(Half Time: 1-0)
Reading Scorers: Forster (38 mins (pen), 69 mins), Hughes (48 mins).
Colchester Scorers: -
Date: 26 January 2002
Attendance: 12,743

Reading: Roberts, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Igoe, Hughes, Parkinson (Jones 72), Salako, Rougier (Cureton 60), Forster (Henderson 74). Subs not used: Ashdown, Gamble.

Colchester: Brown, Halls, White, Fitzgerald, Duguid, Keith (Johnson 55), Stockwell, Izzet, Bowry (Pinault 77), McGleish, Barrett. Subs not used: Morgan, Williamson, Coote.

Bookings: Parkinson (Reading); White (Colchester).
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt).

Alan Pardew is magic. Those who doubted his wizardry qualities earlier this season must now at last start to believe. If the team continues to perform like this then there's no doubt that the championship really will be ours. Yet again we played some excellent football today to take another fully deserved three points. The first two goals particually might have had an element of luck about them, but our dramatic rise to nine points clear at the top of the Second Division is anything but luck. You don't fluke a run of seven straight league victories without letting in a single goal.

The football that's done us so well throughout the entire of January, and a bit before that, continues to grow into league winning maturity. It's a delight to watch and it's very comfortable too. Once again the game was over well before the end today with the three points well in the bag after Andy Hughes made it 2-0 just three minutes into the second half. It's a cliché, but the result was never in doubt today. Colchester came determined to put up a bit of a fight but found themselves outplayed during a first half in which Reading continued to grow in quality and possession. The second half saw the Royals just get better with a massive on-slaught on the Colchester goal.

The only change to the team that won mid-week at Wigan was the return of captain Phil Parkinson in midfield, and Reading continued where they'd left off after an initially bright start from the visitors. It must have seemed like mission impossible for Colchester to come to the Madejski Stadium and take the lead, but they gave it good shot with a determined opening, going on an early attack on the Reading goal.

Roberts needed to make two good stops during the first half from shots that were on target, and did well to hold a couple of dangerous crosses that were floated into the Reading box. He saved a certain goal by some great positioning and literally picking the ball off the Colchester forward's head when the Reading defence was caught off guard on a rare occassion. It was clear that Colchester United were a better side than Blackpool who we disposed of 3-0 this time last week - so perhaps that makes this latest victory even more impressive.

Reading did their fair share of early attacking too with Adrian Williams getting two headers on goal that nearly found the net from a corner and from a Salako cross. Forster also did well to work his way towards the centre of the box from the right - he could have shot but unselfishly spread the ball out to Rougier on the right who couldn't quite get the shot in. Rougier had a couple of other efforts but sent the ball spinning over the Colchester crossbar. Andy Hughes nearly did a similar job to his goal at Wigan after running through the middle of the midfield and past the still defence, on-side, to get clear for a shot on goal. The Colchester goalkeeper did well to make the save.

The breakthrough came after 38 minutes when Hughes again broke down the left. Hughes crossed the ball and it was blocked before it had travelled hardly any distance by the hands of the defender. A stupid penalty to conceede, but a clear penalty. Up stepped Salako wanting to mark his debut on a full contract with a goal, and fired a poor penalty to the keeper's left that was saved. With the players charging into the area the rebound shot was put well wide, and it looked like we'd wasted the chance, only to have the referee consult the linesman and order a re-take - presumably for the keeper standing off his line. Forster took the second penalty and fired it low to the left and into the net. 1-0 to the Royals!

After Reading took the lead Colchester United looked a much poorer side - perhaps assuming there was no way back in the game for them as Reading upped the pace looking to extend the lead. The number of pointless hoof balls up field from the visitors increased and they seemed incapable of putting more than a few passes together. Reading, on the other hand, ooze confidence at the moment and it was clear as anything after we went a goal up.

The second half saw the Royals come steaming out of the tunnel. They were on the pitch a good minute or two before the visitors finally emerged, and when the game got back underway we were straight on the attack, cutting into the Colchester defence looking for the second. Williams almost got on the scoresheet after connecting with a header from a Salako cross from the right, however the ball found the base of the post and bounced away. Reading were using the wings a treat with Murty and Shorey both coming forward well from defence to bring the ball into the danger area. A few minutes into the half Hughes found himself on the right with plenty of time to cross the ball. He put the ball over but it seemed to close to the keeper and drifted towards goal. Next thing it's hit the crossbar and the keeper's hands and it's fumbled over the line. Dodgy keeper, and perhaps a dodgy cross - but 2-0 to the Royals with Hughes on the score sheet!

The second goal really killed of Colchester and the only surprise was it took so long before we got the third after some fast free-flowing football. The third was a beautifully worked goal with Graeme Murty really at the centre of it all. Murty started way back in defence and went on a scoring run upfield after winning the ball off the Colchester front-line. He exchanged pases with Cureton on his run and continued into the box, steaming past a defender. With Forster racing in, he put it to his left allowing Forster to shoot on goal. The goalkeeper was all over the place and somehow it sneaked past and into the net. 3-0, and Forster's seventh goal in four games.

After Reading went 3-0 up they eased off a little and concentrated on keeping the seventh consecutive cleansheet, which was achieved after a couple more stops by Roberts. So 3-0 at full time - yet another fantastic result. It was a full team performance today, and it's difficult to pick out anyone who did much better than anyone else. Rougier worked really hard again despite not finding the net, and Forster continues to look as fast as anything and sharp too. However, Murty really stood out for me, with his part in the third goal summing up what Reading are capable off this season.

Following report from John Wells:
Apart from the Royals chalking up their seventh consecutive win scoring fourteen goals and conceding none, all the chasing teams are dropping points at a remarkable rate! If you asked a Reading fan to write a script for the past four weeks it is unlikely that they would have come up with anything as fantastic as this. Colchester, not a bad side, are the latest victims of a Reading team on the crest of a wave. United arrived with a very positive attitude to the game and played some decent football at times particularly in the first half. In the end they could count themselves lucky that the were not stuffed six - nil. Reading are creating so many chances these days it doesn't seem to matter if they miss a few, or even miss a lot of them! Ironically all the goals they did score had an element of good fortune about them.

Reading attacked from the start and after ten minutes Brown had to make a superb save when Rougier set up Forster with a fine run and intelligently cut back cross. Soon after Hughes burst through on the left and again forced Brown to make a fine block. The turning point in the game came after about thirty five minutes when the referee somewhat harshly awarded a penalty after Hughes fired in a cross which struck the hand of a United defender. Salako stepped to take the spot kick only to have his tame effort saved. He must have been relieved when the referee ordered the kick to be re-taken much to the annoyance of the Colchester players and fans. On this occasion the officials were absolutely correct. Brown was clearly a foot or so off his line as Salako shaped up to take the kick and by the time he had struck the ball Brown had taken at least two steps forward. After some debate about the decision, and the selection of the taker, Forster smashed the ball emphatically into the net to give the Royals a deserved lead.

An agitated United then charged around for a few minutes but to no great effect against a disciplined and hard-working Royals team. Reading had been playing some neat football with plenty of good passing and movement and continued to do so. Rougier got through a tremendous amount of work again. Hughes was showing how effective he is going forward, bursting through down the left with tremendous pace. United had managed to force Roberts to make a couple of saves by half time and had enjoyed spells of possession which indicated that they would not be easy to overcome. Not so in the second half.

Reading really opened up after the break and during the first twenty minutes threatened to overrun their opponents. Within two minutes of the re-start Williams hit the post with a glancing header and Rougier broke through only to be thwarted by a last ditch tackle in front of goal. The second goal came a minute later when a fiercely driven cross by Hughes found its way into the net off a startled Brown. Reading oozed confidence and it seemed everyone wanted to go forward. notably Murty, who looked as if he was likely to beat three and score every time he got the ball, and Mackie who began to step forward and get involved in attacking play in the United half.

Although not seriously injured Rougier hobbled off to be replaced by Cureton with half an hour left. Eight minutes later it was all over. A fine move involving Cureton and Murty created an opening for Forster. From a position wide on the right Fozzy drove the ball through the 'keeper's legs. After that predictably the pace of the game slowed. Cureton impressed with his passing and a very well struck volley which flew just wide. Henderson looked a little rusty when he replaced Forster for the last fifteen minutes and Jones looked lively when he replaced a tired Parky. Both sets of fans, for very different reasons began drifting away towards the end. I can understand why Reading fans left early but I always feel that a team that has played well deserves to be applauded off at the end.

We are very hard to beat at the moment, not only because we are well disciplined defensively, but there is also pace and skill throughout the team. The passing and movement continues to improve as do individual players. I found it particularly encouraging today that the ball was cut back intelligently by Rougier and Murty when they got behind the defence and that there were players dropping off the defence or holding their run to put themselves in scoring positions. I know we can't go on winning, and we must eventually concede a goal, but I have watched nearly all the league games since November and can't remember seeing any team subject Reading to a period of sustained pressure or look likely to take control of the game. I have great confidence in the team but it is going to get much harder from now on. As promotion and relegation issues become clearer the stakes are higher. Everyone raises their game when they play the league leaders, especially when they are fighting for survival, promotion, or a play-off place - which is just about everyone! One thing is certain however - the end of the season is going to be very exciting for Reading and their fans.

Post Match Opinions

Another great result, another good performance. It is only the fact that all three goals had an element of good luck about them that stops this being a great performance.
The only complaint was that we could and should have finished off some of the delightful moves that we saw today. Colchester started well and showed that they were more than capable of playing the ball around on the floor themselves. The first half saw good attractive football played by both sides. Brown in the Colchester goal made a couple of good saves to keep out the marauding Hughes and a good Forster effort.
The game was to turn on a needlessly conceded penalty. The keeper guessed the right way and made a good save. Forster's effort at the rebound was woeful as the ball trickled out for a throw in. Fortunately something was spotted and the kick retaken. A heated discussion followed as to who should take it. Roug, Forster and Salako all thought that it was theirs to take. Parkie stepped in to stop the bickering and Forster duly hit the back of the net. We started the second half at a different pace. We got at them more. The second goal was as ridiculous as the celebration that followed. Hughes has not had the greatest success at crossing the ball this season. This continued, but instead of drifting miles wide of the target, it speared into the net. Three of them then decided to lie on their backs and kick their legs in the air! The game was now effectively over as a contest and it was a case of how many Reading would get. The third goal was an excellent move, and Forster hit a good shot, but the keeper really should have saved it, but thank you very much.
So the run continues. Whoever plays at the moment does well. Hughes has looked good in the centre of midfield. It wasn't that long ago that this was a real problem position for us before Wayson came on loan. We now have Hughes, playing well, Parkie back to his best (with the inevitable booking and another suspension looming), Jones doing well and Harper set to return, and that is without including Gamble. The front pairing did well. Forster is on fire in front of goal and we need Roug as a foil to him to hold the ball up. The main credit though has to go to the back four. To play with different keepers, and Roberts had several saves to make, and still not concede a goal speaks volumes for them. They all supported the forward play as well. Where Murty gets his energy from, I've no idea but I wish he'd give some of it to me. He was outstanding yet again. Everything is going our way at the moment. We've hit the magic average of two points per game. Keep that going, and we'll be going up!

-- Ken C

Superb performance - we are really looking cohesive now and if this form continues, we will be up next year where we belong. Very pleased about Salako. Hats off to Pardew - I thought he didn't have it in him but I am happy to admit I was wrong. Great time to be a Royal!
-- Paul

Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming.
Now I know what it feels like to support Manchester United.
Iíll be sad to see January go. I have never experienced a month like this, supporting Reading. In January alone, 6 games played, 6 wins, 12 goals scored, NONE conceded! You donít even have to discuss performances. That record speaks for itself. Will the Football League ever have an easier Manager of the month award?
I just canít put into words how unreal this feels.
I was nervous as hell coming into this game. With the strong wind, heavy rain, I just felt Colchester must fancy that might level things for them. As I was going through the turnstiles, I heard the news about Salako over the PA. Thank you Mr Madejski. From that point on, I just knew it was going to be our day. And to see yet another slip up by Stoke. 9 points clear at the top.
We ARE going up. URZís!

-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

Having savoured the post match comments on radio Berkshire on my way home from another class display from the Royals, I turned to Five Live to hear the comments of a dejected Colchester supporter who had rung in on his way home from the match. His impression of Reading was as you would have expected and he did not try to make any excuses for his side's 3-0 defeat. He did whinge about his own side however which was reminiscent of Reading supporters earlier this season.
Although he had few kind words for his team, I thought that Colchester tried to play football and at least seemed to have a game plan. Infact for a spell in the first half they started to get on top of Reading and if they could have capitalised on this possession and scored then the game could have been different. Reading however responded upping the work rate and you could tell that it would only be a matter of time before the inform partnership of Forster and Rougie opened up the Colchester defence to take the lead. We were a little lucky to get a second chance at the penalty, however Colchester could not really argue that the Royals went in after an entertaining first half where both teams contributed a goal up. What was impressive about our performance was the response to the half time team talk as Reading started the second half upping the tempo and slipping into that extra gear that was just too much for Colchester to handle. Defensively Reading were awesome and despite the odd threat the back four look composed, confident and in total control. How far has Mackie come this season, he looked like Tony Adams, especially when a few times he had the confidence to dribble out of defence to set up another attack. Pardews post match interview shows how far the club have come when the manager after another excellent win used the words sloppy and could do better. Readings will find it hard to motivate themselves against the lower table sides although Pardew and Dillon seem focused and as long as he keeps the players in touch with reality then away or at home I think in this frame of mind any side will find it difficult to get a result against us.
Reading have that magic ingredient now and the momentum is with us. Keep it going lads, its a joy to watch and with form like we are displaying right now then stepping up into the first division will give the team the test each week they will need to keep them focused. I know Pardew is being cautious about what Reading can achieve and whilst he may only look to the next match, if he and Dillon keep this standard going I think we can compete at the higher level with the squad we have. Good times ahead for Reading and the Mad Stad.

-- Paul Finch

What a time to be a Royals fan... it just keeps on getting better! I'd love the season to end now as I think that it's gonna get really nervy if we lose a couple in a row etc. 9 wins and 3 draws is all we need from 16 games in my opinion. I listened to the game on the radio as I couldn't get there this week. I also listened to the Wigan game in the same fashion. Joel Hufford is not a bad commentator but his repetition is unbelievable. I know people delve in and out of games but if you listen to a Ron Jones or John Motson or Mike Ingham they make the summary very brief and concentrate on what's happening now. On Tuesday Joel was accompanied by BBC's speedway guy who was actually quite good, however the score from Cardiff v Stoke game changed about 3 times before we finally knew what the score was... at half time! He also told us that Peter Morris who is equally inept at times was on 'is 'olidays in Australia at least 10 times. But... the phrase that really gets me at the moment is 'Johnny Salad' AKA John Salako. Does Joel know John personally, does he know that the other players call him 'Salad' ? I can't really believe that would be his nickname ? Again, not only is he calling him what is a bizarre name but he must have called him it around 10 times aswell. Change the record Joel and give us information in an exciting manner rather than this drivel that you come up with time and time again. I've yet to listen to Gold but maybe I'll give it a go, just to avoid another 'Salad' game now we've signed him up!
-- Dean, Crowthorne Royal.
NB - I am so glad that the biggest thing I've got to moan about has nothing to do with the quality of our football! URZ!

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