MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

Reading: Goater (84 mins).
Cresswell (28 mins), Koumantarakis (47 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 9,314

Preston will meet
Swansa City (away)
in Round Four
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Murray, Hughes (Salako 73), Harper (Watson 55), Newman (Sidwell 55), Morgan, Goater. Subs not used: Savage, Young.
Gould, O'Neil, Edwards, Mears, Alexander, Etuhu, McKenna, Keane, Healy, Cresswell, Koumantarakis (Abbott 67). Subs not used: Cartwright, Lonergan, Skora, McCormack.
Reading: -
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear)

Reading stumbled out of the FA Cup to Preston last night in front of the lowest home crowd of the season. The attendance of just 9,314 witnessed another poor Reading performance that stretched the current run to seven games without a win. Reading had chances to win the game but were shocking in front of goal with Shaun Goater missing a series of simple chances that saw Preston progress to round four and Reading exit, after a third round home replay, for the second season in a row.

Reading got off to a bright enough start with Ingimarsson forcing an early save from a Scott Murray corner and Ricky Newman putting in a decent effort that was just over the Preston crossbar. Harper put the ball wide, when perhaps he should have done better, after the Preston keeper failed to clear and Reading created a few chances. However, as the game settled down it was Preston that looked the better side as they enjoyed most of the possession and looked far more capable of taking their chances. Preston took the lead just before the half hour mark when Reading lost the ball in the middle of the pitch allowing it to be fed forward seeing a shot that came out to Cresswell. Cresswell beat Hahnemann with ease with a effort that flew into the top corner. With Preston a goal up they looked likely to increase their lead before the break as Reading lost their way - a shot just before half time nearly made it two but was just over the Reading crossbar. After half time the expected second goal found the back of the net after some comical goalkeeping from Marcus Hahnemann. A cross from the left saw Hahnemann miss it and the ball bounced between him and Williams before being blasted home making it 0-2.

One small bright point for Reading on a very dull night at the Madejski Stadium was Dean Morgan's performance up front alongside Goater. Morgan looked a much better prospect and worked hard to nearly get Reading back in the game early in the second half with a shot that needed to be tipped over the bar. Goater had a chance to get Reading back in it but somehow managed to put the ball wide from just a few yards out. Preston continued to look the more composed side with Reading making all kinds of mistakes in a game that showed a massive lack of confidence. The Royals were lucky not to go futher behind when Hahnemann was beaten again and the ball was cleared off the line and moments later the ball was struck against the Reading post. Reading were already well beaten when Goater eventually found the back of the net with six minutes left to play.

Following report from John Wells:
After an encouraging performance against Ipswich on Saturday Reading extended their sequence of games without a win to seven, and did not play anywhere near their best individually, or collectively. An early exit from the F.A. Cup is the least of Steve Coppell's worries at the moment. A late surge produced a goal, and we all flirted briefly with the notion that we might force extra time, but basically it was a case of too little, too late for the Royals.

Reading opened the game brightly. Morgan's first contribution was encouraging, and Ingimarsson forced Gould into a save in the second minute. However it was soon obvious that Preston were going to take the initiative. They passed the ball better, and closed players down quickly all over the pitch. In contrast Reading were getting caught in possession because nobody was prepared to offer a passing option and were sending passes astray with alarming regularity.

Ingimarsson flicked on a corner at the near post and Goater almost got his head to it but was closely marked. Harper had a half chance when Morgan pressurised Gould from a cross but the ball went high and wide. It was Preston that were looking more likely to score and they took the lead midway through the first half. The usually dependable Murty was largely responsible for the goal, hesitating and losing possession on the half way line and then later in the move failing to close down Cresswell who was allowed time to line up, and calmly curl, a shot inside the far post.

Two minutes into the second half Williams and Hahnemann got in a muddle which only they can explain and left Koumantarakis with a simple tap in. Morgan, who is continuing to show promise, produced a piece of individual skill which almost brought Reading straight back into the game when he turned cleverly on the edge of the box and sent in a shot which struck the crossbar. From that point things went from bad to worse. As Reading became more desperate the errors multiplied and good players started making uncharacteristic errors. Defenders were making almost comical errors, the ball was being hoofed hopefully forward far too often, and the finishing was simply appalling. Goater headed wide twice when it looked easier to score, Hughes and Sidwell struck shots which ended up nearer the corner flag than the goal. At one point Murty ran out to play Preston offside, only to find he was the only player who had! Preston came close on a couple of occasions to increasing their lead, hitting the woodwork and forcing saves from Hahnemann. Near the end, some determined play from Watson put Goater into a scoring position and, although his first shot was saved he clipped the rebound over the grounded 'keeper into the net. Preston then managed to keep possession long enough to take the sting out of any potential revival.

The attendance suggested that only the truly committed and loyal fans were there last night which, combined with late revival, probably saved the team from being booed off after what was a very poor performance overall. Given that we are clearly not anywhere near ready to compete in the Premiership at present (along with the rest of the teams in our division) I hope Steve Coppell and Mr Madejski will focus on improving the quality of the performances and building a stronger squad over the next few months. Some of the poor play is to do with players under performing or needing time to develop, but there are still one or two who are simply not good enough. We are clearly going through a period of transition and, as we have seen in recent years, it can take a season or more for things to settle down. Sometimes things can go downhill for while before they improve.
John Wells


What an unbelievably appalling performance. It beggars belief that we can watch a side that had such a confident swagger last season become the joke of a team we saw last night. I am a season ticket holder but will not use it for some time now. I cannot bear to go and watch that. Preston were laughing at us. I hesitate to really slag off Coppell as the players let everyone down last night, however nothing he has done thus far has filled me with any confidence for the future. To finish on a brighter point, Dean Morgan a potential star of the future ! (With the right guidance).
Crowthorne Royal

This is my first post since the arrival of Steve Coppell. I have been very disappointed with the performances since Pards walked out, but felt that time should be given to the new regime, before making any knee jerk reactions. After tonight I am afraid that ‘time’s up!’ I was underwhelmed by the pathetic efforts against Burnley, Stoke, Wimbledon, and Palace, and was really starting to believe that we only ever lost 3 nil. I still resisted the keyboard though, believing that someone of Coppell’s pedigree would get it right. Tonight proved me wrong. The point is that there is no desire, no commitment, and no guts in either the players, or indeed the management. Players do not become rubbish overnight. What happens is that without direction, they can change their attitude to pain and fighting spirit. Success on any sports field is rarely attained without some considerable pain felt, and effort made. I am sure that every player wanted to win tonight, but what were they prepared to endure to get there? Getting to a fifty, fifty ball 30 yards away is going to hurt like hell if you want to be first there. In addition, you may get injured in the tackle. If you really want to get the ball though, you will bust a gut to do so. The slightest doubt however will ensure that you fail. Virtually to a man, it is becoming very clear that the desire that was there last season, and at the beginning of this, has evaporated. The Directors and management of any organisation are responsible for instilling the fighting spirit and will to win into its workforce. This is not happening any more at Reading FC. There appears to be a massive problem behind the scenes, and until this is resolved, I cannot see an end to the poor performances. I am not suggesting wholesale sackings, but a reality check is essential from the top man down. If this doesn’t happen soon, the best we can hope for this season is avoiding a relegation dog fight. We still need 4 wins to pull completely clear of that. After all the hard work of the last couple of years, we surely cannot accept the worst. URZZZ!
Kevin, Worthing Royal

Caversham Royal

Something is definitely going pear shaped here. Sat in West Stand for first time in years having dragged my Son along (for which I apologised to him). This does get you nearer the pitch and the antics around the dugout and it is now clear that between the players themselves and the players and the bench there have been and is a major degree of falling out going on. They were screaming abuse at each other for a major part of the game. Coppell ought to apologise to some of the West Standers with young kids for the language being used. It is clear that we are now in a situation where the players are blaming each other, have little faith or self belief in each other and have even less faith and self belief in the management team. The question is how (and if?) they break the circle of low self belief, low confidence, screw ups, low self belief. Coppells radio interview makes it clear he sees this as a phase and a blip and that they will come out of the other side - I think Captain Smith said the same sort of things on the Titanic. His track record last year at Brighton, once they had started the final slide to relegation, suggests that while he may be brilliant at some aspects of the game (can someone tell me which bits) he is crap at basic motivation and arse kicking.
Back to the game. Well Preston looked ok'ish. Passing the ball into space, running off each other, obviously ten times the Reading confidence level. Very kind of the comedy goalkeeper to tuck the game up for them at the start of the second half - he can now add the ball dropping tactic to his arm waving game whenever crosses come over.
I thought we were ok in fits and starts but, sorry, even the long suffering wife has given up on Goater - told old to run on goal when he is through - too scared to head at goal when he has a chance. With Owusu cup-tied it was obviously a makeshift forward line. I think Morgan and Forster would be interesting - Morgan and Owusu would be energetic. I'd just shift Goater to the coaching staff or pay him off and get rid of him. I'd also get some third placed Premiership goalie in for some practice to get the comedy goalkeeper a break for a while. I am mystified (like Coppell) why we can be brill away at Walsall - not too bad against Ipswich and then completely Whiff last night. Answers on a postcard please............
Tail of Woodley

Having watched Reading for 40 years, last night shambles was diabolical and we were lucky to escape with only a 2-1 defeat. No compassion, fight, energy or basic skill shown by the players and lack of motivation visibly from the bench. What is going on? I am very worried when looking at the remaining home fixtures and believe that unless this slide is halted soon by March we will be involved in a relegation battle. Its a shame that pardew wasted the majority of our transfer budget on two players at the start of the season. 500K for a 33 year old on a three year deal who can't even get off the ground to head the ball! I have nothing but respect for Madjeski but I fear he and the fellow board members have great business sense but very little knowledge of football and I think the appointmeny of Coppell is proving to be a big mistake. I'm also beginning to question the ambition of the club when we shell out 100k for Ingimarsson, 150k for Kitson and a striker on loan who can't even warrant a place in a struggling Sheff Wed team. Juts look how much Wigan, Norwich, West Ham, West Brom etc are investing in players. Rumour has it that Forest may sack Hart today and we all know what happens when teams come up against a managerless side-I fear the worst at Forest. Never felt so depressed as I am feeling at the moment.
Mike, Tilehurst

I was at the recent home defeat to what looked like a very impressive Wimbledon side who didn't look like a team struggling at the foot of the table. After that extremely dire performance by Reading, I simply felt that there was no way that I was going to waste any more cash watching the current side until something improves. I remember reading an email from a Reading fan who suggested that perhaps last year's success was down to the overall standard in the first division being not quite what it used to be. I think this observation was spot on, and that perhaps we got a bit carried away with how good we really are. Certain players such as Hughes has flattered to deceive for far too long now - I don't think I have ever seen him have a really good game. In the Wimbledon game, far too many players were either backing off or simply running alongside their opponent without even making a challenge. The signing of Goater must have been suggested by Tommy Burns, and Scott Murray must be wishing that he had stayed with Bristol City because he was playing brilliantly there. Why is that some players when they sign for Reading simply lose their form or forget how to play (i.e. the Goat)? It's amazing that after the insult that was Wimbledon, people are still prepared to part with their money when judging by last night's performance the team simply do not care. And yes I love this club just as much as the next supporter otherwise I wouldn't be wasting my time posting this email when I should be getting on with some work instead!
A frustrated Royal!

Reading supporters are not a happy bunch at the moment, and it's not hard to see why. This season is falling apart before our eyes. We're out of the cups, with just the league left to focus on. The core issue is massive inconsistency in the performance, and the management don't know why! Well hurry up and get it sorted before we turn a promising season - with the aim of pushing for the play-offs - into a relegation dogfight!! At this rate I'll be digging out the pairs of blue and white Y fronts before my next visit to the mad stad. We are better than this but it's not far short of total pants at the moment. COME ON!!
Merv, Wimbledon Royal

Nothing new to report with last nights performance. Goater shouldn't play, Harper should stop turning his back on play when receiving the ball and stop passing backwards, the entire defence and keeper should try communicating, the whole team needs to practice shooting, crossing, tackling etc. We need Owusu to extend his stay. Though I'm not attacking any supporters as we all pay our money and have earned the right to voice our frustrations. However, cheering the opposition is not helping our cause. Surely a better approach is the European way, which is boo and whistle whenever the other team is on the ball. That must be better than supporting the opposition?
Paul, Thatcham Royal

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