(Half Time: 1-1)
Reading Scorers: Butler, Butler, Henderson
Date: 28 July 2001

Reading - players used: Whitehead, Murty, Shorey, Whitbread, Williams, Hunter, Robinson, Igoe, Harper, Parkinson, Gamble, Smith, Butler, Henderson, Rougier.

Report by John Wells
The sweltering heat dictated a slightly lethargic opening, but competition for places ultimately produced a game high on effort and commitment from both teams to the end. The current Reading squad is looking much stronger in all departments than it did at the start of last season. Promising performances in recent games from Hughes and the sharpness of Smith and Harper indicate Caskey's departure will soon be forgotten.

The result fairly reflected Reading's superiority, but for the first 15 minutes there was little to choose between the teams. Reading displayed some of their old flaws - a lack of movement at throw-ins, the inability to close down opponents delivering crosses, and a tendency to hit long hopeful passes. Murty and Igoe in particular struggled to impose themselves on the game. Neither side looked likely to score for the first 15 minutes. Reading's only threat came when Rougier latched onto a through ball from Harper and got behind the home defence but the move failed to trouble the Dorchester goalkeeper.

Dorchester took the lead following a corner. The Royals defence were collectively slow to react and Matt Groves prodded the ball over the line to conclude a goalmouth scramble.

Misdirected passing and determined defending continued to be the main features of the game until hesitation between Whitehead, Whitbread and Williams on the edge of the box almost resulted in a second goal for the Magpies. From this point on the Royals stepped up a gear and created numerous chances with Butler typically aggressive and lively and Rougier making powerful surging runs past and through the home defence.

This combination finally produced the equaliser shortly before half time. Rougier used his skill and strength to hold the ball in the penalty area then rolled the ball invitingly into the path of Butler who convincingly steered the ball into the net.

The Royals dominated the second half and a penalty confidently converted by Butler, and a tap in by Henderson, after the Dorchester 'keeper missed a deep cross from Harper, completed the scoring. Clearly the real test will come against stronger opponents but the second half performance was encouraging. Smith looked sharp and competitive. Harper worked hard defensively, was hungry for the ball, and eager to get forward into scoring positions. He looked very comfortable in possession and is developing an awareness of where and when to switch the play. His range of passing was good and it was particularly encouraging to see him pick out Butler with passes in to his feet and then look for a return pass.

Hunter, Gamble, Shorey and Hendersdon were given a brief opportunity to stake their claim for a place as the Royals switched from their tried and tested 4-4-2 formation to a 5-3-2 towards the end. By now Dorchester were visibly tiring and with Gamble and Shorey pushing forward down the flanks and Harper still running tirelessly in midfield there could have been more goals.

It is an exciting prospect to see how Pardew will combine the talent he has available for selection. The current personnel give him options for selection in all positions but perhaps more significantly - greater tactical options. There will be some tough teams to break down this season in Division Two and we already know the same formula will not work in all circumstances against all opponents. This is a squad clearly capable of taking the Royals up this season - and not via Cardiff!

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