MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

14 September 2002: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: -
McAnuff (90 mins)
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 14,832

DIVISION ONE  14 Sep 2002
Pos Team P Pts GD
11 Nottm Frst 7 10 +3
12 READING 8 10 +0
13 Wimbledon 8 10 -2
Reading: Hahnemann, Newman, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Salako, Watson, Hughes (Murty 45), Igoe (Forster 79), Butler (Rougier 68), Cureton. Subs not used: Whitehead, Upson.
Davis, Darlington, Hawkins, Williams, Gier, Tapp, Andersen, Francis, McAnuff, Shipperley, Gray (Nowland 74). Subs not used: Ainsworth, Willmott, Heald, Leigertwood.
Reading: None. "Wimbledon": None.
Referee: G Hegley (Bishop's Stortford)

Reading's impressive start to the league campaign took a serious dent this afternoon with a home defeat against one of the Division's weakest sides. Wimbledon appear to have massive problems both on and off the pitch but shrugged that off to gratefully accept three points from the Royals with a late goal of some quality. Wimbledon's following of just over 100 fans went absolutely mental as the large home following started streaming out of the ground in silence. It was a poor result for Reading after enjoying perhaps the best of the game. A draw would probably have been the right result, and perhaps Reading should have won it, but it was Wimbledon that took one of their few chances to pick up the full three points. There were plenty of lessons for Reading today.

Reading started with a decent enough looking formation. The inclusion of Sammy Igoe at the expense of Forster suggested we'd be using the wings - but we rarely did as it it turned out, until late in the second half. Murty was left on the bench allowing Newman to continue at full back. In defence we looked pretty good - good enough to keep loan signing Matthew Upson on the bench throughout the game. Nicky Shorey was perhaps Reading's man of the match with some solid defending and some good runs forward. He supplied a few decent crosses later on but unfortunately didn't come forward perhaps enough with Reading lacking creativity up front.

The main problem for Reading was supplying the front men. Martin Butler worked harder than ever today, running all over the pitch and flying into Wimbledon players in attempts to win the ball. Again he scored maxiumum points for effort - but he was never likely to score a goal with poor service and the lack of the ball played to him in the box. Jamie Cureton, Reading's leading scorer, must have been frustrated too with an insane number of long balls played into the box. In honesty Wimbledon's defence coped without problem during the first half. They conceeded six corners in the opening 45 minutes - but Reading failed to do anything inventive with them.

The first half was mostly forgettable as Reading seemed all too content to play the time up and wait for the second half. It was something that was going to back fire as we ran out of time to find the net in the second half. After the break Hughes, who had had a decent first half, was replaced with Graeme Murty. Murty immediately started playing as a winger and Igoe drifted into the middle. It appeared to generate the odd moment of confusion - but there was no doubt the game picked up after the break. All of a sudden it developed into an interesting end-to-end game with both sides looking more likely to find the net.

Reading looked most dangerous when Murty was given the ball down the right wing - unfortunately he wasn't given it enough. He created one of Reading best chances after skipping past two players and delivering a great cross into the centre of the area where Jamie Cureton connected to send a great header towards goal. The Wimbledon keeper did well to tip it over the crossbar for another Reading corner. Down the other end Marcus Hahnemann pulled off a far better save from a close range effort. The ball was mid-height and just to his side, and the Reading keeper did amazingly well to get his hands to it to push it wide. Jamie Cureton burst into life and twice nearly created goals after steaming through the middle of the pitch. Once he went right past the keeper but took the ball too wide, leaving Wimbledon the chance to hack the ball clear.

Just when we looked like we might piece it together for the win we were let down by some moments of poor concentration. We were losing the midfield battle and seemed to be unable to play the ball forward from the centre of the pitch. Salako played two quite disgraceful balls in the space of two minutes - and immediately two attacking opportunities were lost. Reading's biggest missed opportunity was provided, or rather not provided, by the referee when Rougier broke clear into the Wimbledon area. Rougier looked dangerous since coming off the bench to replace Martin Butler. He appears to have mastered how to stay on his feet rather than fall over at the end of every run, and so nearly ran into the box to create a chance for Cureton. However, when he did go down in the box it was after racing onto a ball and getting in front of his man for a clear run on goal. He might have scored it, but he was muscled to the floor without the ball being played for a clear penalty. The referee refused to give it and Reading lost their best chance of finding the net.

With the game entering injury time we were still hopeful of the win. But all of a sudden the ball was in the wrong net. A quick move on the break from Wimbledon was pieced together a treat and played through the Reading defence into the middle of the box. The resulting shot was a beauty - right into the top right corner giving Hahnemann no chance. 0-1, and it was all over. The defeat was caused by a lack of creativity throughout the side rather than the fault of individual players. It was impossible to fault the effort of the side as a whole during the second half, but we were clearly failing after only forcing the Wimbledon goalkeeper into a couple of saves throughout the entire match. With a bit more urgency and a bit more concentration we could have taken this game.

Following report from John Wells
Had Reading won this game it would have put us in the promotion play-off zone. However, the result, a mediocre performance, and a mid table spot are a more accurate reflection of the quality of our play at the moment. As a fan there is nothing more frustrating than seeing your team dominate possession and then concede the only goal of the game in the last minute.

I took my two year old son to this game and already he has shown himself to have a deep insight into the game. He fell asleep after five minutes, and just like the teams, woke up after half time. The Royals looked more enterprising than the visitors but didn't create much more than a couple of half chances. The midfield looked sluggish and the passing lacked the sharpness of previous home games. McAnuff surged through Reading's midfield with ease on a couple of occasions but the back four held firm. Reading produced some decent long balls but they are not the sort of ball that Cureton thrives on, and Butler, who is capable of scrapping for the ball, doesn't have the touch or awareness to make more of them. Newman looked solid at right back giving Pardew the option of putting Murty into a more attacking role, which is not a bad idea. It was obvious that Hughes had a problem with his fitness when he was replaced by Murty at half time.

The second half began much more brightly with chances being created at both ends. Shipperly forced Hahnemann into a good diving save and Cureton had a header blocked and scrambled away. It was Cureton who came closest to finding the net for Reading when he rounded the 'keeper and from a fairly wide position hammered in a good shot only to see it cleared off the line, which to fair was an excellent piece of defending rather than poor finishing.

Pardew then decided to make a bid to win the game by putting on Rougier and Forster and taking off Butler and Igoe. Igoe had not had a good game by his standards, but neither had Watson or Salako. Salako's distribution was wayward in the second half and Watson was getting caught in possession. The midfield did not defend as a unit as well as they usually does and as Reading pushed forward late in the second half the marking was noticeably loose. Rougier caused problems with his strength and pace but Forster couldn't seem to get into the game.

A couple of efforts from Wimbledon rolled wide of the post as they looked increasingly threatening on the break. When the winner came Reading were all over the place defensively. Any one of three opponents were in space waiting for the ball in the box - having broken from midfield without being picked up.

Last week Ronnie Moore made the meaningless comment that his side should have won 8-3. Alan Pardew's view that Reading were unlucky to concede the goal was equally meaningless. What worried me was that we looked extremely vulnerable to a counter attack on several occasions and I was also disappointed in the support given to Butler and Cureton when Reading played the ball out of defence. Hughes usually is willing to get forward quickly but nobody else seemed prepared to do it today. I hope Harper and Gamble are not loaned out because I feel they could provide the energy and enterprise which was sadly lacking today. Surely we should be bringing them into the team now at least for part of the game. Also, I can't help wondering if Pardew would like a forward who is strong in the air and scores goals to compliment Cureton. Obviously the plan is to consolidate this season, but sooner or later we will have to strengthen the squad if we are to be serious contenders for promotion. Neverless we can still play some good football with this squad and enjoy the season.

ken c
Average performance, disappointing result.
Perhaps this was a reality check for the Reading fans who were talking about us being in a play off position after we had won today. The truth was there for everyone to see. Whilst we are good enough to compete with most teams in this league, we are also capable of loosing to many as well. Wimbledon struck me as a solid first division side. They had pace, moved the ball around well and In Shipperley had someone who could lead the line. They were also well organized. This was not the Wimbledon of a few years ago. They passed the ball well but did not really threaten to hurt us and I thought our defence, and Williams in particular, did reasonably well.
What we were not able to do today was to break them down. Yes we might have had a penalty when Roug was brought down, but the truth was that the midfield did not create for the front men and they could not create for themselves. It was a bit of a surprise to see Forster on the bench at the start, but that did enable a starting place to be found for Igoe. Newman continued at full back and had a good game defensively but he does not get forward as much as Murty and so we did not create much down the right. Salako started well on the left but faded badly in the second half.
Some of the home fans seemed to get at him towards the end of the game which I thought was unfair. I think he has been one of our most consistent players so far this season. Once the first half had ended, and it was a half that promised much but delivered little, it became likely that one goal would win it. I thought that we just about shaved the first 45 minutes. We had more pressure, more corners but no real chances. In truth the best chances of the match went to Wimbledon. Shipperley might have done better with a couple of headers, I'm not too sure who Mackie was marking at the time, but they did not really deserve to win.
When the winner came it was scored by the best player on the pitch in young McAnuff who had given us a lot of problems with his pace. Once he had scored, it was all over and the reaction of the home fans was disappointing. In Reading's defence, they lost Hughes at half time to an injury which would have caused some disruption. At that stage Pardew went for the more defensive option of Murty rather than Forster. Roug replaced Butler who had worked tirelessly yet again, but achieved very little. Roug's superior strength and better control had an immediate impact, and if he could be consistent, then he would be an automatic choice everytime. Cureton showed that when he's not scoring then his contribution is not good enough at this level. That is a hard one for the manager. The saddest thing about today was the fact that our most creative player was Hahnemann!
I don't think the boos and abuse at the end of the game were justified and just go to fuel the opinion about our fickle fans - I mean we were 8th in Division 1 at kick-off and have been pretty much matching all our opponents so far, we haven't looked over awed and have at least played some pretty decent football. It was a sickener to lose in the last minute, especially after our defence and Hahnemann (when called upon) had played so well, Newman looked really good and Williams had one of his best games for ages but the problem really lies in the midfield, there were no tackles going in and the space just opened up for Wimbledon in the second half, putting the back four under too much pressure. Watson sure can pass the ball and he can spread the play to the wings but rarely puts the ball through to the strikers, he also seems very scared to tackle - a worrying trait that seems to have affected all the midfield and forward players. There was a sense of deja vu - the good approach play, neat passing but ultimate failure to get in a decent cross or a shot on target brings back memories of the end of last season, a hesitancy on the edge of the penalty box to attack the goal. There were a lot of silly errors and lack of concentration, but it was a decent game and Wimbledon, to be fair came, at us in the second half, they could sense the jitters and lack of muscle in midfield, is it a lack of motivation? A lack of a Parky in his prime? Hahnemann's kicking was superb and it is unbelievable that the forwards did not get something out of his distribution yesterday, he seems to be our main play-maker at the moment in the absense of a midfield and I think it would be fair to rest Butler and give Henderson a chance to profit from this new found weapon. So, yes, it was gutting to lose at home against a team like WImbledon but let's get things into perspective before we start to boo the team off.
crowthorne royal
Absolutely gutted. I said to my mate at half time, we will either go on and get a goal and probably win 2-0 or they'll snatch it on the break at the end!!! The game was unremarkable and as such a bore draw would probably have been right, although I thought with a little more class we could have won comfortably against a poor side. Therefore here are just some comments that I thought worth registering. Team Selection - Okay, but it became clear that in a 'slow' game Forster could have made a difference. Subs - 'Murts has played some of his best games for us in midfield' - Sorry Al did I miss those then because I can only remember Murty playing well for us in defence. A crazy substitution, not so much Murty but Igoe dragged in the middle where he is ineffective. He creates so much for us wide on the right. Surely it would have been better if Murty had replaced Newman (a natural strong tackling, ball winning cent' midfielder, so let's play him there) and kept Igoe in a position where he hurts the opposition. Finally on subs, giving Forster ten minutes might work wonders occasionly (Royals v Wigan), but come on Alan the game was crying out for PACE after 20 minutes!! I am in danger of rounding on AP again who overall doesn't deserve it. Again his comments post game were 100% accurate in that he realised we lacked real quality in the final third. The players however need to take more responsibility for their performances. What was Salako doing in the last 10 or 15 minutes with about 4 passes that Martin Hicks would have cringed at making. Butler again tried hard but didn't look like he could beat, again Martin Hicks let alone a modern day half decent first division defender. Kevin Watson whilst making some great passes was so easily knocked off the ball it was emabarrasing. Finally the atmosphere was very poor. I was in the 'KFAQ' stand and it almost made more noise than the East Stand faithful and definitely more than The lamentable North Stand. (I don't expect anything from The West) We are going to have to raise our standards and voices as fans if we expect the players to do the same. Hope against hope, if we manage to do it together on wednesday then it could be a far more enjoyable experience. Now going to take my kids out to a party and at least for a couple of hours I can get this damn club out of my head!!!
worthing royal
Good first half. Crap second. Salako not good enough for div 1 at his age. He was a great player when he played with Pardew at Palace but Alan should realise that his time has gone, I think we all know he wont be dropped while Pards is manager, but he must go. He was awful. Butler looks scared, Curo is off form, and why we dont put Gamble or Harper into the squad amazes me. We cerainly clutched defeat from the jaws of victory today. Wimbledon were beatable. but we let them win. Oh dear!
nick newbury
Well I certainly didn't boo at the end nor did I chant "what a load of rubbish", but nobody could disagree that this game and result certainly was a total load of crap with the ultimate kick in the bollocks... the last second winner to Milton Keynes. It's not so much we lost but more the way we threw away yet another precious three points at home to a team that was there for the taking, and with two very hard games coming up, these are the type of games we simply have to win to ensure we don't get dragged down to the like of Brighton Athletic and Walsall Twankers. I don't know what it is, but something is missing this season. We've made the step up to division one , we have the stadium , we have the so called players (very debatable) but where is the buzz? Where is the atmosphere, where is the fight, where is the passion and where are we going? If we'd have won yesterday we would have found ourselves in the play offs zone. Now, I'm not quite ready for the funny farm, but what we pay to see each week, has as much in common with the quality of football in the premier league that we may as well be on Pluto, yet alone another planet! I'm sure we'd all settle for mid table this season, probably next season too, but is that enough to satisfy the thousands of fans who have to pay their hard earned dosh to follow their team? Time will tell of course, but based on yesterdays performance we have a long way to go, a very long way. Back to the old ways yesterday, poor passing, sloppy defending, woeful movement off the ball, poor tactics and no threat what so ever in the final third . I don't see any point at all in mentioning individual players. I'm quite sure they all try their best and play to the best of their ability reproducing what is installed into them on the training ground. In my humble opinion though, what we do have simply isn't good enough. It's ok, average even, but never going to be a major threat or top class. The infrastructure is there, look at the new indoor training facility, fantastic, but to me its like we've got the body of a Ferrari with the engine of a Vauxhall Astra. Many games left this season, but the looks on peoples faces and comments as the thousands left the stadium yesterday said it all.
thatcham royal
At the end of the first half I was reminded of the game against Burnley. There too we created good first half chances but didn't come close to scoring. The second half was a different story. Instead of Reading growing & taking control, Wimbledon came out looking stronger & quicker and really got at us. Add to that, Hughes going off & the antics of our midfield, and a draw was looking like our best hope. I have to say Pardew got it badly wrong. Constantly rotating our left & right wingers seemed to confuse us and Igoe in particular looked like he didn't know what to do. The result was he dissapeared from the game. Only Watson stayed in position and Wimbledon exploited the extra space and confusion. Towards the end Pardew could see the wheels coming off so he threw on Forster & Rougier, but only Rougier looked dangerous. He immediately got into the game and gave their defence some problems. The tackle on Rougier in the box should have resulted in a definite penalty. From the North Stand it was clear cut. But the linesman & referee who I thought had been poor throughout, continued their shabby display by ignoring it. As for Wimbledons winner, I thought our defence had played well & that was a cruel blow for them. Hahnemann especially looked fantastic with a great save from Shipperley's fierce shot and distribution that shamed every midfielder. We certainly did nothing upfield to deserve the win, but that was a harsh lesson in how you have to concentrate beyond 90 minutes. Pardew commented after the game that he had Parky & Harper in the stands. I seriously hope he isn't thinking either of them should play. Parky has been a fantastic servant, but this Division is just beyond him now. As for Harper, introducing someone who just tarts around on the pitch, refusing to get stuck in is not going to help. Our midfield was dreadful. I'm not one of the anti-Salako mob, but his second half display has to warrant his exclusion on Wednesday. Norwich will be far better than a dull Wimbledon side, we need some new faces and it's time to introduce one of the younger players. They should give us the determination and drive we badly missed. Failing that, bring back Whitehead in goal & play Hahnemann in midfield...
Got an opinion? E-Mail us at
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages

Quick Links:
  [Match Reports Index]   [Match Previews Index]   [Current League Table]

Link to Hob Nob Anyone? Home Page
Copyright Hob Nob Anyone? © 1994-2003
The Original Reading Football Club Internet Site