managed to avoid scoring from close range. Igoe was wide with a good effort, and just before half time Forster made room for a shot with his pace and shot just wide.

Reading dominated the second half as the bookings started to mount up for both sides, mainly for clumsy challenges. Harper was having a good game getting through a tremendous amount of work defensively and always making himself available to receive the ball. Unfortunately his industry was not matched by his finishing prowess as he dragged a shot wide having worked himself into an excellent scoring position on seventy minutes. Shorey should have done better when set up by Butler, and then Hughes missed the best chance of the game in the last minute of normal time.

Not much happened in extra time as the game drifted towards the inevitable penalties, and I hate to admit it but, apart from Cureton, I did not feel confident about any Reading player putting their penalty away. Butler failed to hit the target, Cureton scored emphatically and Harper had his effort saved. Walsall scored convincingly four times in a row and that was that.

When I got home was amazed to hear that we are planning to buy Sidwell from Arsenal-another midfield player. I agree we should always be looking to strengthen the squad but surely we need a striker. Ever since the start of the season it has been clear in my mind that we need someone who can play up front with either Forster or Cureton who can score a few goals, head the ball and keep possession of the ball. (Sorry if I keep repeating myself on this issue!) There are plenty playing in our division. Solution - buy one!

What seems to have happened recently is that Pardew decided that we were not scoring enough, which absolutely right. To rectify the situation Butler has been brought in at the expense of a midfield player. The good run we had was built on having a midfield of five which effectively shut out the opposition and we were then snatching the odd goal. The system worked well with the players we have available and we were winning games. Playing Butler is not the answer because he does not look capable of scoring regularly in this division and it has weakened the defensive system that was so strong during November.

It was hard not to feel a bit agitated by tonight's performance, and at the moment I don't feel too excited at the prospect of meeting Walsall again on Saturday. However, just like most supporters, I'll have to be there just to see what will happen next!
Report by John Wells

worthing royal
I am sitting up late at night seething, and needing no additional adrenalin to stay awake. The pathetic display at the Mad Stad tonight was enough to keep me sufficiently motivated to finish this little piece. To a man, Reading were appalling tonight. There was a lot said after the Sheffield Wednesday debacle about complacency in the second half of the game. Forget the game, the complacency seems to have set in for the second half of the season!
Did Pards sign his contract today, accepting a pay cut, because he knew that tonight's ineptitude might mean there was no contract on the table at all by tomorrow. Ah, but it is tomorrow now. I have to say that despite the time, we would still not have scored a proper goal out there, even at this hour, had we still been on the pitch. I doubt I would change this view, even if the equally bad Walsall had gone home hours ago. Where is our next goal coming from? We relied on an OG tonight, and missed two penalties. Why did Butler take the first one? He had proved to everyone by half past ten that he had no confidence at all, and was totally off his game. He strode up to the Walsall end, to the expected boos and hisses, and promply missed. Curo, who should have taken the all important first one, then slotted the second with aplomb. No surprise though, when Harps fired a weak effort at their keeper to send the travelling Walsall dozens home in a state of delerium.
Rumour has it, that despite Arsenal accepting our offer for Sidwell, we have told his agent that his wage demands are unacceptable. Oh well, we had better come to terms with watching Pard's 'Premier sensation' Hughes screw up in midfield for the rest of the season then. Walsall week continues on Saturday. What are the bookies quoting on 0-0? Anything better than 10/1 on, I suggest you bite their arms off.
nick newbury
11.45 pm and I well fed up, angry, upset, embarrassed, humiliated and once again bitterly disappointed at another pathetic early exit from the FA Cup by Reading FC. Does anybody have a worse FA Cup record than us, do we care, do the players have any pride? He may have only been on the pitch for forty minutes or so and came on as a sub, but Andy Hughes would look out of his depth on Palmer Park yet alone the Madjeski. The blokes an absolute laughing stock, his shooting so bad people in the West Stand ducked at his shots and his general contribution was so bad you wouldn't get two Mars bars for him yet alone £2 million as was muted recently by Pardew. It was his fault we never progressed to the fourth round by capping a memorable woeful display with a golden chance to score in the last minute of injury time as he fluffed a sitter six yards out. Perhaps I am being hard on him, but it's so frustrating.
Yes we played well in the second half and created lots of chances, but it's a fat lot of good if we can't put them away. We can't go on relying on Forster to run his bollocks off on his own, he needs support and clearly is not getting it at the moment. Sort it out Pardew! This club has not looked the same since Upson left, and there cannot be many clubs who so belie their league position. Two simple questions: do Reading FC players know the word shoot and do they know how to take a corner?
So to the penalties, Butler had the look and body language of a man going to the gallows as he stepped up to take his penalty. Professional striker on thousands a week and he can't even hit the target! Sorry but get rid of him now, he's not up to this level. Walsall showed how to take penalties with everyone despatched with clinical ease past the Yank in goal who looks to be going through a very dodgy spell ever since he opened his big gob about breaking the club record for goals conceded. We should beat Walsall on Saturday, they were a very poor side, but I've a horrible feeling we've peaked already this season, hope I'm wrong, but judged on what's on display and with Cureton surely soon to depart, the outlook doesn't look too bright. Perhaps we've been spoilt early on by reaching these dizzy heights or, it's just a crap league?
caversham royal
I reckon we should find out the address of the Walsall bloke who scored the own-goal and send him hate mail for condemning us to that rubbish being drawn out for another hour or so. Dire. Lack of ideas, lack of commitment, lack of passion, lack of a good reason to spend a Tuesday eve freezing my arse off. The only excitement in the eve was having an RFC Top Trumps game in the matchday mag. It speaks volumes for how inept a display we were 'treated to' that the only Reading player who found the net (and even looked like doing so) did so in a shoot-out. And naturally it was the person Pardew would rather use to keep the bench warm than dare play.
The 'romance' of the cup, eh? And they say romance is dead... God help us, but we have to do it all again on Saturday. Are we stuck in some awful time-loop where we'll have to play poorly against Walsall for ever? I do hope not.
thatcham royal
Great news before the game. Pardew signs a new contract. Then we hear he had to accept a pay cut. Not so good. Maybe Iím just trying to rationalise our woeful efforts in the first half. Was it a hangover from the 2nd half nightmare against Sheffield Wednesday? Or perhaps it had more to do with that announcement? Certainly we have many players out of contract in a few months. They know now what to expect. I know if I were due a pay review and my manager had had his salary cut, after a similarly successful year (remember how he transformed this failing club, increased revenue, I donít work in Football so canít compare promotion, but) Iíd be expecting the worst. Whatever, it would certainly affect my morale while I considered the impact on my lifestyle. Didnít anybody at the club think that hours before an FA cup tie, this is not the right time to put this message out? Well itís done now. Not much I want to say about the game. Perhaps the money Madejski saved by reducing the Managers wages can go towards a players course in how to score! God knows we need that...
Y24 east
Just wanted to throw my two penneth worth into to what's already been said. John wells is spot on with his comments about the tactics and formation. How many more 'workmanlike' performances from Butler are we going to have to sit through before someone in the management realise that he is not up to it in this standard of football. I don't want to watch our first choice striker running all over the place I want to see him putting the fear of God into opposing defenders. Since his injury he has clearly been lacking in pace and I only remember him winning one header all night. Time for him to go back to the 2nd Division I think. Compare him with Walsall's Junior for instance. He may look like a pint of Guinness but he gave Mackie and Brown a hard time all night and you could sense the danger he posed everytime he was on the ball.
Defensively we now lack any kind of cohesion and the confidence is shot away. The answer is now playing in Arsenal reserves but instead of breaking the bank for Upson and building for the future we snap up Charlton reserve, 30 something, Steve Brown. Well, I have to say I've seen oil tankers turn quicker than he does! Nick Newbury sums up Hughesy pathetic efforts superbly but what I'd like to know is where has Kevin Watson disappeared to? I saw him walking in Thatcham the other day so I know he's still about. He may have developed crab like tendencies since being at Reading with his continual sideways passing but he does retain possession far better than Hughes or Newman and his shooting is no worse than Hughes's either (not that that is saying much).
Also in midfield Harper continues to flatter only to deceive. Industry is fine but he has no end product. Up front, I've already commented on Butler, Nicky Forster is struggling to carry the burden of sole striker responsibility, Igoe and Tyson didn't provide one decent cross all night and as for Salako well words fail me at this point! The one (only) bright spot last night was the performance of Graeme Murty who put in a number of important last ditch tackles and interceptions and put in the only decent cross of the night in the final minute of extra time.
Only Murts and the Ref showed anything like consistency. The ref being awful in the first game and probably even worse last night. Pardew's got his new contract (I agree with others that the timing of the announcement was strange) so lets hope he now gets round to sorting things out. The season is now as good as over, out of both cups, probably just safe from relegation and unlikely to make the play offs.
One final point - Reduced Ticket Prices? - My Arse. I went to the first game at Walsall, sat in their family stand, 3 adults & 2 kids paid £35. Last night 2 adults & 2 kids £42. Attendance of 8,700 tells it's own story! So if anyone from the club reads this my message is stop ripping your own fans off and start providing some decent entertainment. Come on URZ's
wokingham royal
One of the worst performances in a long time. No atmosphere, no spirit, no one hitting the target. Forster can't win the matches by himself & we desperately need another striker up front. Butler needs to go - he's just not cut out for this level. I agree with some of the reports in that for a period in the second half Reading had plenty of chances to win the game. But, they need to be taken. It's not as if Walsall are any good - their position in the division is not false. On recent form, Reading's is.
binfield royal
I fail to understand how a professional centre forward can take a penalty and not get it on target ie between the sticks. It's a different thing if the goalie saves but really, what was Butler doing. I agree with previous comments, he is not up to it in this division and would do himself and us a favour by looking for a club in the 2nd or 3rd. He's clearly one of Pardews "in crowd" or is it that Cureton and Forster don't see eye to eye?
Cureton is a good 1st Division striker who will score goals if he's on the park long enough but obviously, he and Pardew don't get on - don't know why but they should sort out their differences or sell Curo while he's still got some value. I agree with Graham, we need a new striker before we need another midfielder but I also heard from a friend who sits in the red seats that Sidwells wage demands were OTT so we may not sign him anyway.
Last night was not a great game but I would like to praise Sammy Igoe and Graham Murty who always looked like they wanted the ball. Marcus played well enough apart from the one howler. We missed Adie and we really should try and sign Matthew Upson. We had a good team when Upson was here but it still relied too much on Forster and if he gets crocked, Butler Cureton and Henderson are not up to deputising for him so we need another striker who can do what Fozzy does. There must be any number of them languishing in the reserve teams of various premier league clubs - this is after all the secret of Sheffield Utds success!
So, the solution is this - Upson £1M, new Striker sya up to £3M, less £500K for Curo and £250 for Butler equals say £3.25M. Prize money for finishing last in the Premier league is £16M. Apologies if the maths isn't quite right but the principal is sound. Urzzz.
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