(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: -
Swindon Town Scorers: -
Date: 14 February 2002
Attendance: 9,264

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Roget, Mackie, Shorey, Igoe (sent off 44), Hughes, Parkinson, Salako (Cureton 74), Forster (Henderson 69), Rougier (N Smith 86). Subs not used: Ashdown, Robinson.

Swindon Town: Griemink, Heywood, Reeves (sent off 90), Gurney, Invincible, Howe (McAreavey 85 (sent off 89)), Hewlett, S Robinson, Davis, Sabin, Grazioli (Willis 71). Subs not used: McKinney, Duke, Young.

Bookings: Igoe (sent off), Parkinson (Reading); Howe, Sabin, McAreavey (sent off, no yellow card), Reeves (sent off, no yellow card) (Swindon).
Referee: B Knight (Orpington)

Before the game a victory seemed the only desirable result after suffering defeat at the hands of Brighton on Monday night. As it turned out we were more than happy to leave the County Ground with a point after it looked like we might struggle to take even that from the fixture. It wasn't that Reading played that badly, although the first half was quite scrappy, but Swindon threatened to win the game throughout the second half. Reading battled hard to stay afloat when we looked like we might sink during the second half after being reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Sammy Igoe towards the end of the second half for a second yellow card. It was hard to fault the Royals at the end after a gutsy performance against a very determined Swindon Town side on the hunt for the win.

Swindon's two red cards right end of the fixture demonstrated the kind of game it was with tackles flying in and the referee suffering plenty of abuse - sometimes rightly and sometimes not. Ex-Reading player Andy Gurney escaped a potential red card after stamping on Darius Henderson was the referee's back was turned. It was a typical rough and tumble local derby with neither side looking to conceede a thing. Swindon's first sending off was their substitute who had only been on the pitch for four minutes. After he went flying in a massive brawl was kicked off down the other end of the pitch. It was fourtunate for both sides that a few more cards weren't shown. When Swindon were eventually reduced down to ten men the Reading fans packed behind the goal sensed a late goal with Cureton on the pitch - and hungry. However, time ran out, and the second red card, right on full time, just wasted time rather than giving Reading the extra edge.

Reading defended amazingly well throughout - particually well during the second half when Swindon went full out on attack looking to take advantage of the extra man advantage they had over the Royals. New Stockport loan signing Leo Roget slotted in a treat and looked solid in the centre of the defence. The only time he could be clearly faulted was midway through the first half when Swindon broke down the right and the winger went past Roget with ease to fire a dangerous cross into the Reading box. The resulting shot was on target and needed a great reaction save from Phil Whitehead, who was making his return from injury, to keep the scores level. Whitehead continued to have a great game in goal for Reading throughout coming well to cleanly hold the ball from a number of corners and make some great saves to keep Reading in the game.

This was always going to be a difficult fixture, but it was made far harder after Igoe was sent off before the break. The referee got plenty of stick for producing the second yellow card, but it was totally deserved. Igoe's first yellow was for advancing towards a Swindon free-kick on the edge of the box earlier in the half. By the time the kick was taken Igoe was nearly on the ball - the referee was right with that one. Bizarrely the referee then moved the ball forward a couple of yards instead of the full quota - which was to Reading's advantage. Whitehead saved the resuling free-kick. Igoe picked up the second yellow card after being fouled deep inside the Swindon half. He chased after the Swindon player who had bought him down and just ran into him. From where I was down the other end it appeared that he made contact with his head. Igoe was lucky not to get a straight red.

Swindon spent the second half camped out in the Reading half looking for the break through. With the extra man they stopped hoofing the ball forward and started playing some half decent football to work the ball into the box. Thankfully the Reading defence held firm. I lost count of the number of shots that were charged down as they were sent towards goal with force. Mackie was playing a blinder along with the rest of the defence as they continually frustrated Swindon. The only shots that weren't charged down seemed to fly high or wide or both as Reading held strong. Andy Gurney's shot stood out as it spun out with amazing style towards the corner flag. With Whitehead in goal we seemed stronger than ever at the back.

Reading's best attempt of the second half came earlier on when Hughes was fed the ball on the edge of the box from the Reading left. Hughes got past the defender and had just the keeper to beat. Unfortunately his shot lacked any power and was easily saved by the Swindon goalkeeper.

With Reading trying to keep a clean sheet, balls from the back weren't very cultured to say the least and we struggled to build anything dangerous enough coming forwards. The introduction of Henderson up front was a clear indication that we'd try the long ball game in an attempt to grab the winner. When Cureton was brought on for Salako it was clear we'd ditched the midfield game and would try and keep it tight at the back and perhaps sneak a winner. It was the right tactics from Pardew and might have paid off - and perhaps would have done if the game had gone on for an extra few minutes.

In the end this was an entertaining 0-0, that Swindon will think they should have won. It was kind of pleasing that ITV weren't treated to a goal feast, and hopefully they were a little upset about the chants of "ITV, wank, wank, wank" that would have been audible to any of their few viewers that weren't watching with the sound turned down. The "Watch BBC" banner was a nice touch from some Reading fans expressing their annoyance about moving the game from the Saturday to the Thursday so it could be screen live on ITV's digital sports channel.

Tonight's match was a tough game to end a tough run of fixtures. We've come out with 4 points from the three games over the last six days. That'll be a fine return if we follow it up with a victory a week Saturday against Stoke City - and a victory at home over Brighton later this season. We're top of the table and can stay there if we remain as determined as we were during the second half tonight.

Following report from John Wells
Reading, in spite of being down to ten men for the second half, battled hard to gain a well deserved point in a match full of incident. Injuries to Roberts and Williams forced changes to the side that were beaten at Brighton on Monday. Loan signing Leo Roget had a very solid game at centre back, and Whitehead returning sooner than anyone expected was outstanding. The game however was dominated by referee Knight, who managed to leave both managers, and players and supporters from both teams absolutely furious. (Remember how he disallowed our 'winner' at Q.P.R. earlier in the season?)

The first half was played at a tremendous pace with both sides looking like they could make the breakthrough. Reading's best chance was missed by Forster when his attempted lob was hit too firmly and floated well over the bar. Whitehead denied Gurney when he blocked his well struck free kick, and then later produced another superb save this time from Gazioli's powerful close range shot. The referee seemed intent on penalising Reading for the slightest infringement and showing leniency to the home side. Igoe however had no-one to blame but himself when, having been booked already for encroaching before a free kick was taken, he let his frustration get the better of him and pushed Howe and consequently received a second yellow card. His lack of discipline was costly because it clearly reduced Reading's chances of victory. Although Swindon had made some good openings I still felt Reading were playing better football.

With the extra man Swindon dominated possession in the second half. For the second game in succession Forster had the unenviable task of chasing long hopeful passes without any support as Reading pulled Rougier back into midfield. For most of the half the Royals sat back and defended and they did it well. The situation exposed Swindon's lack of creativity and invention. At times they simply didn't know what to do. They mainly concentrated on pumping high balls into the Reading penalty area which in the main were dealt with comfortably by Mackie, Roget and Whitehead. Reading were reluctant to commit players to attack and when Forster began to tire, Henderson came on to battle up front on his own. Cureton replaced Salako with about 15 minutes left and looked very sharp. He spotted a strong run by Hughes and played him into a scoring position with a well timed pass, but the shot was feeble and easily gathered by Griemink.

Swindon produced some dangerous looking crosses but to be honest as the minutes ticked away a draw was looking increasingly likely. As full time approached Swindon completely lost their composure having two players sent off, and had the referee seen Gurney kick Henderson off the ball, it would surely have been three. Henderson deserves a lot of credit for not reacting to the provocation. The McAreavey foul on Mackie was career threatening and fully deserved a red card. What really made me angry was the way in which Swindon's manager Andy King in his post match interview tried to play it down, and to make matters worse, implied that Mackie was faking the injury and that the Reading players had over-reacted!

In the circumstances a draw was a good result but I was hoping for a win. The team have fallen short of Alan Pardew's target of seven points from the Brighton, Swindon and Stoke games already. A win against Stoke however would really get things rolling again. Promotion is now in touching distance I'm sure the players will be charged up for game. The team spirit was good tonight, and the Reading fans were right behind their team, especially when things were going against them, which was great to see. There was still a feeling of optimism after this performance which is really important in the coming weeks. We have a tough run of games and the crowd will make a big difference if they can get behind the team the way they did this evening.

Post Match Opinions

I hope Igoe is proud of himself this morning, for letting the club and all the loyal supporters down with his stupid sending off which may have cost us two precious points. Having won the free kick he retaliated in an inexcusable way for a professional and deserves a big fine. May sound harsh on the lad who is having a great season but perhaps he'll learn the hard way. As it was, the rest of the lads performed heroically for the second half to earn a very hard point. Mackie and Whitehead stood out with magnificent performances. Mackie gets better every week and Whitehead returned with a great display and will bode well for the remaining games. All the lads battled hard without creating much and always up against it with ten men most fans will be happy with the point. Just a good job we were playing a load of Wiltshire wankers who couldn't have hit a cows arse with a banjo with all the shots they had during the game. Only gripe was Murty and Shorey dreadful passing from the back, must be improved. The referee and lines tossers must get a mention also, apparently the wanker of a ref was the same one who cheated us at QPR at the start of the season. How much longer do we have to put up with incompetent amateur tossers like him? Five points from the last twelve is not too good, long way to go yet, but I still think we'll be ok. Stoke is massive, as are all games from now on, but three points against them would see promotion only a glimmer away. Have a well earned rest lads, and come back raring to go... you can and will do it... URZ!
-- Nick Newbury

Reading held on for a point and Swindon were unlucky not to win tonight. They looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Phil Whitehead was excellent and he was definitely man of the match. He made some fantastic saves! Igoe was a silly little boy and cost Reading points. Pushing a player when you have been booked already is just stupid. What was he thinking? Pardew's comments about the ref after the game were also pretty pathetic. I thought the ref did OK and it is a bit of a cliché for a disgruntled manager to come out and blame the ref for his team's weaknesses. Still, Reading march onwards and upwards. Is anyone else perplexed as to why Cureton is not in the starting line-up?
--Telford Royal

One point gained or two points lost?
Probably the former given Sammy's early departure from the game. After Monday's shambles at the seaside it was good to see the lads dig deep and keep a clean sheet. I suppose you could say that a decent team, even with only ten men, should have beaten a poor Swindon side but it doesn't tend to work that way with local derbies. Back four were totally solid, given the circumstances, and Phil Whitehead was superb.It's just a pity that the ref decided that he was the star of the show.
There must be some sort of sweepstake amongst referees for who can send off the most players in one televised game (excluding Arsenal fixtures - of course). Let's hope the last two games have been just a wobble rather than the start of a Reading-type collapse. Two quick questions:-
1. Will Mr Madejski put his hand in his pocket before transfer deadline day to make sure we get promoted?
2. Did John Salako retire from professional football immediately after the Bury game?

-- Hook Royal number 6.

Well, what can you say? Reading looked the far better side yet only they had 10 men. All credit to Pardew's side, keeping it 0-0 for so long on uneven terms. Swindon though. What a load of shit. If they are mid-table, the sides at the bottom... They couldn't hit a barndoor with a beachball, despite having about 15 chances more than us. Hughes should of made more of his chance down at the away end. Swindon got all pissed off too. 89th minute and their heads blew, usual Swindon from my point of view. Not many saw the kick that their number 22 did on Cureton but they got their just rewards with two players sent off - but too late for Pardew and his team. Barry Knight must also be recognised for his dismal performance. Does he know the rules of football? Nah... didn't think so! Igoe from what it looked like was a weak push on a Swindon, and the Swindon went down like a bloody armageddon had hit. Yet he just before did something like the Tombstone Piledriver on poor little Sammy. Disapointing yep... but the ref made this result what it was... and WATCH BBC! We can win this league... go on URZ!
-- Craig, Reading

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