MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

Reading: -
Tottenham: Keane (16 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 24,125

Pos Team P Pts GD
17 Fulham 37 33 -23
18 READING 37 33 -29
19 Birmingham 37 32 -19
20 Derby (R) 37 11 -65
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior (Oster 88), Ingimarsson, Duberry, Shorey, Doyle (Long 80), Harper, Bikey (Matejovsky 65), Hunt, Lita, Kitson. Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse.
Tottenham: Cerny, Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate, Gilberto, Jenas, Zokora, Huddlestone (O'Hara 61), Malbranque, Keane (Boateng 77), Bent. Subs Not Used: Robinson, Chimbonda, Taarabt.
Reading: Harper.
Tottenham: -
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
The first half of this game illustrated perfectly why Reading's Premier League status is left hanging by a thread after this narrow home defeat. From the kick off the home fans roared their team forward, and although Reading were positive in their attitude, throwing over a couple of early crosses, two attacks in the first five minutes broke down due to misplaced passes from Bikey and Hunt. In contrast Spurs superior technique, passing and movement enabled them to retain possession and control the game. Hahnemann had to save with his legs from Bent when Spurs worked a clear opening on ten minutes. With only sixteen minutes gone, Keane silenced the home crowd when Bent strolled through the centre of the Reading defence and slipped him a short pass. All Keane had to was guide the ball past an exposed Hahnemann, which he did with ease. It was worrying how effortless it looked. The best move of the match culminated in Malbranque guiding the ball past Hahnemann for an excellent goal, only to see it disallowed incorrectly for offside. The rest of the half saw Spurs string passes together with Malbranque looking particularly sharp and Keane dropping into midfield leaving Reading chasing shadows. The Royals response was to switch to a 4-3-3 formation by moving Doyle inside to join Kitson and Lita. When Spurs did relinquish possession Reading soon returned the ball, either with a careless pass, or a long ball which Woodgate and Dawson dealt with comfortably. The new formation simply clogged up the central areas and offered insufficient width. When a sight of goal did present itself, Lita blasted over, and Hunt completely mishit his shot and it bobbled harmlessly wide. At half time the outcome looked depressingly inevitable. The gulf in class was enormous.

The second half was better from Reading although Spurs reminded us two minutes after the break they were capable of carving open the Reading defence. Shorey had to make an outstanding tackle to prevent a second goal that would have certainly killed the game on fifty minutes. The home crowd found its voice again and lifted the players and Reading enjoyed a spell of pressure. Spurs obligingly sat back as Doyle and Lita began to run at defenders. On the hour Lita rolled a good pass into the path of Bikey who struck his shot well only to see it deflected over off the head of Spurs defender. The game became stretched and chances began to come for Reading. Matejovsky was on after sixty-five minutes and looked far more comfortable in possession than everyone else in a Reading shirt. Spurs were breaking out occasionally and after seventy-five minutes Bent hit the inside of the post. Matejovsky shot just wide when set up by Kitson. Kitson forced a good save from Cerny in the last five minutes and then Rosenior was foiled by an even better one a minute later. The final whistle blew and the ground emptied with everyone gloomily reflecting on next week in the knowledge that Fulham had pushed Reading into the bottom three and survival was now not impossible but out of their hands.

The harsh reality of the situation is that the current team is not quite good enough. One win in the last six games would probably been enough to secure safety but they could not even produce a goal in those fixtures. I think Coppell is a great manager but the numerous changes in recent games have been hard to understand. The players attitude clearly has not been right with Sonko and Fae behaving unprofessionally, Kitson having tantrums, and Shorey publicly criticising the team's performance at Newcastle. Today with Bikey, superb at centre back in March, playing in midfield and Matekovsky on the bench, I did not believe from the start selection was right. Luck has also played its part and the loss of Little was significant this season. Having said all of that, everything could change very quickly. Reading can beat Derby and Fulham and Birmingham might not win. To say that next week wil be tense is a massive understaement. Whatever happens, things will have to change this summer.
John Wells

There's almost nothing to say,the league table doesn't lie and we simply are not good enough. I think we've all had our patience and nerves shredded to the limit but Coppells post match quote of "We've got the stomach for the fight, no question" defies belief. The first half yesterday was just as bad as Fulham, absolutely pathetic, second not much better. Well I'm sorry Steve, but on what we've all witnessed with our own eyes over recent weeks a team of old age pensioners could put up a better fight! We can accept being crap, it hurts, but what we can't stand is giving in and not dying for the shirt and that's what our lot have done, going down without a whimper of a fight. If you want to see players that are prepared to fight, look no further than Fulham, Bolton, Sunderland and Wigan. We deserve everything we get, what ever that may be.
Nick Newbury

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THIS home defeat, yet another of them, puts Reading emphatically down among the dead men and almost certainly condemned to relegation if they cannot win next Sunday at Derby County. It was a curious game, utterly dominated by a coolly effective Tottenham throughout a first half in which they should certainly have scored more than the goal that won them the points. Yet in the second half, Reading rose from the ashes; or all but did so. A hugely improved, more spirited and effective performance all but bringing them an equaliser in the closing minutes, thwarted only by two splendid saves by Tottenham’s goalkeeper, Radek Cerny... Coppell felt his team had been getting back into the game in the latter stages of that half, but it was in the second half that they suddenly came to vigorous life and took the game to a Spurs team who had previously been toying with them. Keane was in absolute command – here, there and everywhere, now threatening in attack, now dropping into midfield to get things going, well abetted by Jermaine Jenas. It came as a complete surprise when his manager, Juande Ramos, who described his performance as “magnificent”, took Keane off after 77 minutes, no doubt to the extreme relief of Reading... Now, Reading must strive at Derby. “We have a significant chance next week,” said Coppell, “but it’s time for us to deliver.”
Brian Glanville, The Times

Robbie Keane scored the game's only goal as Tottenham's first win in six plunged Reading into the drop zone and in stark danger of relegation. Reading finally found their feet in the second half and Dave Kitson and Liam Rosenior both forced fabulous saves from Radek Cerny in a tense finale. But Bent also hit the post for Spurs and the visitors found no way through. It means the Royals must now get a result against Derby on the last day of the season and hope that Fulham drop points. However, they may have to sharpen their skills in front of goal as their failure to break down a resolute Spurs defence extended their barren spell in front of goal to six matches and more than 550 minutes. It has been a steady slide down the Premier League table for the Royals, who came into the match on a run of just three wins since Christmas and against an opposition who had scored nine goals in three games against them this season.
BBC Sport