Reading 3 Sheffield Wed 0
Starting Line-Up: Howie, Booty, Swales, Primus, Davies, Brebner, Caskey, Murty, Reilly, Lambert, McIntyre.
Subs Used: Legg, McPherson, Bowen, Crawford, Houghton, Parkinson, Asaba, Fleck, Williams.
Reading kicked off their pre-season build-up with yet another farewell to Elm Park. The final farewell. Not like the Norwich City game which ended last seasons competitive ties. This was a fitting end to first team football at Elm Park. Yes, it was only a pre-season kick about. Yes, it wasn't an entirely first choice Sheffield Wednesday line-up. But, Yes, Reading played their premiership visitors off the park. All the optimism that's been building up through the close season is threatening to explode into one of the most successful seasons ever witnessed. With another five new signings over the summer, the move to the Madejski Stadium just five weeks away, and a performance like this, it's happy times being a Reading supporter.
With the visit of top opposition, the promise of seeing the new signings in action, and the location being Elm Park, this was an unusually high crowd for a pre-season friendly and people queued back to the road outside the Southbank just before the game kicked off. What showed the success of the kid-for-a-quid scheme more than anything was the pitch invasion at the final whistle as anything up to a couple of thousand kids streamed onto the pitch to tear it up, break the goalposts, and pinch the corner-flags.
Reading's starting line-up included three of the summer signings: Brebner, Murty, and Reilly. Reilly grabbed the number 10 shirt in midfield, Brebner played alongside with Murty on the right wing. For the first 15 minutes it looked like we might be leaving off where we ended last season. Once again Tommy Burns adapted the 4-5-1 formation with McIntyre once again the lone man up front. And the game had "pre-season friendly" written all over it and both teams took it nice and slow and easy threatening to do precisely nothing. One man already started to stand out though: Darren Caskey - the new super fit slim-line model sporting a shave, a hair cut, and if I'm not mistaken the captains arm-band. The much improved model too. Caskey2000 was sensational. Many a time last season I was the first to slag the poor bloke off for his wayward passing and inconsistancy. But this was a measured, controlled, yet fired-up performance from a midfielder with Premiership style passing ability. I lost count of the number of high lobbed balls flying across the pitch to a player's feet on the wing.
It was the old players looking the most impressive. McIntyre was working tirelessly again and laying the ball off to people's feet. Lambert looked like he might create something, and Primus as solid as anything in the centre of defence. Graeme "Hey Check The Way My Finger Sticks Out On My Left Hand" Murty showed some incredible speed, Reilly was doing a good job of being Mr.Invisable, and Brebner was far too pretty and far too good at being completely unaware and losing the ball. So it was no suprise then when Brebner, Reading's close season signing from Manchester United, delivered the cross from the right - just inside the box, that found Primus at the far post. It was Primus who had had the only previous shot of the game - a header from a corner, with this one he also claimed the first shot on target. A great header, the keeper maybe should have done better, but the ball was over his head and firmly into the back of the net. A rare but brilliant goal from Primus who must have stormed up the pitch to get on the end of that one.
Sheffield Wednesday failed to trouble Howie for pretty much of the rest of the first half. It was quite suprising when the second half kicked off with the same 11 that had started for Reading. But we not to be disappointed through the second as Burns made a total of nine substitutions - just Howie and Caskey played out the whole game. Out of the new signings two failed to appear - we'll have to wait to see Mass Sarr and John Polston in the faded-in-the-wash-hoops.
One of the biggest suprises of the night was Jason Bowen. He'd threatened to be one of the forgotten players of the new season but took his half hour on the pitch to leave a massive claim for a full-time first-team place. Half way through the second half Reading made it 2-0. A ball through from Houghton found Bowen outside the area. With the keeper coming out Bowen delicately lobbed it over his head into the empty net. And then about 10 minutes later Bowen made it 3 for the Royals and 2 for himself. Houghton played a superb cross in from the left of the box. Fleck compeltely missed it in the middle leaving Bowen sliding in from the right to drive the ball into the net.
Sheffield Wednesday could have scored one or two at the Reading end but failed due to dodgy shooting, a few vital tackles and a Legg (I think) clearance off the goalline. A comfortable win for Reading and some very bright signs. Yes, it was only a friendly but it's hard not to carried away at the moment.
So how did everyone do? Heres the Hob Nob Anyone? verdict:
Starter Very solid. Number one choice keeper for next season I assume. Starter.
Booty: Not bad, not brilliant. Borderline
Swales: Great at coming forward - worked well with Legg/Lambert. Borderline
Primus: Great goal and solid as ever. Starter.
Davies: A massive suprise to see Davies starting after being told he doesn't feature in Tommy's plans for next season. I assume this was his last chance to impress and win a place in the squad. He failed. He wasn't that bad - I still think he's a quality player - but a terrible moment of indecision almost led to a Wednesday goal. Non-starter.
Brebner: Lack of experience really showed. A few promising moments but got caught on the ball too much. Subs-Bench?
Caskey: A thousand times better than last season. He's improving all the time. Starter
Murty: Fast. Didn't do that much but you can tell he can. Starter/Sub
Reilly: Didn't really have much of an impact on the game. Non-Starter
Lambert: Just what you expect from Lambert. Sub
McIntyre: As last season. A creater not a scorer. Starter
Legg: Looked pretty good on the wing. But with Lamberts, Murtys, etc. Borderline
McPherson: Not bad. But with Parkie competing for central defender's places too? Non-starter.
Bowen: Fantastic. Why didn't he play like this last season? If he plays that good all the time....
Crawford: Didn't have long enough to make an impression.
Houghton: Suprisingly good. Awake. Some great distribution. But past it. If someone's injured
Parkinson: Last years player of the season. Starter
Asaba: Didn't have long enough to make an impression. But a complete screamer of a shot that almost snuck in.
Fleck: Didn't do much. Too old. We have better strikers. Non-starter
Williams: Didn't have long enough to make an impression.
This game probably didn't help too much with anyone's predictions for a future starting eleven. Except showing a couple of players who really couldn't be missed out. The squad is so big now we could field two sides of players that would be above average for Division Two. The future's bright. The future's blue and wight!