MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

1 September 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: -
West Ham: Bellamy (6 mins), Etherington (49 mins, 90 mins)
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 23,533

Pos Team P Pts GD
17 Sunderland 4 4 -4
18 READING 5 4 -6
19 Bolton 5 3 -3
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Duberry, Shorey, Fae (Kitson 61), Harper, Gunnarsson (Cisse 69), Hunt, Lita (Convey 75), Doyle. Subs Not Used: Federici, Bikey.
West Ham: Green, Neill, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney, Bowyer (Spector 81), Noble, Mullins, Etherington, Ashton (Cole 65), Bellamy (Boa Morte 90). Subs Not Used: Wright, Gabbidon.
Reading: -
West Ham: Green.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
Two successive heavy defeats against teams Reading might have expected to pick up points have given Steve Coppell plenty to think about this weekend. Although Reading were at home and enjoyed more possession than the Hammers, they never looked likely to breach their defence. It is the manner of the defeat, which will give Royals fans the greatest concern. There was no real spark to suggest they might recover from Bellamy's early strike, and as the game drew to a close the hammers looked likely to score every time they attacked.

Bellamy opened the scoring after six minutes when he broke from the half way line exposing Ingimarsson's lack of pace and fired a crisp shot inside the far post. The goal came just as the fans in the East Stand had begun to taunt the away fans with reminders of last season's six goal drubbing. Last season this would have produced a massive reaction from the team and the fans. Today a cloud of gloom seemed to descend on the Madejski. The crowd was subdued and the team lacked ideas. As the Hammers attacked, the Royals defensive unit was all over the place and opponents found time and space with ease. Marking was loose to say the least. Harper had a half chance but it only provided an opportunity to demonstrate his left foot is not as potent as his left. Hunt clipped a shot against the bar just before half time, but in spite of a succession of corners Reading had not really tested Green. In fact Reading were looking extremely vulnerable to counter attacks from their set plays.

The second half brought little change. Etherington played a very neat but simple one-two on the edge of the box and lashed the ball confidently into the net to put the visitors in complete control. Reading just didn't have any idea hoe to break down the Hammers defence. Fae had shown he has the acceleration to go past players in the first half, but he faded as the game progressed. Kitson and Convey came on to liven thing up but it was a case of too little too late. Kitson went down under a challenge from Green to give Reading a way back in to the game with only fifteen minutes left. Doyle failed to convert the spot kick, which just about killed off any hope a recovery and is a good indictor of his significant loss of form this season so far. Hahnemann pulled of two saves to keep the score respectable before Etherington finally broke through and finished clinically. Harper completely missed the ball when presented with a scoring opportunity and Cisse failed to find the net from an even better position.

So with five league games gone we are still waiting for one our strikers to find the net and the defence is leaking goals too easily. The system seems to have gone wrong. The midfield is not working as a unit to protect the defence and Murty in particular allowed himself to be pulled out of position far too often. Sonko will certainly tighten things up at the back when he resumes his very effective partnership with Ingimarsson, but unless Little can make a speedy recovery a lot rests on Convey to open up opposing defences. Coppell's post match analysis was as always clear and accurate. Reading fans must console themselves with the knowledge that they at least have a good manager who more than capable of putting things right. It might also help if the crowd could do their stuff again this season.
John Wells

Coppell may have been over-confident about his squad? The manager was understandably cautious about upsetting the team spririt by bringing in the wrong sort of player before the transfer deadline. He was obviously convinced that his squad had enough depth as it was, However, Steve Coppell appears to have moderated his view after the home defeat to West Ham. The language now is about dissappointment with the players and regret about not acting in the transfer market. Perhaps there is a lack of competition in the squad causing the players to feel comfortable? One thing is for certain: the January window will seem a long time away unless things improve. I hope that we are still in with a chance of staying up by the time we reach it.
James Lawrence

It's now just over an hour and a half since the final whistle and though the result still hurts, on reflection one has to admit we were well beaten by a very good West Ham team today, given a good tonking and showed how to play good attacking football. We were dreadful today, lethargic and clueless. It's also hours since the transfer window closed and that's what really worries me. Having taken 136 years to reach the elite, arguably the best league in the world, had a wonderful first season last year and built a solid foundation to build on, with breathtaking naivety and arrogance Reading FC have invested a miserly £3.1 million pounds to consolidate our position. Taking into consideration the money we got for Greg Halford we've actually spent almost nothing. It defies belief. What's the point of expanding the stadium, building this and that if we've not got the team on the pitch to compete at this level. Anybody with half a brain cell can see we've no depth in the squad, it's so thin it's transparent. Where has all the money gone? We apparently get at least £35 million this year plus what we got last year and we sign just two players, who are both unproven at this level. Look at our rivals, all who were below us last year have improved and pushed on. Why can't we attract players like Wigan, Middlesborough and Sunderland can? Why, because we won't pay the wages. Well that's simply stupid. If you want to compete and play at this level and take the vast financial rewards that go with it, you have to pay the going rate, within reason, or you die. Yes it's early days and yes we've had a couple of good results, but Bolton and West Ham have both brutally shown it's going to be a very long season as we simply do not have the depth or strength in the squad this season. Effectively we are still a Championship team. No point having a go at the players, I'm sure they tried their best, but their best may not be good enough. It may have been all the furore over Shorey going to West Ham may have effected him today as he was well off key, but everybody must realise it's not a matter of if but when he leaves for better money. There's no loyalty in professional footballers, they simply go where the best wages are and enhance their short career, can't blame them. If you want loyalty, buy a dog.
Nick Newbury

Unfortunately, on this very rare occasion Coppell got it wrong. Curbishley had obviously had more sleepless nights than Steve, pondering his next and decisive move on how to get one-upmanship on his fellow great tactician. It was simple to see from the stands that Curbs had gone for speed over strength. Dubb's is good solid defender but lacks in pace, in fact the whole back four lacked any real pace this day, except for Murts who found himself hopelessly out of position on several occasions, even though Fae had tracked Etherington all the way back for their second goal from beyond the halfway line only to lose his marker at the final furlong through ball watching. I know in retrospect it's easy to say these things, but surely Steve should have made the necessary changes at half-time. We needed Bikey to track Bellamy, as he had done successfully against Andy Johnson in the previous week's, and Cisse to take over from Gunnarsson who was hopelessly out paced in the middle of the pitch. The reason why we didn't create many chances in front of their goal until the final 20 mins or so, was because the forwards were getting no support from our defensively minded middle when they pushed on. I'm just glad we have got two weeks to re group and re think our tactics on teams that are based on pace, which we managed to do successfully against the toffees. Just make sure we do our home work on Sunderland, as Coppell surely knows that "Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance"
RG5 Loyal Royals

Poor result and a very poor performance. The concern is that West Ham had some quality but it’s mainly in their treatment room and an average West Ham, on the pitch, took us apart on breakaways (you could say they played us at our own game). The point about the treatment room is that a club we tonked last year and who spent most of the season near the bottom, have moved on, we haven’t. On the pitch, this wasn’t Arsenal ripping us apart but an ok team with some pace. We made Ferdinand and Etherington looked world beaters, which says more about us than them. Where West Ham had quality on the pitch it was with Bellamy and Ashton who both cost about £7m each. There’s the difference. In the past we’ve countered that by everyone doing their job very well and working as a unit. For example, Etherington’s second goal, a one two, really needed Fae to track the runner i.e. Etherington, he didn’t and a free hit inside the box isn’t ideal! For the first time in a long time, it felt to me that the team weren’t really at the races and the Shorey “will he, won’t he” of the previous week probably didn’t help – how deliberate was that by West Ham (£4m was never going to get him, surely). Losing is one thing, and WHU were one day due to get a result at the Mad Stad, but the manner of the defeat is the most worrying. They’ve played as a tight unit before, this needs to be done against all teams in the Prem not just the top teams, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, back to basics. As for strengthening the squad, I suspect half the problem is players not wishing to come to Reading as much as our wage structure. But then, there’s a spirit there that would be easy to mess up, it just wasn’t on show on Saturday.
Nick, Tilehurst

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