26 December 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
READING 0 WIMBLEDON 3
Wimbledon: Small (9 mins), Lewington (23 mins), McAnuff (81 mins).
| Half Time: 0-2
| Reading: Hahnemann, Murty,
Williams, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Murray (Owusu 54), Watson (Harper 69), Hughes,
Sidwell, Salako, Forster. Subs not used: Brown, Newman, Young.
Wimbledon: Banks, Lewington, Darlington, Gier, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Small, Nowland, Reo-Coker, Agyemang, Mackie (Gray 67). Subs not used: Chorley, Tapp, Harding, Worgan.
| Reading: -
Wimbledon: Agyemang, Reo-Coker.
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt)
Wimbledon's third goal, which sent most of the home fans scurrying towards the exits, underlined the basic difference between Reading and their opponents today. McAnuff carried the ball into a shooting position on the edge of the area and let fly. His shot was blocked, but he reacted quicker than any Reading player to fire in a second attempt which was also blocked. Again he reacted faster and hammered the third attempt past Hahnemann from twenty yards. The goal was a testament to Wimbledon's, speed of thought, confidence, skill and determination. They looked like they wanted the ball and were enjoying their football.
Reading could have taken an early lead when a Hughes cross had the Wimbledon defence in a tangle, but it was the Dons who opened the scoring when Agyemang dropped his shoulder and let the ball run past him leaving Ingimarsson looking confused and stranded wide on the left. His cross eventually broke to Small who beat Hahnemann with relative ease. Ingimarsson almost equalised minutes later but his powerful header was well saved by Banks.
Worryingly for Reading the visitors were moving the ball well and posing a threat by running at the home defence. Reading looked disorganised defensively and poor marking almost allowed Wimbledon to increase their lead when they somehow had two players free in space on the left of the Royals area. Luckily for Reading they lost control of the ball and then amazingly Sidwell gave it back to a Wimbledon player for a free shot at goal. He must have been extremely relieved when Nowland dragged his shot wide. It was only a temporary reprieve. Lewington rose unchallenged to head past Hahnemann in the twenty second minute.
Admittedly I missed the Palace game, but the first half performance must be close to the poorest for a long time. I was staggered that the same eleven came out to start the second half. Changes did eventually come, first in the form of Owusu (55 minutes), who produced the biggest cheer of the afternoon when he won a header with his first touch, and Harper (69 minutes), who took over from Watson. Nothing much changed. Wimbledon continued to look dangerous on the break and Reading continued to misplace their passes and make life difficult for each other with their inferior touch and lack of movement. Forster managed to use his pace to get into a great scoring position, but with only Banks to beat he struck the ball straight at the 'keeper.
With ten minutes to go Hahnemann made a good save to keep the game alive. Two minutes later it was all over when McAnuff's great strike gave the very small contingent of Wimbledon fans something to celebrate. Sadly, but justifiably, the few Reading fans left in the ground joined them in applauding the Wimbledon team after the final whistle.
Losing three games in a row is always worrying, but when those defeats are against teams in or near the relegation zone, and two of them at home, it really is time to try something significantly different. Coppell said that he does not understand why the results are so poor. I think it is more likely he does know, but is unable to say without further undermining the already fragile confidence of the players responsible. He must realise that some players are simply not good enough.
The contrast in the touch and quality of passing between
Reading, and what was the bottom side in the division, was embarrassing
at times today. There are certain aspects of Reading's performance that
have been evident for some time now and need to be dealt with. I know
a lot is expected of Forster up front on his own, but he simply is not
causing the problems he was last season. He is slow to react to passes,
hesitant in shooting positions, and doesn't seem to want to take players
on anymore. Last year he was regularly opening up defences and making
runs into wide positions. He seems more intent on moaning at his team
mates or the officials. Salako has superb touch but far too often chooses
to pass the ball sideways or backwards. Murray seems unable to go past
players. Defenders seem to be able to send him inside where he runs into
trouble. Hughes as we all know is inconsistent with his passing and often
seems to 'switch off' during the game. If the club is serious about getting
into the Premiership, Madejski needs to adopt a more ambitious attitude.
If we want to be a Premiership club we must have Premiership quality players.
I didn't see too many in blue and white out there today. Having said that,
there are promising young players in the current squad. Owusu looked quite
sharp in his brief appearance and was unlucky when his header hit the
post. Maybe he can lift morale with a goal or two, and perhaps the arrival
of Kitson will bring about something different. I'm not writing this season
off yet, but Coppell has a lot to do yet to mould the team into serious
contenders for a play-off spot.
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