READING 2 NOTTS COUNTY 1 (Half Time: 1-1)
Garden (og, 25 mins), Cureton (90 mins).
Notts County Scorers: Liburd (19 mins)
9 February 2002
Reading: Roberts, Murty, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Igoe, Gamble (Cureton 72), Hughes (N Smtih 80), Salako, Rougier (Henderson 68), Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Robinson.
Notts County: Garden, Fenton (Owers 72),Warren, Ireland, Baraclough, Cas, Leam Richardson, Liburd, Caskey, Allsopp, Stallard (Hackworth 81). Subs not used Mildenhall, Nicholson, Brough.
Bookings: Rougier, Murty (Reading); Caskey, Warren (Notts County).
I must admit I'd given this one up long before the final whistle. This was the poorest performance I've seen from the Royals since the December. County could easily have been two up at half time. Reading looked ragged and vulnerable. As the game moved into stoppage time, in my mind, I was just beginning to dissect the performance, to work out why a team near the bottom could have given us such a tough game. Then right on cue, the ball bounced agonisingly off the upright across the County goalmouth into the path of Jamie Cureton who joyfully smashed it into the net! Nothing obliterates cold analysis more than a last gasp winner! Minutes later - further elation as news filtered through of defeats for Brighton and Bristol City - and to top it all - Bobby Zamora had been sent off. Now what was that about a poor performance?
It was certainly a strange game today. County can count themselves very unlucky to get nothing out of this game. They created some good scoring opportunities with the aid of some poor defending, and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Adie Williams brought down Allsopp as he was setting himself to shoot. Today the Royals did not work as unit defensively and were not quite as quick to close down as they have been in recent games. The slick passing came in short bursts and the ball was given away cheaply too often.
Reading clearly missed the stability and experience of either Parkinson or Jones in the centre of midfield. Gamble played well and replacing him didn't do much to improve things. The balance was not right in midfield today and I should be very surprised to see that combination again. County, as many sides do at the Madejski, packed five into midfield, and as a result were able to take the game to Reading at times. In the end it was Reading's self belief and determination to stay at the top that won the points.
County took the lead on 17 minutes when Liburd followed up after Roberts had saved from Allsopp. Minutes later Cas missed a good chance to make it 2 - 0 but he dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area. Nicky Forster's 25th minute powerful looping header against the bar was rebounding to safety when it stuck the back of the airbourne Garden and popped back into the net. It was a very lucky goal and came at a very good time - before anxiety had time to set in!
Roberts is definitely up to the job until Whitehead returns but in keeping with the rest of the team he had a jittery performance today. There are some things to talk about there before Monday's game when the defence will come under pressure. A big issue is when to come for the ball. However he was well behind every shot fired at him and arguably made a good save from a point blank header in the 75th minute when it really did matter. (I'm not sure he could have got out of the way even if he had wanted too.)
I was delighted that it was Cureton that hit the winner following his absurd article in the local press this week where he announced that Rougier should be dropped to accommodate him. Not team-building stuff exactly! Pardew showing great management skill again, dug him out of that hole with his post match comments today. "...He's a team player and he was disappointed with an interview he did in the local paper this week that didn't come out the way he wanted,..." Perhaps now he will feel part of the promotion push and realise that he does have a crucial role to play even if he does not make the starting eleven. He will never be able to do the job that Rougier is doing at the moment because he simply does not have the physical prowess. Surely he must see in the current set up, he's competing with Forster for his place and again Reading are much less of an attacking force without his pace. I can see Cureton playing a crucial role between now and the end of the season but I don't see him starting many games.
When you come out of a game like this with all the points you start to feel
that it is going to be your season. Playing well is important, and we certainly
have done that since Christmas, but so is being lucky and we seem to be getting
our fair share of good fortune at present. We'll need more than luck on Monday,
so let's hope the team can serve up another full blooded away performance. I
feel confident that they can improve on today's effort, but the stakes are high
and the opposition is stronger.
Report by John Wells
Post Match Opinions
This is going to be our season. To take 3 points from a Notts County
side who were as hard to beat as anybody we have played all season, proves
we are going up. Certainly not our best performance, but the team never
stopped plugging away. Pardew made it clear he was going all out for the
win, with his attacking substitutions. To be fair, to leave with nothing
was probably an unfair result for County. Their plan was working perfectly.
They frustrated our forwards all afternoon, not all of it legally (their
number 13 got away with murder) But how many goals have we scored in the
last third of a game? It seems the second any team lets their guard down,
we pounce. As usual it seems all the results went for us. To see Zamora
sent off is excellent news. He'll miss 3 games & we'll see what Brighton
have to offer without him! We go to Brighton with all the pressure on
the home side. They have to attack, and Reading seem to be at their most
dangerous when that happens.
Not the performance I had predicted, County played well above their
league position and caught Reading on a day when things did not quite
go to plan. Notts County were big and Reading have struggled to impress
against big physical teams on occasions already this year, as they did
at home to Cardiff earlier in the season. You could not say that County
ever controlled the match, but uncomfortably for Reading they prevented
us getting to them where it hurts despite our obvious endeavours. Reading
were shocked into action after conceding an early goal, for the rest of
the first half however County rarely bothered us and Reading looked in
command. Igoe, Murty and Mackie possibly made the difference and if his
performances are maintained at this level Pardew will have to give Igoe
a new contract. The second half for the fans was frustrating and the feeling
of gloom was descending until deep into injury time that man Cureton popped
up to snatch all three points from a devastated County side who had given
their all and some would say deserved a share of the points. It wasn't
to be though and as the Royals fans celebrated you could not help feeling
sorry for County who had come so near but so far. The disappointment of
our performance was soon forgotten especially as the Brighton and Bristol
City results went in our favour. Gamble deputised for Parkinson well and
although he lacks the presents of Parky, his intelligent running and passing
kept Readings football flowing. Disappointingly our attack was below par
and Rougie,Forster and Salarko all performed below the high standards
set in recent weeks. Certainly Salako who interviewed on Grandstand said
that Reading just lacked belief did not produce the number of menacing
runs he is capable of, perhaps he has been up too late doing his commentary
work for the African nations cup! Sorry to criticise John but you were
never quite in the game today. Anyway we have three more valuable points
in the bag and I have a feeling that the Royals can raise there game a
notch when they take on Brighton on Monday night. Come on lads steel yourselves
for this one, you can do it.
Well, took me 4 hours to get to the match today from Staffs, took
along a workmate on the advice of the club (just to show the wife I can
do DIY on a Saturday!) but anyway he enjoyed the match if I didn't till
the end at least. Just felt today the midfield was over run at times although
Igoe and Joe did at times create opportunities in attack, we looked light
weight when defending from midfield. Our biggest problem today seemed
to be who was in the middle to meet the crosses? Trouble was either Forster
or Rougier providing neither to receive in the middle, until Jamie did
exactly what Tony can't do.... be in the right place right time. But what
the hell why should we moan all the rest are losing their bottle sign
of a good team winning when playing naff. Just a foot note.. great entertainment
from the Beard Lads... overall worth the journey home and missing pop
Lady luck was on our side today.
Bloody hell , who needs drugs! What a result and with Brighton and
Bristol City losing, Jamie Cureton's late, late goal and far more vitally
Roberts point blank wonder save may prove to be a pivotal moment in what's
turning out to be a fantastic season. No worries about the performance
today that I thought was well below average, it's the three points that
count! The way the results went today for us mean anything at Brighton
is a bonus, for what it's worth I think we'll win and after the Stoke
game our destiny will be decided one way or another. Mention for young
Gamble today who I thought done really well and bodes well for the future.
Let's though, enjoy the feeling of a ninety second minute winner, just
think how our rivals will think when they see in the papers tomorrow the
way we sneaked it... bloody marvellous! Scream your hearts out for the
boys this week... come on URZ!
Phew - that was close. I must say I don't think we were as impressive
today as recent matches and there's plenty to work on. BUT, as they say,
the mark of a great team is when you can come away with 3 points when
you play BADLY! I'm starting to believe it's possible!
Was at the Oldham match yesterday, which wasn't a bad match in difficult
windy conditions. curiously Zamora only got on with 30 mins to go, but
didn't he make a difference to Brighton, until he got himself sent of
for a petulant elbow on Armstrong. Before Zamora entered the fray Brighton
looked an ordinary side going forward, they were however very resolute
in defence and will take some breaking down on Monday night. Zamora looks
a class above this division, he made things happen, his first contribution
was to peel away from Oldhams defense to crash a header against the bar.
Next was a superb dummy to set up a team mate with a chance on goal. Finally
a run at defence which caused panic in Oldham's defence as three players
descended on him leaving Zamora to flick on to an unmarked team mate to
run clear on goal only for the keeper to make an excellent block. So are
Brighton a one man team? Probably not, but Zamora made a big difference.
shame his suspension wont start before Monday night. Oldham scored two
of the best goals I've seen this season, (apart from Curo's on this same
ground) both from set pieces, the first a well worked corner, the second
a thumping free kick, to break down Brighton's defence, when the second
went in I celebrated as much as the next Oldham supporter, who happened
to be the Father-in-law, which he noted! I turned to him and said all
I need now is for my Dad to send a text informing me of a late Reading
winner. the script was written and the mobile duly vibrated ten minutes
later with the Oldham score board indicting time-up! with trembling hands
I pressed the appropriate buttons and there it was, 2-1, another jump
for joy and I was already composing this draft in my head. One downer
I have to by the Pop-in-law the pint I promised him if Oldham turned them
over. This is going to hurt, but what the hell I guess he deserves it.
Come on URZ
I don't want this report to appear negative. I am a die hard Royals
nut and would support us come what may, however yesterday's performance
showed just why this season is far from over. Pardew talked about 36 crosses,
how many were we even close to getting on the end of? I can tell you,
it wouldn't have been more than 7or 8. Midfield was overrun by a team
with no midfield 'names' to speak of other than Caskey who I thought had
a very uninfluential game.
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