MATCH REPORT: 2005/2006 Season

Reading: Sidwell (6 mins), Lita (45 mins).
Preston: Davidson (8 mins).
Half Time: 2-1
Attendance: 23,011

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 READING 36 86 +53
2 Sheff Utd 36 74 +27
3 Watford 36 67 +24
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster (Hunt 85), Harper, Sidwell (Gunnarsson 62), Convey, Kitson (Lita 40), Doyle. Subs Not Used: Stack, Makin.
Preston: Nash, Mears, Mawene, Davis, Hill, Sedgwick (Whaley 61), O'Neil, McKenna, Davidson, Nugent (Agyemang 74), Ormerod (Dichio 81). Subs Not Used: Alexander, Lewis Neal.
Reading: -
Preston: Davis, Hill, O'Neil.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).

Reading bounced back from their first league defeat in 34 league games - and in doing so ended Preston North End's twenty two game unbeaten run. Reading's return to winning ways came after a tough encounter with play-off contenders Preston at another sell-out Madejski Stadium. The visitors had the better of the second half after putting in a very physical first half performance as they attempted to bully Reading out of the game. The game got off to a lively start with Reading taking the lead after just six minutes. Their goalkeeper, who looked very shaky throughout, failed to claim a cross and as the ball was driven back in he dropped it on the line. Sidwell was well placed to bundle the ball over the line. The lead only lasted two minutes, when Sonko conceded a free-kick on the edge of the area, which was put past Hahnemann with a low drive around the Reading wall.

Kitson didn't last the first half after being clattered to the ground as their keeper charged out of his area. He was forced to limp off to be replaced by Leroy Lita. Lita was only on the pitch for five minutes when Doyle played a great ball through and Lita latched onto it before driving a perfect shot across goal and into the far corner from a tight angle. Reading were forced to defend in the second half to maintain their lead. Sidwell was another casualty and was replaced by Gunnarsson on the hour, and Reading were then on the back foot. Thankfully both full backs were in good form - particularly Murty who had to scramble a couple of efforts clear from close to the goalline. Preston started to struggle to break through but there was a worrying finish as Preston enjoyed all the final pressure - luckily with no end product.

This match illustrated perfectly why Reading are top of the league and Preston are almost certainly destined for the play-offs. Finishing is always the difference between the best teams and the rest, and today although Preston dominated possession, Reading had Leroy Lita who only had one chance to clinch the game and he took it. The visitors long unbeaten run came to an end and it was obvious why they have drawn sixteen games this season. They keep the ball well but found it hard to convert their possession into goals.

Hahnemann had to be on his toes from the kick off as the Reading defence started slowly allowing the visitors to carve out an opening. Reading's 'keeper had to be quick of his line to prevent Nugent from opening the scoring. The opening minutes were tense and cautious from both teams but it was Reading who took the lead after six minutes when Sidwell got in first in a goalmouth scramble to prod the ball over the line. Given the appalling standard of refereeing throughout , it was amazing the referee didn't give North End a free kick as he did on every other occasion when Nash dropped the ball. The lead lasted only a couple of minutes. Sonko rashly clattered into a North End player when there was no real danger just outside the box. Preston cleverly moved the ball back a yard or two to give themselves a better position for a strike on goal and Davidson thumped his kick low past Hahnemann.

Preston gradually took control of the game and Reading had to concentrate hard on keeping them out. Nugent and Ormerod dropped off the Reading defence well to find space and link up with their midfield players who flooded forward in numbers. Oster had a half chance but his shot was feeble, which was pretty much in keeping with performance overall. He irritatingly ignored the option of a good simple pass and lost possession attempting the wrong option on more than one occassion. As half time approached Nash came flying out rendering Kitson unconscious forcing his departure. Amazingly Nash got away with the assault but as it turned out justice came in a round about way on the stroke of half time. Kitson's replacement, Lita raced on to Doyle's through ball and struck his shot superbly inside the far post to give the Royals an unexpected half time lead.

The second half was mainly one-way traffic as North End's physical methods paid dividends and Reading seemed prepared to concede possession too easily. Doyle was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty as he was pulled over having turned his man successfully. O'Neill was booked for a late and premeditated attack on Sidwell which ultimately resulted in the Reading man limping off. He had upset North End by having the nerve to match their bullying tactics in midfield. They were happy to dish it out but couldn't take themselves, often surrounding the referee protesting loudly. Reading simply dug in and repelled Preston without too much difficulty in spite of conceding the battle in midfield. Dichio and Agyemang came on presumably for their prowess in the air but Reading's defence handled them comfortably.

I was pleased to hear Coppell still talking about the performance as well as the result after the game. His approach has been consistent all season, dismissing talk of promotion and league tables and simply concentrating on playing well. The reward has come in the form of goals and stylish victories even if these three points were won more through hard work and high levels of concentration in defence. Although every Reading fan will be looking over their shoulder and working out how many points are needed to clinch promotion, the chasing pack must be feeling they only have realistic chance of catching Sheffield United. It was a crucial result today.
John Wells


Another tough game from which we emerged victorious. We won because of the one piece of class football in a match that was always compelling and whose outcome was in doubt till the final whistle. Things started well. Their keeper flapped at crosses and it was no surprise when he failed to deal with a Convey corner and Sidwell bundled the ball into the net. Their equaliser came from a well taken free kick which was in a very central area which made it hard to defend. In truth it didn't really look like we had either post well covered. The free kick was given away rather needlessly by Sonko who was not quite superman today. Like many I feel that his injury means that he is not at 100% but we should not forget what a colossus he has been this season. The Preston keeper then decided to come for a ball and take Kitson out of the game. Quite what the decision would have been had a centre half launched himself in that manner I don't know, but it did signal the arrival of Lita. Shortly after that Doyle held the ball up well and fed a delightful ball through to Lita who showed what a class finisher he can be. It was sheer quality from the two of them. Whilst Preston huffed and puffed and we defended well conceding far too much ground, it was right that it should be that move that should settle the match. Preston looked a good side. You do not go on a run like theirs if you are not. They were physically strong and moved the ball well. What they lacked was the quality shown by Lita and Doyle. A word to for the skipper who had a terrific game today. Well done Murts!
Ken C

This fixture was never going to be easy but the result very important for both sides. Preston can be considered as one of the most improved sides in recent months and almost certainly strong candidates for the "play-offs". At the same time this game was destine to be cut and thrust and not attractive. At times it was extremely nerve racking but the strength and spirit of our squad throughout produced a very worthy victory and thus ending Preston's twenty-two match unbeaten run. As Steve Coppell has acknowledged on several occasions; the strength of our squad this year is in our fire power up front and our ability to produce goals and opportunities from all over the park. The work rate of each and every member of the team has been quite excellent and the ability to play through "pain" as was evident yesterday. It is the determination at Management and team level that will promote us to a highest level of English football which we richly deserve this year. As John Madejeski pointed out some while ago the time will arrive when the commentators and journalists will finally have to acknowledge and learn a little more of Reading Football Club and now and at last this time has arrived! I believe also that the present squad all have the ability to perform at the higher level and at the same time surprise many. Keep it up lads - the champagne is on ice.
Terry, Isle of Wight

Flipping heck, what a game and what a result. It's really hard to explain but I've been so nervous all week leading up to this game and was a bag of nerves just before the kick off. I sensed I was not alone and I'm pretty certain this was transmitted to the pitch where Reading started very nervously and did not look a shadow of the side that's dominated all that has gone before it this season. Preston looked a very good side and I'll doubt if we'll have a harder game all season. Not only were Preston playing some very attractive passing football they were also a very physical team, arguably dirty and they really got stuck into us. With Kitson nearly having his head taken off by the outrageous challenge from the Preston keeper and Sidwell being flattened by a dreadful challenge just when you needed a good referee we had a gormless dwarf pillock of a twat who gave us nothing and was a disgrace to name of refereeing. This game for us really was backs to the wall stuff and just when you needed men to step forward and stand up and be counted the captain Graham Murty led by example, admirably supported by Iceman Ingimarsson, Sonko, Shorey and Harper all working themselves into the ground. They may not have passed the ball much but by heck they worked hard and defended like warriors, awesome. Yes we rode our luck and yes Preston should have scored more, but they didn't their run is over and we lie a mere 31 points ahead in the league. We now have ten games left, we are an unbelievable 100 to 1 ON with the bookies to take the Championship, which we'll do with ease. The fat lady soon won't be singing and not long before they can start warming the open top bus up. With Little to return lets just enjoy this amazing remaining season as it enters the final stages. It's been a wonderful time a long time coming and the result yesterday may not have been our most convincing but it was a gritty tough precious three points and maybe our most important so far. Nearly there .....UURZZ
Nick Newbury

Got an opinion? E-Mail us at
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages